DALLAS, Texas — The NBA champion Dallas Mavericks were swept out of the first round of the playoffs Saturday as the Oklahoma City Thunder wrapped up its Western Conference series with a 103-97 victory.
James Harden scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter as the Thunder won their fourth straight in the best-of-seven series to make the Mavericks the first defending champions to be swept in the first round since the Miami Heat in 2007.
Kevin Durant added 24 points and 11 rebounds and Russell Westbrook finished with 12 points, six assists and five rebounds for the second-seeded Thunder.
They became the first team to reach the second round, where they will face either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Denver Nuggets. Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 34 points and Jason Kidd added 16 with eight assists and seven rebounds.
Elsewhere in the West, the Los Angeles Clippers rallied for a dramatic 87-86 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
In Salt Lake City, Tony Parker scored 27 points to lead the San Antonio Spurs over the Utah Jazz 102-90. The victory put the top-seeded Spurs on the brink of advancing as they took a 3-0 lead in the series.
Tim Duncan scored 17 points and Danny Green 14 for the Spurs, who will try to complete the sweep Monday in Salt Lake City.
In Dallas, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said the Thunder were just too good for the defending champions. “They’re a great young team,” Carlisle said of the Thunder. “And the thing that impressed me most about them is that they have a certain look in their eye right now, not just that they belong, but that this could be their time.”
After reaching half-time tied at 47-47, Dallas came out strong in the third quarter.
Nowitzki scored 10 points in a 17-7 scoring run to open the third as Dallas seized a double-digit lead.
Oklahoma City trimmed the deficit to 67-61 on Derek Fisher’s three-pointer with just over four minutes to play in the third. Dallas responded with a 14-7 scoring run and took an 81-68 lead into the fourth quarter.
Even that, however, wasn’t enough against a young, hungry Oklahoma City team that was ousted from the playoffs by the Mavericks last year.
Dallas was leading 86-73 early in the fourth when Harden scored seven straight points to launch a 25-7 scoring run that saw the Thunder surge into a 98-93 lead with 2:30 to play.
Oklahoma City was up 100-97 in the final minute when Harden took an inbounds pass, drove to the net and rolled in a layup off his finger. A Durant free throw completed the scoring.
In Los Angeles, Chris Paul scored 24 points and handed out 11 assists for the Clippers, who took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, with game four Monday in Los Angeles. — AFP