First things first: WOW! What seemed impossible this time a year ago has happened and the Thunder have clinched a spot in the 2010 Playoffs, Ladies and Gentlemen!
Ahem, now back to business.
The Thunder looked as though they would manhandle the Mavs about midway through the fourth quarter when they were up by 19 points but the crafty Mavs fought back to within four points and only Eric Maynor’s clutch three pointer with under 30 seconds left helped the Thunder seal this victory AND CLINCH A SPOT IN THE PLAYOFFS!
Okay, seriously, that’s the last time you’ll see me do that…I, um, promise.
But the most surprising part of this game is that, pretty much, the Thunder bench won this contest. Also, the Mavs are incapable of staying with a fast, athletic and well-executed team on the defensive end. Or at least that’s how it looked tonight. The Mavs simply had no answer for Russell Westbrook’s quickness, his ability to slash and poor Jason Kidd simply could not keep in front of him. Oh, and you can extend that to pretty much anyone else on the Thunder’s squad who is young, long, athletic and can drive.
I honestly thought we’d see a bit more Beaubois on Westbrook and Maynor in terms of quickness but the first half injury he suffered cut that short and even in the second he seemed a step behind almost everyone on the court. Maybe it was the injury, I’m not sure. But I’m not sure it would have even mattered anyway.
But back to the Thunder bench. Incredible probably isn’t a strong enough word but holy cow what a game. 42 points from your bench? And Ibaka didn’t even score?!!
The game ball needs to go to the Thunder reserves, though Jeff Green and even Nenad Krstic made it a competitive contest for game ball honors at least. I’ll talk more about them in the bullets but needless to say, there was a lot to like in this game from those two and a lot to like from the Thunder as a whole despite a few glaring mistakes.
Now to be fair…if you watched this game hoping to see some lockdown defense then I’m afraid you turned on the wrong game because, ugh, neither team could stop the other one from getting good looks. Fortunately for the Thunder the Mavs couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from deep tonight. When Jason Kidd and EDUARDO NAJERA are your deep threat sharpshooters on the evening, you know somebody was down by 19 at one point.
But the Mavs did make up for it in the midrange game and in the paint (to the tune of 56 points there) so, again, the game seemed like an even contest unless you actually watched the second half, where it was clear that the Thunder’s length, quickness, athleticism and active hands just messed with the Mavs from the opening tip (but more so highlighted in the second half) until about five minutes to go in the fourth. Before the very end of the game, the Mavs just look befuddled about how to stop the Thunder or how to at least slow them down and we’re talking about a game where Kevin Durant did not shoot particularly well at all (23 points on 7-18 shooting).
Take away that last heroic charge by the Mavs and the Thunder absolutely owned this game and deserved to win by double-digits. But that’s what makes a veteran team great and dangerous: They know how to close out a game and try and steal away a victory.
Kudos to the Mavs for continuing to fight until the very end, but even more kudos to the young Thunder for refusing to get rattled and finishing this game the right way when things looked a little dicey.
- I am liking me some Jeff Green more and more, folks. He’s acting like the captain that he is as the season progresses. Nothing flashy, nothing grandiose. But flat out clutch and cold-blooded time and time again. Plus, he’s just playing at a more efficient level the further this push for the PLAYOFFS! goes along (22 points on 9-15 shooting; the only Thunder starter in the positive on +/-).
- To further my praise for Jeff Green, I think one of the things that makes him so effective driving to the rim despite being undersized for his position is his almost absurd ability to absorb contact and yet somehow finish the shot. It’s called body control at its finest and Jeff Green is its master.
- Major tip of the comb to Nenad Krstic this evening for two reasons mainly. First, you won’t see much more effective play than Nenad gave the Thunder in the third quarter or in his slim 20 minutes of playing time with 9 points on 4-6 shooting and 6 rebounds, but more so the defensive positioning down low and the constant hustle and tip outs on missed shots that got the Thunder more looks at the basket and kept the Mavs off the offensive glass. Also, how good did his new haircut look? Yes, I actually just asked you that–and even more crazy, it was a legitimate question!
- Again, Westbrook did whatever he wanted tonight and if the Mavs played the Thunder, oh, seven more times this year, I still think he would abuse them. If only he could finish at the rim better, huh?
- Durant was very careless with the rock tonight and it could have cost the team big with his 5 turnovers…had he not also grabbed 5 steals with some tremendous court awareness and long, active hands.
- Thabo went 2-3 from deep tonight. Man is he invaluable when he’s locking people up and making spot-up 3′s. Come on Thabo hitting shots in the PLAYOFFS!
- Dirk Nowitzki is good. Brendan Haywood should be starting. That is all.
- Finally, if you didn’t watch the game, please look at the Box Score and take a glance at the Thunder’s reserves. I don’t know if a Box Score can tell more of what happened in a game than that. I honestly feel like standing and applauding those four this evening. Harden got a little careless at the end himself and he got sat because of it, but all in all, what a performance from those four.
Yes, Jim Mora. Playoffs.
I’m so excited I may vomit. T-Wolves (and beyond), here we come.