Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle intimated that Nick Collison was getting a little too physical with Dirk Nowitzki in this series. He’s got to be kidding.
If anything, the Thunder hasn’t gotten physical enough. In fact, here’s the easy answer for why OKC got off to such a horrid start in Game 3 (27-10 after one quarter, 35-12 after 14 minutes): total lack of defensive aggression.
In the first quarter, Dallas did not shoot a foul shot. The Thunder committed just three fouls in the period. Two offensive fouls, and a lazy, reacharound foul by Russell Westbrook that didn’t have a lot to do with trying to play defense.
That’s it. And that’s quite appropriate, too. You’ve got to get close to somebody before you can foul them.
The Thunder eventually got a little more physical, though it took awhile. Five fouls in the second quarter (none offensive), then just two in the third quarter. Through three quarters, the Thunder had committed just 10 fouls, only eight of them on defense. Discounting intentional fouls in the final minute, the Thunder committed four in the fourth quarter.
Now, the Thunder’s defense stiffened up the later the game went. By quarters, Dallas shot 52.2, 50.0, 28.6 and 45.0 percent. Grand total of 43.9 percent.
That start was so bad, though, that the Thunder failed to recover. And while the focus was on the awful offense — four baskets and 12 points the first 14 minutes; two of the baskets were putbacks by Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison – defense put the Thunder in just as big a hole.
You don’t want to foul too much. The Thunder paid that price in Game 1, when Nowitzki alone shot 24 foul shots and the Mavericks shot 36 as a team. That’s too many. But zero foul shots in the first quarter for Dallas in Game 3, with only one defensive foul, was a clear indication that OKC wasn’t physical and wasn’t aggressive and wasn’t ready to meet the Dallas challenge.