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Berry Tramel

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Thunder: Time to get physical

by Berry Tramel Published: May 22, 2011

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.

Nick Collison (4) of Oklahoma City defends Dirk Nowitzki (41) of Dallas in the second half during game 3 of the Western Conference Finals of the NBA basketball playoffs between the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder at the OKC Arena in downtown Oklahoma City, Saturday, May 21, 2011. Dallas won, 93-87. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Nick Collison (4) of Oklahoma City defends Dirk Nowitzki (41) of Dallas in the second half during game 3 of the Western Conference Finals of the NBA basketball playoffs between the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder at the OKC Arena in downtown Oklahoma City, Saturday, May 21, 2011. Dallas won, 93-87. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

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.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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