DALLAS -- Kevin Durant wasn't on the court with his teammates to celebrate the Oklahoma City Thunder's 119-108 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night, getting a step closer to the Western Conference semifinals.
Instead, the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar watched in the locker room after being ejected for a "flagrant 2" foul with less than a minute left. Durant appeared to try and block a shot by Mavs guard Justin Anderson, but his violent swipe landed on the rookie's head instead of the ball.
Officials reviewed the play and ejected Durant, who could be subject to suspension by the league. But Durant texted an apology to Anderson after the game, and said it wasn't intentional.
"I wasn't trying to hurt him," Durant said. "It wasn't flagrant. The refs had to make the call."
Durant has seemingly been frustrated throughout the series, struggling to find his offensive stroke on a consistent basis. He had a dreadful Game 2 before rebounding with a solid Game 3. In Game 4, though, his shot wasn't falling as usual as he finished with 19 points on 7-for-20 shooting.
Durant faced more criticism, too, when Dallas coach Rick Carlisle pointed him out specifically in a complaint about "nonbasketball physical escalations" by the Thunder in Game 3.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan expressed sympathy toward Durant for the ejection.
"Kevin came over -- I think he felt terrible, he felt bad. I think he wanted to go over and apologize," Donovan said. "I felt bad for Kevin because I don't think he's probably ever been thrown out of a game in his entire life.
"It's just an unfortunate situation because I don't think his intention was to have a flagrant foul. His intention was to make a play on the ball."
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki wasn't in such a forgiving mood.
"They were up, whatever, double digits with under a minute to go," Nowitzki said. "I think that was unnecessary. Everything else was in the flow of the game to me. I don't think anything else was bad, but I think that foul was just not necessary at all."
That unfortunate situation overshadowed a fortunate situation for the Thunder -- they continue to show their superior talent and athleticism in the series and have taken a commanding 3-1 lead.
Just like in Game 3, the Thunder led wire-to-wire in Game 4. They now have a chance to close it out in Game 5 on Monday at home.
Dallas faces long odds to overcome the series deficit, as only nine teams in NBA history have come back to win a best-of-seven playoff series after trailing 3-1.
"We just have to keep playing as hard as we did tonight," Carlisle said. "There is no team that is playing harder than we are right now. I am really proud of the way the guys competed and we just have to keep doing that on Monday."
The Mavericks did have brief spurts to stay within striking distance, pulling within single-digits multiple times in the second half. But they never truly threatened Oklahoma City, which was in control all night.
Enes Kanter led the charge for the Thunder with 28 points, a personal-best in the playoffs. He made 12-of-13 field goals and all four of his free-throw attempts.
"I think the most important thing is to keep having those kinds of games and keep winning and stick with the game plan," said Kanter, who is averaging 17.8 points a game in the series.
Russell Westbrook had 25 points and 15 assists for the Thunder, posting a double-double in every game so far this
Dallas experienced an early blow when Deron Williams (sports hernia) returned to the starting lineup, but lasted only 89 seconds before re-aggravating his injury.
But the Mavericks didn't go away quietly and showed fight throughout the night.
Dallas center Salah Mejri went to retrieve the ball from Morrow, who played a game of keep-away with Mejri before tossing it toward an official. That didn't sit well with Mejri or guard J.J. Barea, and a light scuffle and words were exchanged between the two teams.
Officials spent about six minutes reviewing the incident and decided to slap the Thunder bench with a delay of game penalty, and issued technical fouls to Mejri -- who exited with a right hip injury in the fourth quarter -- and Westbrook.
Despite the lopsided scores, the chippy nature of the series has become a talking point amongst both teams. But Carlisle wasn't interested in discussing that even though he created a stir by calling out Durant before the game.
"I'm not talking about that," Carlisle said. "Do you have questions about basketball?"
NOTES: Dallas PG Deron Williams (sports hernia) returned to the starting lineup after sitting out Game 3. But he re-aggravated his injury 89 seconds into the game and did not return. ... Dallas coach Rick Carlisle criticized Kevin Durant and the Thunder for "non-basketball physical escalations" in Game 3. Said Durant on Saturday: "I'm not trying to hurt nobody. That's not my game. I'm out there to play basketball." ... The Thunder have set playoff franchise records in the series for margin of victory (38 points, Game 1) and largest road playoff victory (29 points, Game 3). ... Game 3 also marked the first time in the franchise's Oklahoma City era that two reserve players scored 19 or more points in a playoff game -- Enes Kanter had 21 points and Dion Waiters scored 19.