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Thunder confident in using any mix

DALLAS — With Game 2 of the Western Conference final on the line, Thunder coach Scott Brooks either had to stick with a lineup of four reserves who were playing well or switch to the group he usually trusts late in the fourth quarter.

He bet on the backups Thursday night. And now the series enters tonight's Game 3 in Oklahoma City tied at 1.

James Harden, Eric Maynor, Nick Collison and Daequan Cook teamed with Kevin Durant to build a healthy lead late in the fourth quarter, then made it hold up for a 106-100 victory over the Mavericks.

"We've always felt confident in the bench," Brooks said. "They really did a good job. But it's always a team effort when you win."

All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook sat as Maynor guided the offense down the stretch. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins cheered Collison as he tried to slow Dirk Nowitzki. And while Durant was the lone starter in with the backups, he was the offensive liability — he made 2 of 6 shots, compared to 9 of 11 for the other guys.

Harden scored 23, Maynor 13, Cook eight and Collison six.

"Their reserves came out swinging and really took it to us," Nowitzki said.

Oklahoma City went into the fourth quarter leading by one. The guys who were asked to protect that slim lead stretched it to 10 with 3:15 left after a 14-5 spurt.

"You can't mess that chemistry up," said Durant, who led the Thunder with 24 points. "Coach made a good decision."

Although Westbrook was agitated immediately after being pulled, he said all the right things afterward. "My main focus is we got this far because the team is doing well, not if I'm doing good or bad," he said.

The Mavs, who swept out the Lakers, won't overlook the Thunder again.

"Sometimes you need to get hit on the chin and get woke up," Dallas center Tyson Chandler said Friday. "(Thursday) night, they hit us on the chin. Hopefully, that woke us up."

Heat-Bulls: Winning Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals in Chicago came with a bonus for the Heat: the road to the title now goes through Miami, which wrested homecourt advantage from the Bulls and would also have it in the NBA Finals against either Dallas or Oklahoma City. Miami is the only team still unbeaten at home in these playoffs.

"If we defend homecourt from here on out, you can do the math," Heat forward Chris Bosh said.

But then there's this: Every team left in this postseason is 1-0 on Miami's home floor this year. Game 3 of the East final is Sunday night in Miami.

West to Warriors: The Warriors hired Lakers Hall of Fame player and respected executive Jerry West to work with the front office in an advisory role.

Conference finals

East

Bulls 1, Heat 1

Game 1: Bulls 103, Heat 82

Game 2: Heat 85, Bulls 75

Sunday: at Miami, 8:30, TNT

Tuesday: at Miami, 8:30, TNT

Thursday: at Chicago, 8:30, TNT

May 28: at Miami, 8:30, TNT *

May 30: at Chicago, 8:30, TNT *

West

Mavericks 1, Thunder 1

Game 1: Mavericks 121, Thunder 112

Game 2: Thunder 106, Mavericks 100

Tonight: at Oklahoma City, 9, ESPN

Monday: at Oklahoma City, 9, ESPN

Wednesday: at Dallas, 9, ESPN

May 27: at Oklahoma City, 9, ESPN *

May 29: at Dallas, 9, ESPN *

* If necessary

Thunder confident in using any mix 05/20/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 20, 2011 7:45pm]
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