OKLAHOMA CITY - Dirk Nowitzki scored 18 points during an off night but the Dallas Mavericks nevertheless were able to build a huge lead early and then hung on for a 93-87 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.
The Mavericks, who tied with Miami for the league's best road record during the regular season, won for the fourth straight time outside Dallas in these playoffs and reclaimed home-court advantage just two nights after letting it get away in Game 2.
Nowitzki went 7 for 21 from the field but Dallas still called on him in the clutch to hold off Oklahoma City's late charge.
NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant also struggled from the field, hitting just 7 of 22 shots to finish with 24 points and 12 rebounds.
Heat, Bulls to go at it
MIAMI - Dwyane Wade's right arm had a nasty gash that left him unwilling to shoot the ball for Miami down the stretch. Omer Asik needed stitches around his chin, not to mention a Chicago jersey that wasn't covered in his own blood. That was Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
And in Game 3, both sides expect more of the same.
"We haven't been able to ease into anything this year," Heat forward LeBron James said.
Don't look for that to change anytime soon, either.
With the series tied at one game apiece, the Bulls and Heat will play at 8:30 p.m. Sunday in Miami, ending a roughly 94-hour hiatus in the already-physical matchup. When Game 2 ended Wednesday, just about everyone in the Heat locker room had an ice pack strapped to something, and more than a few limped to the team bus for the airport.
Just think: They were the winning side.
"Fortunately, we were able to have some days to recuperate," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Our guys, they're not shying away from it. Neither team is."
The Bulls have shown they can recover quickly. After each of their three previous playoff losses, Chicago answered with a double-digit win in the next game.
Since 2006, when the Heat won their lone title, the winner of Game 3 of the East title series has advanced to the NBA Finals every time.
"Some way, somehow, we've just got to come up with this win no matter how we get it," said Bulls guard Derrick Rose, the NBA's MVP this season. "We've just got to have more intensity than them and play way more aggressive."
Can this series get any more aggressive?
Wade seems to think it might. Scoring might be plentiful in the Oklahoma City-Dallas matchup out West, but the East likely will be won in gritty fashion.
"This is a very physical series," Wade said. "This is a grind-out series. You look at our series compared to the other series, it's night and day between the styles."