OKLAHOMA CITY – Kevin Durant scored 25 points and hit the game-winning jumper from the foul line with 1.5 seconds left to lift the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 99-98 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
Durant maneuvered to the free throw line and got off a high-arcing shot over Shawn Marion that hit off the front of the rim and then off the backboard before falling through.
The defending NBA champion Mavericks, who were out of timeouts, could not get a shot off before the buzzer.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 11 of his 25 points in the final 5 minutes and hit two free throws with 9 seconds left to put Dallas ahead. Jason Terry added 20 points and Marion scored 17.
Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 28 points and Serge Ibaka chipped in 22 points and five blocks.
James Harden scored 19 in his first game since suffering a concussion when the Los Angeles Lakers Metta World Peace hit him with an elbow last Sunday and earned a seven-game suspension.
The second-seeded Thunder played catch-up most of the night and had to wipe away a 94-87 deficit in the final 2 1/2 minutes to come away with the win. Durant capped a string of seven straight Oklahoma City points on a right-handed slam with 1:27 remaining.
Dallas went back ahead with an out-of-control possession, with Harden knocking the ball away from Jason Kidd and then Nowitzki losing it, too, before Vince Carter missed a desperation baseline jumper. Ian Mahinmi rebounded the miss and got fouled, stepping to the line to hit two free throws with 1:03 to play.
Durant drove to set up Ibakas three-point play at the other end, bumping the Thunder ahead 97-96. Nowitzki committed a turnover and Durant missed along the baseline before the two All-Stars came through in the clutch – with Durant getting the last chance.
Durant, who hit the third and most recent buzzer-beater in his career to beat Dallas in the fourth game of the regular season, had another dramatic shot in store.
Considering his dominance in last years West finals, when he averaged 32.2 points, Nowitzki had been relatively quiet until the final 5 minutes. Thats when he put Dallas in control with a personal 7-1 run, finished off by his three-point play that made it 92-85 with 3:23 to go.
He then answered Westbrooks layup with a foul line jumper to restore the seven-point advantage, but it didnt prove to be enough.
The Mavs had eliminated the Thunder in five games in last years Western Conference finals, winning both games in Oklahoma City and overcoming fourth-quarter deficits of 15 and eight points in the final two games.
This time, the roles were reversed.
The Mavericks opened an early eight-point lead as Durant missed his first four shots, only to give it back when Durant hit his next three to fuel a 12-3 comeback. The game continued to swing back and forth, with Terry hitting a 3-pointer and a banked-in jumper during a string of nine straight points to make it 35-27 after a rare Nowitzki basket.
Ibaka had a pair of two-handed slams during Oklahoma Citys immediate 10-1 response, only for Dallas to recover for a 51-48 halftime lead.
Another 9-0 burst, featuring Terrys fourth 3-pointer, gave Dallas a 73-66 edge in the final minute of the third quarter.
Nowitzki, like Durant, came out cold and missed his first four shots and seven of his first nine. He even missed a first-quarter free throw, a rare sight in last years West finals when he went 59 for 61 at the line and made all 24 of his attempts to set an NBA record in Game 1. Notes: A shot originally ruled a 3-pointer by Terry in the final minute of the first quarter was corrected to a 2 when instant replay showed his left foot was on the line. ... Oklahoma City won three of the four regular-season games between the teams. ... Backup center Nazr Mohammed was dropped from the Thunder rotation. He played in 63 of 66 regular-season games but didnt play in the final two games against Dallas despite being healthy.