Kevin Durant lines up a 3 and knocks it down to put the Thunder up 99-84 with 5:05 to play in the game. Durant slaps on the championship belt as the Mavs call timeout to try and stop the bleeding. The Thunder seemed to grab every 50/50 ball and both my brother and I agreed Oklahoma City wanted it more tonight. The Thunder close out the game to even the series at 2 games a piece heading back down Interstate 35 to Dallas for Game 5. However, that is not what happened. The Mavericks rallied back from the 15 point deficit to tie it at 101. The Mavs continued the momentum in overtime to win 112-105 and the Thunder became victims of a Broken Axle Game. What is a Broken Axle Game you ask? Let’s backtrack through the last 5 minutes of regulation and of overtime to find out…
Kevin Durant lines up a 3 and knocks it down to put the Thunder up 99-84 with 5:05 to play in the game. Durant slaps on the championship belt as the Mavs call timeout to try and stop the bleeding. The Thunder seemed to grab every 50/50 ball and both my brother and I agreed Oklahoma City wanted it more tonight to this point. Then, James Harden commits his 5th foul with 4:48 to play and Shawn Marion makes both free throws. Serge Ibaka misses a 6 foot jumper and Dirk comes away with the board and Harden fouls him 90 feet from the hoop. With the foul, Harden fouls out and takes away one of the Thunder’s three players capable of creating their own shot. Dirk makes one of two to cut the lead to 99-87 with 4:33.
After a couple of lost trips for both teams, Russell Westbrook drives down the lane but Jason Kidd recovers and steals the ball and Westbrook fouls him and Kidd makes both free throws. Kevin Durant misses a jumper and Dirk comes down and nails a J with 3:15. OKC calls time as they still lead 99-91. Following the timeout, Durant misses a trey but Nick Collison grabs OKC’s 20th offensive rebound and Westbrook is able to score. Dirk drains a trey from deep on the way down to cut the lead to 101-94 with 2:21. Westbrook is able to draw a foul on Jason Terry but he misses both free throws and on the way back down Dirk sinks another jumper. Following a Westbrook miss, Dirk again nails a shot to cut the lead to 101-98 with 1:25.
Durant has the ball stolen on him but Thabo Sefolosha makes a brilliant 1 on 1 play to block Jason Terry, get the ball and get it outleted to a Thunder player. He doesn’t foul, step on the endline or turn it over. Westbrook misses a shot and in the scrum for the rebound he fouls Marion who makes 1 of 2 free throws to put the score at 101-99 with 38 seconds left. After the OKC timeout, Sefolosha is set up to shoot a 3 pointer that misses badly and on the defensive end, Collison fouls Dirk trying to deny him the ball. Dirk makes both shots to tie it up. With 6.5 seconds, the Thunder should have had plenty of time to get a decent shot but Westbrook catches it near half court and then gets it to Durant who shoots from 30 feet out and has it blocked on him to send it to overtime.
In the extra period, the teams trade 2 baskets a piece and with 40 seconds left, Jason Kidd nails a trey from the corner to give the lead permanently to Dallas 108-105. The Thunder are unable to score and foul for the final point tally of 112-105.
With the victory, the Mavs now have a stranglehold on the series up 3-1 going home to Big D and the Thunder truly are a Dead Man Walking candidate. Losses tend to make you stronger and hunger to get better. The best players suffer heartbreaking losses and come back better (Jordan facing the Pistons multiple times, Magic against the Celtics, Duncan against the Lakers, and even Dirk with the Heat in 2006). The losses will force Kevin Durant and the Thunder to get stronger to get better. Players need a couple playoff scars to also fully appreciate the sacrifice required for a championship. The series is not over but the Thunder would have to do something 96% of other teams in NBA history haven’t.