DALLAS — The Mavericks had hoped to send their playoff series with the Thunder back to Oklahoma.
Instead, they made a side trip to Chokelahoma, a detour that took them all the way to the land of former NBA champions.
Spitting up a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks were kicked unceremoniously to the curb by the young Thunder. They officially relinquished their crown in a 103-97 loss to Oklahoma City at American Airlines Center.
It was a fourth-quarter meltdown that doomed them, just as it has so many times in this series and this lost season.
Kevin Durant and James Harden combined for a slew of highlight-reel plays in the fourth quarter as the Thunder quickly made up an 81-68 deficit and charged into a 94-91 lead after rim-shaking dunks by both players.
And while the youngsters were carving up the Mavericks, as they did all series, graybeard Derek Fisher banked in a runner with 4:06 left to put the Thunder up three.
It was Harden doing most of the damage for the Thunder while Nowitzki was getting continual trips to the free throw line.
His two free throw shots with 2:14 to go made it 98-95, Thunder. But Nick Collison was fouled and hit two free throws with 2:02 showing.
Nowitzki and Jason Kidd both missed before Nowitzki finally made it 100-97 with 33 seconds left.
But Harden sized up Kidd and the Mavericks' defense, getting to the rim for a layup with 10.2 seconds to play.
And so, the Mavericks suffered the utter humiliation of losing their crown in a sweep on their home floor.
It took a significant collapse for it to happen.
The Mavericks had not led by more than two points until they hit a stride in the third quarter. Nowitzki and Kidd combined for 21 of the Mavericks' 34 points in the third quarter as they slowly inched away to an 81-68 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Somehow, you just knew it wasn't going to be a breezy waltz to Game 5 for the Mavericks.
When Durant knocked in a 3-pointer with 7:28 to go, Oklahoma City was within 86-83, and the Mavericks knew they were going to have to execute down the stretch to extend the series.
The Mavericks knew what was facing them from the start in this ultimate must-win game. Like the sign says on the advertisements: "Win or Go Home."
So the Mavericks went out in the first half with a much better focus than they had in Game 3 — not that that's a glowing endorsement given their flop Thursday.
"You've got to have the wherewithal to hang in and play whistle to whistle for an extended period of time," coach Rick Carlisle had said of handling a potential elimination game. "The truth is, it's four Game 7s. I've been in several Game 7s. They're great. And this is another one.
CLIPPERS 87, GRIZZLIES 86: At Los Angles, Chris Paul had 24 points and 11 assists and high-flying Blake Griffin added 17 points for the Los Angeles Clippers, who beat the Memphis Grizzles on Saturday only after Rudy Gay missed a jumper just before the buzzer.
The Clippers won their first home playoff game in six seasons to take a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference playoffs.
Paul hit a fadeaway jumper with 2:02 left for an 82-80 lead. On the next possession he had a no-look bounce pass to Griffin coming in off the baseline for a monster slam.
Trailing 86-80 after two free throws by Paul, Gay hit a 3-pointer with 12.9 seconds left, Memphis' first field goal since 7:10. After Los Angeles missed three of four free throws, Gay hit another 3-pointer with 8.9 seconds.
Eric Bledsoe missed two more free throws, Gay got a good look but missed. Gay finished with 24 points.
Memphis had seemingly taken the red-clad home crowd out of the game in the third quarter, when it outscored the Clippers 25-14 to take a 71-64 lead.
The Clippers' lull extended into the fourth quarter. Marc Gasol made a field goal with 7:10 left for a 77-71 lead, but that was Memphis' last basket until the first of Gay's two 3-pointers in the closing seconds.
The Clippers, who rallied from 27 down to win the opener on Sunday night at Memphis, started this comeback with just more than four minutes to go.
Reggie Evans made a strong inside move against Marreese Speights to rebound Bledsoe's missed free throw and score to pull L.A. to 79-77 with 4:08 left. Randy Foye then hit a huge 3-point shot from the left side with 3:13 left to tie it at 80 before Paul and Griffin took over.
Forward Caron Butler started for the Clippers, wearing a splint on his broken left, or non-shooting, hand. He was hurt in Game 1, and missed the next game. He scored four points.
Memphis had another big advantage at the free throw line but couldn't capitalize. The Grizzles made 30 of 39 while the Clippers were just 13 of 30.
The Clippers used an 18-1 run spanning the first and second quarter to take a 36-23 lead, but the Grizzles turned around and dropped a 13-0 run on Los Angeles to tie it.
Griffin put an exclamation point on the first half when he stole the inbounds pass from Speights and swooped in for a dunk at the buzzer to give the Clippers a 50-46 lead.
Zach Randolph scored 17 for Memphis while Gasol and Quincy Pondexter had 11.
Foye had 16 for L.A.
PACERS 101, MAGIC 99: At Orlando, Fla., the Indiana Pacers have looked like a team with enough talent to win in the playoffs.
After wasting a big lead in Game 4 against the Magic, the Pacers showed they have the late-game toughness to win as well.
George Hill hit a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds left in overtime to help Indiana survive squandering a 19-point fourth quarter lead and beat the Orlando Magic on Saturday to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.
David West scored 26 points, including 12 in the third quarter and four in overtime for Indiana. Danny Granger added 21 points.
The Pacers won their third straight game and will try to close out the Eastern Conference series Tuesday in Indianapolis and get out of the opening round for the first time since 2005.
"They did a great job of coming back," said Granger, who returned to the game in the fourth quarter after spraining his right knee in the third. "That was a momentum win. They had a lot of momentum going. We're lucky to get out of here."Comment on this story
Indiana coach Frank Vogel echoed that fortunate feeling, but said he also likes being in the spot his team is in now.
"Yeah, it's a good place to be," he said. "We feel like we can get a win on our home court. It's tough to get a road win anywhere against anyone in the playoffs. To come in here in a tough environment and get two, it just speaks volumes of our guys' resiliency."
Orlando had a final chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but Glen Davis' fade away jumper bounced off the side of the rim.