OKC Thunder: Kendrick Perkins' injury made beating Mavericks a necessity
Before all the fashionably late fans had even settled into their seats, beating the Mavs on Saturday night became not a novelty but a necessity. That's because Kendrick Perkins went to the bench, then to the locker room with an injury.
DALLAS — Sweeping the Mavs seemed like such a grand notion for the Thunder.
Bouncing the defending champions. Avenging the Western Conference meltdown of a year ago. Showing Big Brother that Little Brother is growing up fast.
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Oh, what fun.
But before all the fashionably late fans had even settled into their seats at the American Airlines Center, beating the Mavs on Saturday night became not a novelty but a necessity. That's because Kendrick Perkins went to the bench, then to the locker room with an injury. The Thunder big man and defensive anchor was soon ruled out for the rest of the game with a right hip strain.
The extent of the injury is unknown.
Good thing the Thunder went ahead and figured out a way to end this series Saturday night.
Thunder 103, Mavs 97.
Allowing the Mavs to extend this series and send it back to Oklahoma City could've led to disaster. Sure, an NBA team has never come back from a 3-0 deficit, but messing around with a savvy, veteran team if your best defender might be sidelined for awhile is dangerous business.
“When you have an opportunity to eliminate a team and close it out,” Thunder veteran Derek Fisher said, “you have to take full advantage of it.”
He would know.
Fisher has played in hundreds of playoff games, and he's seen how these series can turn. How a sure thing can change in a heartbeat.
He played that way, too. In nearly 30 minutes of action, he hit 5 of 6 shots, scored 12 points and had a ridiculously good plus-minus ranking of plus-21.
Fisher wasn't the only one who played like he was motivated to end this series. Nazr Mohammed. Nick Collison. Serge Ibaka. Kevin Durant. All of them played inspired basketball.
But none were more inspired than James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
What those two did in the fourth quarter bordered on unbelievable. Westbrook was as good defensively as he could've been, coming up with one timely steal and rebound after another. And Harden was unbelievable offensively, hitting 6 of 9 shots and scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter.
The Mavs knew what he wanted to do, and they were still powerless to stop him.
“We could've easily said, ‘We go back home next game, so we can try to close it out at home,'” Harden said. “But these guys fought and fought. We're some fighters.”
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