Carlisle not happy with treatment of Nowitzki
Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle knows what's coming when teams try to defend perpetual All-Star Dirk Nowitzki. It happened again Saturday night in the Thunder's 99-98 victory over the Mavs and Carlisle wasn't too pleased.
"They're going to grab and hold,'' Carlisle said. "To me, a typical example is the play before the first half ends. He's getting grabbed and held, and they call a foul on Dirk because he's just reacting to all the contact. You know, that turns into a possession for them and they hit a 3. It's a big momentum play.
"I've seen this for four years. People grab and hold him all the time. I mean, all the time. He shows incredible restraint in those areas. Oklahoma City is being physical.''
Nowitzki finished with six turnovers, with two coming in the final 90 seconds. He took the high road on the officiating, however.
"I always talk during the game a lot, but my style is never to complain after the game,'' Nowitzki said around 12:10 a.m. "And I won't do it now.
"Other teams are making one more play. We were right there. The game was right there for the taking. We needed to make one more play and we couldn't make it.''
Dallas forward Shawn Marion applied the defensive clamps on three-time NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant, which included the game-deciding sequence when Durant's turnaround, high-arcing, 15-footer bounced off the front of the rim, off the backboard and in.
"It was great defense," Marion said quietly just before midnight inside the Mavs' locker room. "I don't think he could see the rim – there's no way he could see the rim. He just threw that (expletive) up there, got a nice little bounce and it went in."
The NBA's reigning three-time scoring champ, Durant finished with 25 points, but shot just 10-of-27 from the field and 1 for 6 from 3-point range.
"Coach drew it up for me to come off the screen and get it close to the baseline," Durant said. "We knew they were going to switch it off. I just didn't want to settle for the three, so I tried to take it closer and shoot a shot. It got enough arc on it to go in."
Dallas reserve center Ian Mahinmi played 22 minutes in Game 1, splitting time mostly with starter Brendan Haywood. For the Thunder, Serge Ibaka played 39 minutes, second-most to only to Durant. Ibaka made quite an impression on Mahinmi.
"He's a great athlete," Mahinmi said of Ibaka, who finished with 22 points (9 for 12 from the field) six rebounds and five blocked shots. "On defense, he changes a lot of shots. You've got to pay attention when he's on the floor. Obviously, beating him is going to be a big part of us winning games. We've got to do a good job on him next time, make sure offensively that we respect his outside shooting. We've got to respect him going to the glass, make sure we box him out. He's a very good athlete.
"We know Serge, we've just got to respect his game. He's a helluva player."
The Thunder led the NBA in turnovers during the regular season with 16.3 per game.
In Game 1, OKC actually finished below its average with 14, but the Mavs capitalized by turning them into 27 points.
Dallas actually had one more turnover, which the Thunder turned into 22 points. Nine of Dallas' 15 turnovers came in the second half.
"We gave it to them," Marion said. "Those (late) turnovers cost the game."
In what has become a playoff game tradition every game, a sellout crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena once again was greeted with a free T-shirt at each seat. Saturday's color was blue. Fans not wearing their T-shirt were shown on the scoreboard and summarily booed.
With six minutes left in pregame warm-ups, the crowd erupted to what was shown on the scoreboard screen. It was a list of this season's scoring leaders, with Durant's name on top and Russell Westbrook listed fifth.
Durant and Westbrook, standing side-by-side in the layup line, both smiled.
Here is the remaining best-of-seven series schedule: Game 2 – Monday at 8:30 p.m., OKC; Game 3 – Thursday at 8:30 p.m., Dallas; Game 4 – Next Saturday at 6:30 p.m., Dallas; Game 5, if necessary – Saturday at TBA, OKC; Game 6, if necessary – May 10 at TBA, Dallas; Game 7, if necessary – May 12 at TBA, OKC.
Nowitzki, on the Mavs being 7-8 in games decided by three points or less: "(Last year) we came up with those bounces and we were the ones on top. Too many times in close games, I think we have a losing record in those games. It's tough. It's definitely as tough a loss as you can get."
-- JOHN ROHDE