It was Thunder center Kendrick Perkins' decision to defend Dallas uber forward Dirk Nowitzki with 2:17 left in Saturday night's 99-98 victory over the Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Perkins instructed Serge Ibaka to guard center Ian Mahinmi so Perkins could take a crack at Nowitzki.
OKC coach Scott Brooks confirmed Perkins and Ibaka often are allowed to decide who guards whom.
“I know Serge was battling with him (Nowitzki) the whole game, so sometimes it helps to take some of the pressure off him,” Perkins said. “I just tell Serge, ‘I got him. You stay back and protect the rim.'
“Serge did a good job on him, but at the time we needed Serge to do what he do best, and that's protect the paint, so I just figured I'd lock in and defend him (Nowitzki) right then.
“We need Serge to be the rim protector. We need him to anchor the paint … because I know that if I run him (Nowitzki) off his shot and he drives, you got Serge there.”
Mavericks forward Shawn Marion said he defended three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant so closely he wasn't convinced Durant could even see the rim on his game-winning 15-footer with 1.5 seconds left.
Turns out, Marion might have been correct.
“I took a glance at it,” Durant said with a smile after Sunday's practice. “I've taken so many shots since I've been playing this game, you kind of know where the rim is. You kind of know where you are on the floor and I've been working on that pull-up for a while.
“It was a difficult shot over two guys, but Shawn Marion did a great job of contesting and I got that bounce. I'm glad it went in for me.”
SENSE OF CALM
As you might expect with a defending world champion, there is no sense of panic with the Mavericks after Game 1's difficult defeat.
“We're going to be ready to play,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said after Sunday's practice and film session at The Peake. “We're looking forward to it. We like playing here. This is a tough place to play, but the atmosphere is great.
“You've got to win 16 games to win an NBA championship. We know that, and along the way you're going to have some tough losses. Last night was a tough loss. We went through some tough losses last year. Championship teams bounce back and keep playing and keep coming after the opponent, and that's what we're going to do.”
There was a sense of anger in the voice of Mavs sixth man Jason Terry, who finished with 20 points and shot 8 for 10 from the field, but got off only one shot in the fourth period.
“Oh, we know we can beat them,” Terry said. “There's no doubt in my mind. It was a one-possession game, and it's a game of possessions. Every possession is critical and understanding that we've been in many situations like this. It's nothing new to us.”
NO PICTURES, PLEASE
Around 3 a.m. Sunday, Mavericks shooting guard Delonte West tweeted the following: “I think that's the last of it …. I feel like my soul just tried to get out my body …”
West had struggled with food poisoning the previous few days, believed to have been caused by some bad oysters he ate before the regular-season finale at Atlanta.
And, Delonte being Delonte, his graphic tweet came with a photo attached.
West said he feels “a lot better. Headache's pretty much gone away.”
Here is the remaining best-of-7 series schedule: Game 2 — Monday at 8:30 p.m., OKC; Game 3 — Thursday at 8:30 p.m., Dallas; Game 4 — Saturday at 6:30 p.m., Dallas; Game 5, if necessary — Monday, May 7, time TBA, at OKC; Game 6, if necessary — Thursday, May 10, time TBA, at Dallas; Game 7, if necessary — Saturday, May 12, at time TBA, at OKC.
Perkins on the play of Ibaka, who had 22 points (9 for 12 from the field), six rebounds and five blocked shots in Game 1: “He had an excellent game. You could just tell in his focus and his attitude, how he's been approaching practices and film sessions and stuff like that he was destined to have that type of game.”