Thunder 102, Mavs 99
Nuggets from my notebook from Monday's win over Dallas.
- Two games. Two Thunder wins. Both decided by a combined four points. Tells you exactly how even this matchup is.
- No surprise that a light skirmish broke out midway through the first quarter. The Thunder has been playing Dirk Nowitzki extremely physically and, more importantly, extremely effectively. The Mavs aren't used to either of those things. And tonight, Dirk had enough. After taking a shot to the head by Serge Ibaka, Nowitzki decided to take matters into his own hands. First, he gave Ibaka a little shove along with a few words as they ran back on D. And then Kendrick Perkins delivered an elbow while trying to back down Dirk in the post. At the end of that possession, Dirk and Perk got tangled up going for a rebound and that's when all hell damn near broke loose.
- Perk walked up on Dirk. Then Dirk shoved Perk. And Perk "shoved" back. The two had to be separated as they proceeded to call each other everything but a child of God. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle got in the middle of it all, exchanging words with Perk and eventually having to be separated from Perk, too. Both Nowitzki and Perkins were hit with double technical fouls before we finally got back to basketball.
- The last thing we needed tonight was Carlisle dangling from Perk's leg a la Jeff Van Gundy.
- I actually thought Perk got off light. That "shove" he delivered looked a lot like a punch to me. He's lucky it wasn't ruled as such, which would have resulted in an automatic ejection and a suspension.
- There were some questions about Perk's technical foul count. For those who don't know, the count resets for the playoffs. So that's officially his first one of the postseason. The magic number is seven to get suspended. After seven it's every other tech, so nine, 11, 13, etc.
- Carlisle on the skirmish: "The dirty bull**** has got to stop. We don’t want anybody to get hurt out there either way."
- Major credit goes to Thunder coach Scott Brooks tonight. He made the most important adjustment he needed to make tonight. When he inserted James Harden at his usual four-minute mark, he subbed Harden in for Ibaka as opposed to Thabo Sefolosha. That allowed Sefolosha to remain in the game and take the assignment on Jason Terry. Sefolosha didn't come out for the first time until 1:34 was left in the first quarter.
- As a result of that altered substitution pattern, Terry never got it going and finished with 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting.
- Harden did a great job on Terry, too, I thought. In that final minute and a half once Sefolosha went to sit, Harden accepted the challenge and continued to hold Terry in check.
- The bench was absolutely terrific tonight. The second unit spurred the Thunder on a 9-0 run to end the first period and helped it balloon in the second quarter to a 19-3 spurt that led to a 42-27 Thunder lead.
- The bench unit's ball movement was key. Those guy's had four of the team's seven first-quarter assists and got back to playing off each other, running equal-opportunity offense and making everyone a threat as opposed to watching Harden do the heavy lifting. After getting outscored 39-19 in Game 1, the Thunder's bench outscored Dallas' 32-28.
- Derek Fisher came alive tonight and provided a glimpse of what he was expected to bring in the playoffs. He scored 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including a couple of big shots at big moments. He had a buzzer-beater at the end of the first quarter to give the Thunder a 32-24 lead after the first period, and he hit a huge corner 3 with 5 1/2 minutes remaining to push the Thunder's lead to four.
- At one point midway through the second quarter, Fisher was leading the Thunder in scoring with eight points.
- Perhaps overlooked in this one tonight was the Thunder's early ball security. OKC had just two turnovers in the first quarter and just four by the time it built its largest lead of the night at 16.
- The Thunder finished with 16 turnovers, which, fortunately for OKC, the Mavs converted into just 16 points.
- OKC did a great job throughout of scoring off turnovers. The Thunder finished with 21 points off 14 Mavs giveaways. That's got to continue because the halfcourt offense hasn't been pretty.
- Terry didn't have a single shot attempt in the first quarter. That's how good the Thunder played him early. In Game 1, he had four and made all of them. Tonight, Terry's first field goal didn't come until 31.9 seconds were left in the second quarter...And it came following a gamble in the backcourt by Russell Westbrook that led to a break down in the Thunder's rotation.
- This is the playoffs and, again, two evenly matched teams. Therefore we shouldn't have expected the Thunder to blow out the Mavs, especially after taking a 16-point lead with 5:55 left in the second quarter. There was plenty of game remaining. Dallas was going to make a run. Still, OKC has to do a better job of maintaining a lead. Because that one evaporated within minutes. The Thunder allowed the Mavs to promptly peel off a 17-4 run to pull within three just 3 minutes, 43 seconds after being down by 16.
- During that Mavs run, the Thunder went 1-of-4 and turned it over twice. No surprise, three of the misses were 3-pointers. The lone make was a 17-foot jumper...another jumper.
- Nowitzki keyed that run after getting hot during that stretch. He scored 12 of the Mavs' 17 in the run, including 10 straight. The reason: Perkins couldn't cover him on the perimeter. Dirk started lighting it up against the Thunder's big man, and OKC didn't adjust in time.
- You could look at the glass as half full with Kevin Durant's second consecutive poor shooting night and conclude the Thunder will be fine in this series. I think it could mean trouble. Get back to me after Game 3 in Dallas. It's not like OKC won convincingly in these two games while KD struggled with his shot. Again, three points served as the combined difference despite the Thunder playing at home. My gut says that can't hold up. If KD doesn't get a lucky bounce, we're talking about the Thunder narrowly salvaging Game 2 and going to Dallas with the series 1-1 instead of a comfortable 2-0 lead. We'll see.
- Durant is now shooting 15 of 44 in this series. That's 34 percent. Adding insult to injury, he had a game-high seven turnovers tonight and only one assist. He was forcing shots tonight and making poor decisions throughout. He just looks confused out there right now, although some of his looks are indeed good but just aren't dropping. But you have to credit Shawn Marion as well for the job he's done on Durant. It's like Durant is rushing his shots even when they're open because he's afraid Marion will close and contest.
- Speaking of Marion, he throws up some of the ugliest mess ever but somehow gets them to go in. I'm talking bank shots from straight on. Good thing for OKC that his 3-pointer wasn't falling tonight like it was in Game 1. He made just 1-of-4 from downtown.
- Marion did make the Thunder pay on the defensive glass tonight. He got four of the Mavs' 12 offensive boards, which helped Dallas outscore OKC 17-6 in second-chance points. The Thunder has got to continue to focus on closing out possessions with rebounds.
- Carlisle said before the game that Rodrigue Beaubois could get more playing time as this series marches on. After not playing in Game 1, Beaubois made his series debut with 5:48 remaining in the first half tonight. He went scoreless on 0-for-1 shooting with one foul, effectively being a non-factor. But he's a guy I'd be concerned about having a big game before it's all said and done, especially as the series shifts to Dallas.
- The third quarter had some very questionable officiating.
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