(So this was some block from Serge Ibaka, huh?)
Different game, same result. In the first meeting between the Mavericks and the Thunder, Dallas outscored Oklahoma City 36-22 in the fourth quarter by just outclassing the Thunder. They hit shots, played stellar defense, got physical and basically took the Thunder out of their game.
Like I said, different game, same result.
The Mavericks outscored OKC 24-12 in the final frame tonight sans Dirk Nowitzki as Dallas beat the Thunder 103-93. The key stretch in the game came mid-fourth as Dallas went to a zone on the Thunder, which OKC didn’t really solve. The Thunder went almost four minutes without a point, missing outside jumper after outside jumper. A lot of them were solid looks for good shooters. Kevin Durant doesn’t miss that often when he’s open. But they didn’t go down. If they do, this might be different. The way basketball works. Amazing how good an offense can look when shots go in.
As I said, Dirk left the game with a twisted knee with nine minutes left in the second quarter and didn’t return. That seemed like a break for the Thunder, but all it meant was Jason Terry was going to take over. His numbers aren’t terrific — 6-17, 13 points — but he was the focal point of the Maverick offense. The Thunder committed a lot of attention to Terry and it freed up Shawn Marion for easy looks inside. Even without Dirk, it’s just obvious how many weapons Dallas has. Caron Butler, Terry, Marion, Jason Kidd… all can beat you. It’s what makes Dallas the class of the West along with San Antonio right now. They’re good and they know how to play good when it matters.
To me, this isn’t anything close to a bad loss, but it’s a game I think the Thunder wishes they had back. This was winnable. They played really good for three quarters and had Dallas where they wanted it. Typically, OKC closes well and wins these type of games. But KD never was able to find any fourth quarter rhythm (just 2-5 in the quarter), Russell Westbrook tried to do too much and for the love of Robert Swift we couldn’t get a call. This isn’t official because it’s off the top of my head, but I think Dallas was called for one foul in the fourth. I’m not really complaining here because for the game Dallas outfouled OKC 20-14, but it just seemed like the Thunder was going to get a whistle at some point.
- Russell Westbrook left the game after an awkward fall late in the fourth. He’s just fine. All he did was sting his funny bone.
- James Harden was playing really well tonight so Scott Brooks went with a traditional lineup in the fourth with Harden at shooting guard. But it really felt like this was a night for Thabo in crunch time. The Mavericks have scorers all over the floor and it was obvious Harden couldn’t check Jason Terry. Thabo eventually checked in with about five minutes left with the team going small, but it was too late. And of course, the small lineup didn’t really get the team back in the game either.
- It’s pretty easy to really hate Tyson Chandler isn’t it? Crazy to think we were almost rooting for that guy. Instead, he was in the other colors tonight beating his chest and yelling at the crowd at every opportunity.
- It really felt like the Mavs were going to run away early in this one. They started 5-6 from 3 and finished an excellent 11-23, but early on, it seemed really bad.
- The third quarter really had improvisational look to it. It almost resembled pickup. Neither team was really running much offense but was just getting transition, cutting and shooting quickly. Was kinda fun.
- Jason Kidd passed Mo Cheeks on the all-time assist list.
- Everyone on the Thunder bench was a plus tonight, with Nick Collison turning in a +13 and Eric Maynor a +10. The starters were all big minuses, with Jeff Green (-20) leading the way.
- The benched was led by another terrific effort from Harden (18 points on 5-9) and Serge Ibaka (nine points, nine rebounds, two blocks). Both gave great energy and provided the Thunder a nice lift. And of course two of the best highlights of the season. First was Ibaka’s outlet block that led to a Harden dunk and then Ibaka standing up Tyson Chandler at the rim.
- It really just looked like Westbrook was trying to do a little much late in this one. He sensed the game getting away and attacked furiously, but a little out of control. I really don’t like when he goes at the rim all wild, tosses up a shot and then goes sprawling all over the floor asking for a foul. He’s at his best when he’s under control in a his normal reckless way. He only turned it over twice, but was 5-15 from the field.
- Watching the Mavericks pose and preen at mid-court as the clock wound down kind of pissed me off. And then Caron Butler spiked the ball at the buzzer. I don’t know… it felt weird. It just had a real odd feeling like the Mavs were overdoing something. It’s probably just me because I watch a team that never does stuff like that, but seeing Jason Terry antagonize the crowd as they booed loudly kind of made me hate the Mavericks for about five minutes.
Again, not a bad loss. But certainly one that seems like it got away. Look — the Mavericks are good. Really, really good. If the Thunder wins this game — even without Dirk — it’s a statement. It’s a huge win. But OKC choked only because it didn’t shoot well in crunch time. The Thunder lost some composure late in the game and didn’t seem to be in control of things as the Mavericks cranked up pressure and intensity. It’s definitely something to learn from for this team. Wins are always preferred but it’s not like the other team is trying to lose. They want to win too. They’re trying hard. And when they’ve got players like Dallas does, they’re tough to beat.
Next up: Wednesday at home against the Nets.