The Oklahoma City Thunder are a step away from the Western Conference semifinals.
They showcased their superior talent and athleticism once again, leading wire-to-wire in a 119-108 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday at the American Airlines Center.
Oklahoma City has not trailed since its Game 2 loss and it now enjoys a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. The Thunder has a chance to close it out in Game 5 on Monday at home.
Dallas faces long odds to overcome the series deficit, as only nine teams in NBA history have come back to win a best-of-seven playoff series after trailing 3-1.
The Thunder were in control of Game 4 all night, never getting truly threatened by the Mavericks. Dallas had brief spurts to stay within striking distance, pulling within single-digits multiple times in the second half, but Oklahoma City always answered and had a multi-possession lead in the final minutes.
Enes Kanter led the charge for the Thudner with 28 points. Russell Westbrook had 25 points and 15 assists, and Kevin Durant finished with 19 points on seven-for-20 shooting.
Durant was ejected from the game with less than a minute left after the officials called him for a “Flagrant two.” Durant had been trying to block a shot by Mavs guard Justin Anderson, but swiped across the rookie’s head instead of the ball.
The ejection came on the heels of Dallas coach Rick Carlisle complaining about Durant and the Thunder for “nonbasketball physical escalations” in Game 3.
For the Mavs, Dirk Nowitzki led the team with 27 points on 12-for-21 shooting. Raymond Felton and Wesley Matthews each scored 19 points.
Dallas had an early blow when Deron Williams (sports hernia) returned to the starting lineup, but lasted only 89 seconds before re-aggravating his injury.
But the Mavs didn’t go away quietly and showed fight.
The most telling moment early on came at the 11:31 mark in the second quarter. Thunder guard Randy Foye threw the ball away and into the hands of reserve Anthony Morrow on the bench.
Mavs center Salah Mejri went to retrieve the ball from Morrow, who played a game of keep-away with Mejri before tossing it toward an official. That didn’t sit well with Mejri or guard J.J. Barea, and a light scuffle and words were exchanged between the two teams.
Officials spent about six minutes reviewing the incident and decided to slap the Thunder bench with a delay of game penalty, and issued technical fouls to Mejri and Westbrook.
Mejri had a solid night for the Mavs, but it was cut short when he exited in the fourth quarter with a right hip injury.