Jason Terry

Russell Westbrook scored 29 points, Kevin Durant added 26 in an off-shooting performance and the Oklahoma City Thunder clawed out a 102-99 victory over defending champion Dallas on Monday night to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.

Durant hit two free throws with 50.4 seconds left to give Oklahoma City a 98-97 lead, and James Harden hit four more foul shots to close it out for the Thunder.

Jason Terry missed two 3-point attempts from the left wing in the final five seconds that could have tied it.

Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 31 points and Shawn Marion scored 15. The Mavericks led in the closing minutes of both road games but couldn’t even manage a split.

Game 3 is Thursday night in Dallas.

Durant put the Thunder ahead to stay after salvaging two key points with Oklahoma City inbounding the ball with only 2.6 seconds left on the shot clock. He grabbed the inbounds pass from Harden while headed toward the sideline, and Terry was called for a foul for bumping him.

Durant hit both foul shots, and Nowitzki missed his chance to answer with a short jumper from the left side at the other end.

Marion fouled Harden on the rebound, and the league’s top scoring reserve — only eight days removed from a concussion as the result of Metta World Peace’s elbow to the head — also converted both free throws. He hit two more with 15.6 seconds left after Terry got the Mavs within one with a driving layup.

After losing both of their home games to Dallas in last year’s Western Conference finals, the Thunder barely got by in the rematch. Durant hit a jumper with 1.5 seconds left to win the first game 99-98 on Saturday night.

Dallas was up seven points with two-and-a-half minutes left in Game 1 and just a point in the final minute of Game 2.

Beforehand, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks downplayed a rivalry blossoming along Interstate Highway 35.

“Right now, they beat us one time last season. I don’t know if that’s considered a rivalry,” he said. “It takes more than one or seasons, but definitely it’s there for the making.”

Maybe he spoke too soon.

When Nowitzki and Perkins finally got back on the court together, the Mavericks’ All-Star exacted some revenge while getting his team back in the game. He went on a personal 10-2 run, with all of the points coming while he was matched up against Perkins, to get the deficit down to 50-47.

The Mavs pulled ahead in the first five minutes of the second half, as the game turned into a foul fest and the Thunder made only one basket in the first seven minutes.

Dallas MavericksÂ’ Dirk Nowitzki reacts in the final minute of the second half of Game 6 of the NBA Finals basketball game against the Miami Heat Sunday in Miami.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

MIAMI— Dirk Nowitzki got the Dallas Mavericks to the brink of an NBA championship. His teammates did the rest, a perfect ending for a club that talked all season about its greatest strength being the sum of its parts.

Nowitzki missed 11 of his first 12 shots and matched his series low with 21 points, yet with Jason Terry scoring 27 and every starter and reserve making some sort of significant contribution, the Mavericks beat the Miami Heat 105-95 Sunday night to wrap up the first title in franchise history.

The difference-makers were everywhere: from Ian Mahinmi with his step-back jumper and third quarter buzzer-beater to DeShawn Stevenson and his three 3-pointers in the first half; from Brian Cardinal making a 3 and drawing a charge to J.J. Barea improving to 3-0 as a starter.

“This is a true team,” coach Rick Carlisle said during the jubilant trophy ceremony. “We don’t run fast or jump high. These guys have each other back. This is a phenomenal group.”

Although Nowitzki had only three points at halftime, Dallas was up 53-51. It was a testament to the teammates around him. They knew if they could keep it close, the big German would snap out of his funk.

He did.

Nowitzki made his first shot of the second half and began to find a groove. He went 8 of 15 in the second half, scoring 18 points — and becoming a champion for the first time.

“I couldn’t get in a rhythm today for some reason,” Nowitzki said. “The team carried me all night long. (Terry) came out aggressive. I’ve got to give it up to the fellows. They were unbelievable tonight.”

Not a single player on this roster had won a championship, and that shared burden drove them all season. Nowitzki and Terry lived with the disgust of blowing a nearly 3-0 lead against Miami in the 2006 finals, and Jason Kidd lost consecutive finals with New Jersey in 2002-03. All told, this roster had 133 seasons and zero rings.

The emotions began to hit with 18.8 seconds left and Kidd going to the line. Nowitzki and Terry met at midcourt — right on top of the Heat’s logo — and shared a hug, the smaller Terry leaning on the big German like a child and his dad.

Nowitzki went to near the other free throw line, put a hand on his hip and exhaled. The job was done.

A week shy of his 33rd birthday, the former league MVP finally had the championship he so desperately craved. No longer will he and Kidd be part of the conversation of “best player never to win a ring.”

It’s a lift for the franchise, too. This celebration 31 years in the making was savored by hundreds of Mavericks fans, despite being halfway across the country. They stood in their blue shirts chanting “Let’s Go Mavs.” In Dallas, a packed house watched at the home arena, no doubt going bonkers themselves.

Franchise founder Donald Carter — wearing his trademark white cowboy hat, the one that used to be part of the team’s logo — accepted the trophy from commissioner David Stern at Cuban’s request.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the Western Conference title celebration, Cuban said: “It just feels so good for Dirk and Jason Kidd and (Terry) and Shawn Marion. ... This team has so much heart, so much determination.”

And a championship.