The AP reports:

james harden

James Harden, Eric Maynor, Nick Collison and Daequan Cook did something Kobe Bryant and the Lakers couldn’t do—make big plays down the stretch to hold off Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks.

The four Oklahoma City reserves teamed with Kevin Durant to turn a slim lead into a big one in the fourth quarter, riding it to a 106-100 victory Thursday night that knotted the Western Conference finals at one game each…

The Thunder got going in the closing seconds of the third quarter, when Harden made a four-point play that put Oklahoma City up by one. Coach Scott Brooks then sent out four backups and his superstar for the final period, asking them to protect that lead.

They built on it from the start, never letting Dallas go back ahead. After a few tight minutes, the Thunder broke the game open with a 14-5 spurt capped by Harden hitting a tough jumper near the foul line. It put Oklahoma City up by 10 with 3:15 left, prompting a big scream from the bearded guard and a timeout from the Mavericks…

Harden scored 23 points. Maynor finished with 13, Cook eight and Collison six. Maynor handled the point guard duties that usually belong to Russell Westbrook. The All-Star had a poor opener, but actually was pretty good through three quarters; it’s just that the bench was rolling.

“It was tremendous,” said Harden, who made 4 of 5 shots, including two 3-pointers, for 10 points in the fourth quarter…

Durant still led the Thunder with 24 points. DeShawn Stevenson and Jason Kidd made things a lot tougher for him than in the opener, when he scored 40, but he was still spectacular at times. He had a first-quarter dunk that’s worth going to YouTube to see again and again, and a behind-the-back dribble to clear space for another key basket in the third quarter.

Westbrook scored 18 points, making 7 of 15 shots…

Tyson Chandler had 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Jason Kidd added 14 points and seven assists for Dallas. In the slowed output from the bench, J.J. Barea scored 11 points, and Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic both had eight.

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