Mavs Make Game 2 A Distant Memory By Touncing The Thunder
Nuggets from my notebook from Saturday’s 93-87 Game 3 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
- I tweeted something early in the second quarterthat played out exactly how I thought it would. Dallas’ run was simply too much from the Thunder to rally back from tonight.
- How a performance like this happens in the Western Conference Finals I have no idea. It’s a shame, though, because the Thunder just lost the homecourt advantage it had worked so hard in Game 2 to steal. Now OKC must win another one in Dallas to advance.
- I figured it’d be tough for the Thunder to win both of these two at home. But never did I envision seeing this in Game 3.
- OKC made just one of 17 3-pointers and had more turnovers (14) than assists (11).
- The first quarter was as bad as it gets. The Thunder missed 13 of 17 shots, turned the ball over seven times leading to eight points and allowed the Mavs to shoot 52 percent while dishing eight assists on their first 12 field goals.
- The Thunder had twice as many free throw attempts (36) as the Mavs and generated 18 more points at the foul line. But Dallas made up each of those points with their 3-point shooting, going 7-for-21.
- Dallas led by as many as 23 tonight. The Thunder never led. OKC got within four twice in the final minute. But it was really too little too late. You knew the Mavs were too good, too experienced, too accurate at the stripe to give this one away. Said Nick Collison: “You need to be almost perfect at that point when you get that big of a hole.”
- Something’s got to change. I can guarantee you it won’t be the starting lineup. Not this season. But the Thunder has lost 11 of 15 first quarters in the playoffs. This team is good. But playing from behind dang near each game has run its course.
- Kendrick Perkins put it best. “They’re a veteran team and their window is short on chances on winning a title,” he said. “I ain’t know if everybody else knew what kind of fight we was gon be in tonight, but I knew what kind of fight we it was gon be.”
- Dallas’ defense deserves a lot of credit, too. The Thunder missed some shots, but the Mavs forced OKC into a fair amount of bad decisions and contested shots. Dallas denied, doubled, trapped and clogged the paint. Their team defense was excellent early and it seemed to take something out of the Thunder mentally. Perk spoke out on that as well. “When we get down, I don’t like our body language,” he said. “We got to do a better job of holding our heads up and continuing to keep pushing.”
- The Mavs put on a ball movement clinic in the first half. They were drawing doubles and making the right reads and pinpoint passes to get not just a good shot but a great shot. The Thunder can learn a lot from Dallas in that regard.
- So much for Russell Westbrook dominating Jason Kidd in this series. All that talk prior to this series has proven to be foolish. Kidd’s numbers might not be the most impressive. But the way he’s controlling his team and setting up shots for his teammates has been the untold story of this series. It took three games, but he’s finally getting his due. Said Perk: “He ran the team. Every time they got down, he made a big play.” Said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle: “He does so many things that can’t be quantified on the stat sheet. From having a calming influence when teams are making a run, the knack of hitting big shots and finding a window to deliver the ball at the right and to the right guy and defensively he did a great job the whole game of communicating to everybody what was going on.”
- What a way for Westbrook to bounce back, though. All eyes were going to be on him following Game 2, and he responded with a game-high 30 points. His aggressiveness attacking the rim became unstoppable. Neither Kidd nor J.J. Barea could keep up with him. With the Thunder’s offense playing poorly all night, Westbrook’s speed ended up being what nearly saved OKC.
- The downside of this game for Westbrook was his seven turnovers. He’s got to take better care of the basketball. The only other thing he did to drive you crazy was take an ill-advised 3-pointer at the three-minute mark while trying to cut a six-point deficit to three.
- There was a moment in the first half when it was crystal clear that Westbrook had learned from everything that surrounded his Game 2 performance and the fallout that followed. After trying to run a play and having it break down, Westbrook had to settle for a jump shot near the free throw line. He missed. And as soon as he did, he shook his head with a slight grin and a quick glance at the bench. But he wasn’t saying ‘I told you so.’ He was saying ‘My bad.” He wasn’t cussing and complaining. He was taking responsibility and, as he backpedaled on D, was already showing he knew he had to do it better next time. I don’t suspect we’ll see subtle shows of emotion like that on SportsCenter, though.
- Kevin Durant, with 24 points, was the only other Thunder player to score in double digits. Durant had a nice line with 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. But his 7-for-22 shooting was an eyesore.
- Durant went 0-for-8 from 3-point land tonight and has now missed his last 13 3-pointers. His last make came with 1:37 remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 1.
