Grant Belcher, News9.com
OKLAHOMA CITY – Critics can point to Kevin Durant's poor shooting, the Thunder giving up a big lead or the usual array of boneheaded turnovers.
But in the end, there is only one stat that matters to Oklahoma City: 2-0.
OKC delivered a huge blow to the Mavericks with another close win on Monday night, pulling off a 102-99 victory to take the first two games of the first round series.
It was the fourth game between the two teams at Chesapeake Energy Arena this season, and given the endings of the previous three, it was no surprise this one came down to the wire again.
Oklahoma City has won all four of those games, by a combined margin of 10 points, or an average of just 2.5 points per victory.
For a while, it looked like the Thunder would relieve the fans of the heart-stopping theatrics typical between the two teams.
OKC jumped out to a quick lead and increased it considerably throughout the first half.
A Russell Westbrook layup with six minutes remaining in the second quarter increased the lead to 46-30 and the Thunder looked ready to cruise to a Game 2 victory.
But it didn't take long before the Mavericks started to creep their way back in. By halftime, Dallas had whittled the lead down to 57-50.
And just over four minutes into the third quarter, Dallas came all the way back and managed its first lead since the early stages as a pair of free throws from Dirk Nowitzki put his team up 65-64.
It stayed that close until the final minutes, when free throws were the name of the game for OKC.
The Thunder's final eight points of the game came on free throws, fending off the Mavericks when nothing else was working. OKC shot 95 percent from the line in the game (37-of-39), clearly the difference in a contest decided by just three points.
Kevin Durant once again struggled from the field, shooting just 5-of-17 but also putting in 14 points from the line for 26 total.
Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 29 points, and James Harden, Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins all added double digits scoring.
Nowitzki led all scorers in the game with 31.
Oklahoma City has put Dallas' back against the wall with the quick 2-0 lead, and the series will continue on Thursday night in Dallas. Tipoff will once again be at 8:30 p.m.