OKC Thunder: Russell Westbrook's defense on Jason Terry just as big as Kevin Durant's winning shot
After watching Terry light up his team with a 6-of-6 start shooting, Westbrook, at some point, put it in his mind that Terry would get no more.
Jason Terry spent 23 of the first 36 minutes in Game 1 torching the Thunder.
Dallas' sixth man scored 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting to help the Mavs take a 73-69 lead heading into the fourth period. Terry made all four of his 3-point attempts and had five assists.
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And then Russell Westbrook slid over and guarded the spark plug of a shooting guard.
From that point on, Terry went scoreless. He missed his lone shot attempt in the fourth quarter and didn't register any assists in the final period.
While Kevin Durant's soft touch garnered headlines as the game-winner, Westbrook's defense on Terry was every bit as critical in giving the Thunder a 1-0 lead in this quarterfinal series.
“I told Russ, ‘You're an All-Star and being an All-Star ain't just playing one end of the court,” said Thunder center Kendrick Perkins. “‘You can take it up to another level at the other end, too,' and that's what he did.”
After watching Terry light up his team with a 6-of-6 start shooting, Westbrook, at some point, put it in his mind that Terry would get no more. And once Westbrook switched onto Terry, the Mavs struggled mightily to even get the ball in his hands — which is exactly how Westbrook found success.
“I thought we did a good job of just keeping him from catching the ball,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He's a great player. He makes a lot of big plays for them. But we did not allow him to be able to catch the ball. That's the best way to keep a guy from scoring, don't let him have the ball.”
Simple ball-denial spurred Westbrook to shutting down Terry. With Westbrook fronting and moving his feet, Terry rarely could catch the ball to be the go-to guy the Mavs have come to depend on in the fourth quarter. Dallas also assisted the Thunder's efforts by looking to take advantage of matchups elsewhere on the court rather than running sets for one of the best closers in basketball.
Terry's lone shot in the final frame came after grabbing a defensive rebound, pushing it in transition and getting a high ball screen before launching an errant 3-pointer from the top of the key.
In the last 101/2 minutes, Terry might as well have purchased some popcorn and enjoyed the show with the rest of the 18,203 spectators.
The Thunder had Daequan Cook covering Vince Carter, and Dallas spent the first three minutes of the fourth quarter trying to exploit that matchup. During that stretch, Terry became an afterthought, with Derek Fisher and James Harden able to essentially rest while covering Terry.
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