- Durant’s got to do a better job on Shawn Marion. Because of the way Dallas is structured, the Mavs’ role players are just as significant in this series as their stars. At least for the first two and a half to three quarters. The Thunder can’t afford to let Marion get loose for 18 points.
- What a wasted defensive effort on Dirk Nowitzki. The Thunder guarded Dirk about as well as you will ever see a team play him. He had only had four points at the half and Dallas still led 52-36. He finished with 18 and also had seven turnovers.
- Collison has been surprisingly incredible on Dirk. And Collison has gotten better in each game. He crowds Dirk so much that he can’t get into his shooting position and is forced to put it on the floor. When Dirk is forced to do that, to become a slasher and playmaker, he is much less effective. Collison is carrying out that game plan to near perfection.
- Collison was just an animal tonight. He tied up Dirk twice tonight and forced jump balls by getting his paws on the pill as soon as Dirk started his move. If those plays didn’t give you an appreciation for Collison’s savvy nothing will. And if the back-to-back offensive rebounds Collison corralled late in the fourth quarter don’t make you marvel at his fundamentals and workmanlike effort you don’t like basketball.
- Collison had three hustle plays in the first half that looked like they might turn the tide. Needless to say, they didn’t. With about nine minutes left in the second quarter, and the Thunder stuck on 13 points, Collison got aggressive and hit a driving hook shot. It pulled the Thunder within 20. Ibaka blocked a Barea shot at the other end and the crowd came alive. OKC couldn’t seize momentum, though. Then, in the final two minutes, Collison tied up Dirk and forced a jump ball, which the Thunder won, and he drew an offensive foul on Brendan Haywood on the second of two Perkins free throws that sent him to the line for one shot that pulled OKC within 52-36 at the half.
- So far, whichever team’s bench outscores the other wins the game. The Thunder’s reserves were outscored 28-16 tonight. All 16 of the Thunder’s bench points came from Collison and James Harden. Much of that had to do with Thunder coach Scott Brooks shortening his bench tonight, opting to not play Nazr Mohammed while going with Westbrook over Eric Maynor (six minutes) for the entire second half. But Daequan Cook also missed his only two shot attempts.
- Tyson Chandler is only making Thunder fans wish that trade was never rescinded. His antics aside, he’s showing exactly why everyone was so excited to get him when the trade was made two years ago. Chandler is dominating his matchup with Perkins and right now the Thunder doesn’t have an answer for him.
- Am I the only one who thinks that answer is Serge Ibaka? Brooks, in my opinion, needs to play Ibaka at center and Collison at power forward for as many minutes as he can. Collison is the best option the Thunder has for defending Dirk, and Ibaka’s athleticism on Chandler is a much better counter to Chandler while it also allows him to provide the weak side help he’s so good at.
- Chandler had four of his six offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter. Only one of those four boards led to points, but each one made the Thunder’s defense work harder and tired out the team’s legs.
- Harden, by the way, flopped on the elbow swing from Chandler. There was contact. But there was even more acting.
- It was cool seeing OKC Arena play KD’s Gatorade commercial during halftime. Something about that just made Kevin seem like a superstar no matter how humble he is.
- Kevin Ollie led the invocation before the game. Great idea by the Thunder.
- I never understood why players got so mad when players slapped the ball out of their hands after the whistle. I never understood why players did it in the first place. Thabo Sefolosha did it to DeShawn Stevenson early on and Stevenson took exception and got in Thabo’s face. And when Stevenson did, Sefolosha slapped the ball out of Stevenson’s hands again.
- Don’t ask me to explain the technical foul rulings on that sequence. I have no idea what the refs were doing.
- The Thunder’s inexperience showed a great deal in this one. From start to finish. From awful opening quarter to its inability to execute in the fourth. The Thunder had to cut it to 12 five times before finally getting any closer in the final frame. Each time, the Thunder did something to shoot itself in the foot. The most egregious came when Chandler got free and stood wide open under the rim for a dunk off an inbounds play with 11:24 remaining. And in the final three minutes, the Thunder missed five straight shots before finishing 2-for-7 with two turnovers. Four of those first five shots were 3-pointers. Not that it would have mattered the way he was shooting, but none of those launches came from Durant. It’s the stuff that cost the Thunder a chance to be up 2-1. And despite how wild a ride this has been, it’s those types of things that still separate the Thunder from a team like the Mavericks.
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