The Thunder and Mavs have got to stop meeting like this.
Got to stop meeting with marbles at stake. Got to stop meeting when every game matters and the spotlight shines bright. Else these NBA neighbors, 200 miles on Interstate-35, are going to start hating each other.
Welcome to playoff basketball. Welcome to playoff rivalry basketball, courtesy of six straight Thunder-Mav postseason games decided by single digits, the latest the Thunder's 99-98 escape Saturday night.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle has deployed gamesmanship; laying the groundwork for more officiating calls. And Scotty Brooks, who usually displays all the venom of a florist, didn't like it. Didn't like it one bit.
Carlisle bemoaned the Thunder's aggressive treatment of Mav star Dirk Nowitzki. And Brooks shot back.
“Just go back to your quotes in 2011,” Brooks said. “He said the same thing.”
In his classic monotone, Carlisle referred to the end of the first half, when Nowitzki was hit with an offensive foul while battling Serge Ibaka for positioning.
“He's getting grabbed and held and they call a foul on him,” Carlisle said. “We've seen this for four years. Dirk Nowitzki is the hardest guy in the league to guard because if you back off at 22 feet he's going to hit the shot. So people grab and hold him.”
Brooks usually just smiles off such talk. Not this time. Carlisle clearly had riled his old Continental Basketball Association roommate with the Albany Patroons.
“They averaged 20 free throws a game,” Brooks said. “They shot 26 or 27 (Saturday night, actually 25). We average 27. We shot 20.
“If you're going to get into that, you're taking away what NBA basketball's about. Play your game, do it as hard as you can, and live with the results.”
Foreman Scotty usually doesn't talk like that. He's usually blander than beige. Even last year, when Nugget coach George Karl referred to Brooks as “cocky,” the Thunder coach laughed it off.
Brooks wasn't laughing Sunday at Thunder headquarters.
“Come on, you can't be sucked into that,” Brooks said of Carlisle's PR battle to influence the series' future officiating. “That's what he does. If anybody, I should be complaining. We only shot 20 free throws.”
This is what happens when teams meet every other day for perhaps two weeks. Get asked about the same opponent every day for a fortnight. Gameplan against the same set of stars day after day.
Nerves fray. Patience thins. It's early for the Thunder and Mavs to be sick of each other, only one game in. But remember they staged a heated Western Conference Finals last May, and Dallas' Jason Terry earlier this season referred to the Thunder as “little brother.”
The Thunder's in no mood to hear such talk, not after spending all this season as an NBA title contender, while the Mavs sleepwalked to the West's seventh seed.
Brooks declared the high ground when talking about Maverick Shawn Marion's tough defense on Kevin Durant.
“I give good defenders credit,” Brooks said. “Marion's one of the best defenders in this league for a long time. You have to give him credit.”
Brooks recalled the foul shots from the 2011 playoff series. Nowitzki shot 61 in five games; that's 12.2 per game, exactly double what he averaged in the regular season.
“Dirk had an amazing series last year,” Brooks said. “He had a series that probably not too many players in the league's history can say they've had. Every game, he was making tough shots, drawing fouls, getting to the line.
“That's who he is. That's who they are. They're a good team. We're a good team. We're going to fight each other and going to try to win the series the way we know how to play.”
Take that, Rick Carlisle.
“I roomed with him,” Brooks said while walking away. “I know who he is.”
That's the problem. These teams know each other well. Too well, it would seem.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.