OKLAHOMA CITY - By the time Kevin Durant and the Thunder found their shooting touch, it was too late.
Oklahoma City shot 29 per cent in the first half and didn't make a three-pointer until 35 seconds remained in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
The Thunder's surge fell short and they lost 93-87 on Saturday night to fall behind in the series 2-1.
On a night the Thunder figured to have their best chance to seize control of the series, they trailed by as many as 23 points and didn't gave fans in a sellout crowd wearing blue "Thunder Pride" T-shirts much of an opportunity to wave their white rally towels until a fourth-quarter rally.
"They came out and played harder," point guard Russell Westbrook said. "We weren't ready from the start."
The Thunder pulled within four points twice in the final minutes, but missed their first 16 three-point attempts before Westbrook made one with 35 seconds left. Durant hasn't had a three-pointer since Game 1 and missed all eight tries Saturday. He's 2-for-18 in the series.
"I was telling myself after the game, it's not like me to miss 12 or 13 threes in a row," said Durant, who scored 24 points. "I get them up every day. I work on it every day. It's just a matter of me being confident. I can't come into the game and pass up wide-open shots.
"They just didn't fall. I've just got to stay confident, stay positive. ... I feel good."
It got so bad for the Thunder that Westbrook picked up his fifth technical foul of the post-season after retaliating after being bumped by Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki during the third quarter.
Two more, and Westbrook will have to sit the next game -- if the Thunder get that far.
The talk after Game 2 of the series Thursday was about why Westbrook didn't play in the fourth quarter of Oklahoma City's 106-100 win. The talk leading up to Monday's Game 4 will focus on whether the Thunder can regain their range -- particularly from behind the 3-point line. The Thunder finished 1-of-17.
If Oklahoma City doesn't improve, the Mavericks just might head back home with a chance to clinch the series in five games.
"I thought they did a good job and really took us out of our sets," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Their trapping on the basketball just got us playing on our heels, and that's not how we play. ... The start was tough to overcome, but I give our guys a lot of credit. They fought back and made it a game into the fourth quarter."
Serge Ibaka missed an open mid-range jumper on the Thunder's first possession, and that turned out to be a trend. Oklahoma City went 4-of-17 from the field and scored 12 points in the quarter.
"We were missing shots because the energy wasn't there," Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha said.
It was the Thunder's lowest-scoring first quarter of the season (by four points) and matched the team's third lowest-scoring quarter overall.
Only a basket by Durant in the closing seconds kept the Thunder from matching the franchise playoff record for fewest points in a quarter.
The Seattle SuperSonics had 10 points in the first quarter of a series-deciding 23-point loss to San Antonio on May 3, 2002, and the Thunder matched that May 7 in the fourth quarter of Game 3 of the conference semifinals against Memphis, a game in which they blew a 16-point lead and lost in overtime.
Less than two minutes into the second quarter Saturday, the Thunder were 4-of-19 shooting while Dallas' Shawn Marion was 4-of-6 with 10 points. At that point, the Mavericks led 35-12.
"We were the aggressors and made them very uncomfortable, taking leaning, crazy shots and every time they got a shot someone was in their face," Marion said. "That's the kind of defence we wanted to play."
Capped by a strange underhanded scoop from 14 feet by Westbrook that clanged off the rim, Oklahoma City finished the half 10-of-34 from the field. Durant was 2-of-10 and missed all four of his three-point attempts. James Harden, coming off a playoff career-high 23 points in Game 2, was 0-of-5 from the field before halftime.
"Those are shots we usually make at home," said Westbrook, who scored 30 points.
About the only place Oklahoma City was consistent was at the free throw line, where the Thunder finished 32 of 36. The Thunder had their second-lowest point total of the post-season.
The Thunder shot 36.5 per cent for the game, with Durant finishing 7-for-22, Westbrook going 8-for-20, Ibaka 4-for-11 and Harden 2-for-9.
"Everybody knows that giving up 109 points per game isn't championship or playoff basketball," Dallas' Brendan Haywood said. "As a team we wanted to play better basketball and it shows. The percentages don't lie: 36 per cent overall, 5.9 (per cent) from three and make Durant shoot 7-for-22 from the field. Those are great percentages."