(Why this picture? Because KD does this before every game — home or road — and it’s just so awesome.)
I have no way to actually know this, but I bet Scott Brooks walked into the locker room at the half, looked at his team, didn’t say a word and simply flipped on a TV. Everyone knew after the poor defensive first half with pathetic rebounding mixed in that Sir Charles Barkley was going to be on the warpath beating on the Thunder. All Brooks really needed to do to motivate and get the attention of his guys was let them listen to Barkley say how bad they were.
I don’t know if that’s what happened, but whatever Brooks did or said, it worked. He got the attention of his team as the Thunder allowed just 40 points in the second half and held the Mavericks to under 40 percent shooting en route to a nice 99-95 win.
And that’s what it was. A nice win. Not a great win. Not a statement win. Just nice. Because let’s be honest here. While this was the very good Mavs, this wasn’t the Mavs. A win is a win and stopping a losing streak at two is terrific, but this was against a wounded dog. It was clear in the second half that Dallas just didn’t really have options while OKC could look to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and Serge Ibaka for points.
Having said that, credit goes to the Thunder for making the necessary adjustments to really highlight the Mavericks’ offensive issues. It would’ve been easy for OKC to just keep on doing what it was doing and let Dallas score in transition and get good looks. Instead, the Thunder really zeroed in on what the Mavs struggle with without Caron Butler and Dirk Nowitzki and that was halfcourt offense. Durant switched on to Jason Terry and did a good job of taking away the top option. Other than putbacks or kickouts from penetration, Dallas just wasn’t getting a good look. So the Thunder certainly deserves a tip of the cap for that effort.
Plus, I really liked the adjustments OKC made in the second half in terms of offense. In the first 24 minutes, the Thunder ran a good amount and looked for improv offense. It worked well with OKC putting up 51 points. But in the second half, the Thunder slowed things down, got into some decent, not wonderful, decent, halfcourt offense and executed pretty well.
I loved using Jeff Green in the post. He was giving Dallas such problems that the Mavs actually switched Tyson Chandler over to Green. Now how about that! But Uncle Jeff really bounced back well. He contributed how he should every night. 16 points, nine rebounds, two assists and only one 3-pointer attempted. He’s really a pretty nice post player. I don’t know why he doesn’t go there more. He passes well, can score with both hands and has the quickness to beat a lot of opposing 4s. It’s just one night for Green but hopefully he’s coming back around a bit. If he’s going to be productive in the Thunder starting five, he really needs to adjust his game and maybe that’s what we saw a preview of tonight.
- A good example of the improvement on defense between halves: 32 points in the paint for Dallas in the first half, just eight in the second.
- Really thought KD was great in this game. Dallas clearly focused on him, but Durant still netted 28 on 11-22 shooting. He really did a good job of picking spots to go iso, to pass and to pull up.
- For three quarters, I thought Thabo did a pretty solid job on Terry. He used his length to make Terry shoot over him and really fought well through every pick from the Maverick bigs.
- Russell Westbrook didn’t have a very good shooting night (just 5-16 from the floor) but he ran the offense pretty well. He had nine assists and five rebounds and made some nice decisions in the second half in the halfcourt sets.
- The second half saw Serge Ibaka play mostly at center, where he was really good. Ibaka finished with 13 points and eight rebounds and did a decent enough job battling Tyson Chandler. I swear though, if Ibaka could just grab the dang ball, he’d have 15 rebounds a game.
- Four Dallas starters scored in double-digits. Jason Kidd was the only one that didn’t. He finished with zero points on 0-7 shooting.
- Two huge offensive rebounds by Nick Collison late in the game after Ibaka fouled out. That’s why you’ve got to love Nick so much. As Steve Kerr pointed out, Collison is just a “play hard” guy. Without those two boards, this might’ve been a little closer.
- The Thunder didn’t take their first lead until 8:30 left in the third quarter. After that, they didn’t trail.
- James Harden struggled going just 1-6 from the field, but he still kept up his same aggression. Good to see.
- Loved when Durant switched over to Jason Terry in the fourth. Obviously Dallas was going to work entirely around Terry and the first play KD picked his pocket and went for a dunk.
- I love Steve Kerr, but was he really still asking if Russell Westbrook is a point guard? I thought we settled that like, forever ago.
- The reason Kerr brought it up was because Eric Maynor played so well. In just 12 minutes Maynor dished out four assists and scored five points. The offense seemed to be a bit more traditional with Maynor running point. Players cut, the ball moved and Maynor set up open looks.
- Shawn Marion is why Dallas really had the lead at the half. Marion had 21 (10-12) of his 25 in the first half with a lot coming in transition.
- Strange play at the end (video of it): Durant had the ball with time running out. Rick Carlisle walked up behind him and patted him on the butt. KD, obviously just not thinking, handed the ball to Carlisle. I figured a technical would be called on Carlisle, but instead it was a turnover on Durant. I mean, Carlisle was on the floor and touched the ball. Isn’t that against the rules? (Or maybe it was a conspiracy like what the Jets pulled!?!?)
- As pointed out to me on Twitter, if you had the under at 192.5, you probably really hate DeShawn Stevenson. Or you’re wondering if Kevin Durant had the over.
Again, not a ton to be overly psyched about after this game, except for the fact the Thunder won. They beat a team without two of its best players and struggled to do it somewhat. But it’s a win. That’s good. And really, the Thunder might’ve figured out a few good things in the meantime. Maybe Jeff Green will settle a bit more on the block. Maybe the defense will find a level of consistency. Most likely not, but it’s fun to think something good long-term will come out of this one.
Next up: Home against the Grizzlies Saturday night.