Thunder: Wild night in Dallas
Wild night in Dallas. The Thunder’s 106-100 victory over the Mavericks set up what is becoming a fascinating series. Historic shootout in Game 1, with Dirk Nowitzki (48 points) and Kevin Durant (40), then an amazing morality play in Game 2, with the Thunder bench dominating like no one thought it could.
Here are some thoughts:
* I know everyone wants to talk about Russell Westbrook and Scotty Brooks’ decision not to play his point guard the entire fourth quarter. And it’s a subject well worth exploring. But the saga of the Thunder bench goes much deeper than Eric Maynor playing in crunch time at Westbrook’s expense.
Let’s look at the Thunder plus/minus in the series. Remember, plus/minus is the score of the game while you’re on the court. Through two games, every Thunder reserve is in the plus. Every Thunder starter, except Serge Ibaka, is in the minus.
You never want to go off the cliff with plus/minus. Kevin Durant has been in the minus in both games. Minus-1 in Game 1, minus-2 in Game 2. But the numbers are stunning:
Nick Collison +7 and +10. No surprise here. Collison almost always improves things.
Eric Maynor -2 and +18. Maynor wasn’t good at all in Game 1, but he was coolly effective in Game 2.
Nazr Mohammed -2 and +5. Nazr played just the final 1:33 of the first quarter, but the Thunder finished strong with him.
Daequan Cook -9 and +11. Cook remains an amazing story. Buried on the bench for almost three months in the middle of the season; played virtually the entire fourth quarter of the most important game of the year.
James Harden -13 and +14. That No. 3 pick by Sam Presti two years ago looking not so bad, huh?
Ibaka -2 and +3. Ibaka and Collison played together just 5:16, mainly because of foul trouble. OKC outscored Dallas 16-13 in the second quarter with those guys playing together. It’s a good lineup against Dallas but probably won’t be used much, because of fouls.
Kevin Durant -1 and -2. Here’s where plus/minus can’t be trusted. Rick Carlisle wants to do a hula dance every time Durant comes off the court. Through two games, Durant is averaging 32 points a game and has made 21 of 41 shots.
Thabo Sefolosha -2 and -9. I really had issue with Brooks on only one rotation situation. I would have brought in Thabo in the last two minutes. Not Westbrook. Thabo. Get Thabo in for perimeter defense, because it was obvious Dallas needed some 3-pointers to win. Brooks survived, but I would have had Thabo in. He finally did bring on Sefolosha for the final 8.4 seconds, and the Mavs got a bad shot.
Westbrook -7 and -12. Crazy that Westbrook got benched even though he was playing fairly solid. Here’s how I would weight the reason for the benching — Maynor’s excellent play 75 percent, Westbrook’s tantrum 25 percent.
Kendrick Perkins -14 and -8. I love Perk, but this is not a good series for him. There is no low post game in the Dallas offense, and outside of J.J. Barea, there’s no penetration from the perimeter. All of Tyson Chandler’s offense is above the rim, meaning Chandler jumps without the ball, finds the ball and scores. Perk has little defense for that.
* This game was similar to Memphis Game 2. Game 1 in both series, the Thunder defense was torched, first by Zach Randolph/Marc Gasol, then by Dirk Nowitzki. Game 2, much better. Only a little strategy changed. What changed was OKC’s attitude. The Thunder just got tougher. The Thunder gave Nowitzki little room, and if Big Dirk drove around an Ibaka or a Collison, so be it. It worked famously through three quarters; 3-of-7 shooting, way fewer fouls. Nowitzki got hot in the fourth quarter, but the smaller lineup was effective offensively and kept Dallas at bay.
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