DALLAS -- Oklahoma City is a frustrating team to play. Just when an opponent thinks it has the Thunder where they want them, their explosive offense comes alive and turns a close game into a rout.
Oklahoma City's 116-103 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night served as the perfect example.
The Thunder's roller coaster had its typical ups and downs, leading by 10 in the first quarter and 12 in the second. Yet Oklahoma City constantly had to fend off Dallas scoring bursts. A sluggish start to the second half saw the Thunder lose the lead for the first time in the game three minutes into the third quarter.
Then Dallas took its biggest lead at 74-71 with 5:26 left in the third quarter. That's when the Thunder reawakened and went on a tear, outscoring the Mavs 22-10 in the next seven minutes for a blink-of-the-eye 96-81 lead early in the fourth.
It only got worse from there for the Mavs, who fell to 16-12 at home. The loss dropped Dallas (30-28) behind the Portland Trail Blazers and into seventh place in the hotly contested bottom half of the Western Conference playoff chase.
"I don't look at the standings that much, I'm looking at how we're playing," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "I didn't like the way we played in the first and the fourth quarters tonight -- and those are pretty important quarters. We've got to pick it up. These games at home are precious commodities. Oklahoma City is a terrific team, but we can do better than what we did tonight."
The Thunder (41-16) snapped a two-game skid as they begin an extended period of time on the road, including a game Thursday at New Orleans.
"We didn't want to lose three in a row," Thunder forward Kevin Durant said. "We definitely don't like losing games. The guys came out and played with a sense of urgency. We moved the ball well and the guys didn't force anything. I think it had a lot to do with how we started the game on both ends of the court."
Oklahoma City finished the third quarter on a 16-7 run to lead 87-81 heading into the fourth. Center Steven Adams scored 11 of his 15 points in the third quarter, grabbed three rebounds and had two blocks while playing all but two minutes in the quarter.
Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook also did their typical damage with both players scoring 21 points through three quarters. Durant hit a big 3-pointer late in a cold-shooting fourth quarter to end a 14-0 Mavs run that cut the Thunder lead to eight. He finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Westbrook finished with 24 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds. Durant also had 24 points and added eight rebounds and six assists.
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki had 26 points after three quarters and finished with a season-high 33 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field.
Nowitzki just didn't get enough help from his teammates. Forward Chandler Parsons finished 3 of 10 from the field for six points. Guard Wesley Matthews had 15 points and Deron Williams finished with 14 points and six assists.
"I thought today we didn't get enough stops," Nowitzki said. "We gave up almost three 30-point quarters, which is too many. Offensively, we did some good stuff. We didn't get enough stops and rebounds to really make this a game."
Oklahoma City's Westbrook and Durant did get complementary scoring. Along with Adams' big night, guard Dion Waiters, who moved back to the bench with shooting guard Andre Roberson's return to the starting lineup, had 14 points, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and backup center Enes Kanter scored 14 points. Forward Serge Ibaka added 13 points and eight rebounds.
"Our bench did not shoot the ball particularly well, but we just kept talking about trusting the pass and finding the open man," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "It was good to see Kevin and Russell have that kind of confidence in Steven, in Enes, in Dion and in Randy (Foye) in terms of getting those guys some shots. Those shots started to fall because we made the right plays."
The Thunder took a 58-51 lead into halftime thanks to a 35-foot buzzer beater from Durant, who grabbed the rebound at the other end, dribbled past the time line and swished the long ball to give him 17 first-half points.
NOTES: Mavericks F David Lee was active for the first since being signed by Dallas on Monday. Lee, an All-Star with Golden State in 2013, fell out of Boston's rotation and received a contract buyout. He will initially serve as a backup to C Zaza Pachulia and play some at power forward behind F Dirk Nowitzki. Lee finished with four point four rebounds in 15 minutes. ... Nowitzki passed John Havlicek in Wednesday's game for 12th place on the NBA's career minutes played list. Nowitzki entered the game with 46,469 minutes, two behind Havlicek. He has now played 46,503 minutes. ... Coach Rick Carlisle called Portland coach and former Mavs assistant Terry Stotts the front-runner for Coach of the Year. ... Carlisle entered Wednesday's game with 649 wins and five shy of tying Flip Saunders for 20th on the NBA career list. ... Thunder G Andre Roberson, the team's top perimeter defender, returned to the starting lineup after missing the last 10 games with a knee injury. During his absence, the Thunder beat one team with a winning record -- Houston, which dipped below .500 after Tuesday's loss. G Dion Waiters returned to his role off the bench. ... The Thunder started a stretch of six of their next seven games on the road. The lone home game is Saturday against Golden State.