Turns out the world didn’t end today, but it definitely looked like the Thunder at least got raptured. Because they sure didn’t show up tonight. A push was made to get the game to within six with three minutes left, but a couple rushed shots and the failure to get a few more stops eventually doomed the Thunder in Game 3. But mostly what it was, was a horrific start in which the Mavs led by 15 after the first quarter and extended their first half lead to as much as 23.
Nothing, and I mean nothing went Oklahoma City’s way. For a game as important as this one, disappointment doesn’t even begin to describe things. The crowd was amped as I’ve ever seen it before the game. Sections were actually jumping. My head was hurting two names into the starting lineup.
And maybe all that energy worked against the team a bit as OKC played their age for pretty much three quarters. They looked tight, nervous, anxious, tense and all those other words you want to use. Kevin Durant never was able to break the chains, the team went just 1-17 from deep and shot 36.5 percent from the floor. I kept just repeating one word most of the game: disaster. That’s what it felt like. Even when the Thunder clawed back into the game in the fourth quarter, it still seemed like Dallas was ahead by 20 because you just knew Dirk was going to drop a couple backbreakers. And he did. The way the Thunder won Game 2 — by making a bundle of contested shots in big moments — they lost Game 3. They didn’t make hardly a single momentum shot. They didn’t hit but a few contested looks. Heck, they probably missed more open ones than they did covered ones. Nobody — not one player on the team — shot the ball well. After that first quarter, the Thunder played desperate, actually outscoring Dallas 75-66 the final three. But going just 4-17 the first 12 minutes is what lost this game for the Thunder. The offense was completely out of sync in every way. OKC got it to six, got two stops and had two 3s with a chance to cut it to three. Russell Westbrook rushed a 3 and then Daequan Cook missed badly on a clean look from deep. Those two shots really tell a lot of the story. Bad, bad shooting. Again, just 1-17 from 3. That stat might keep you up tonight.
“Russell’s 3 might’ve been an opportunity for him to attack because his attack game was on tonight,” Scott Brooks said. “But DC’s 3s were wide open. That’s what he’s in there for.”
Look at some numbers: Durant scored 24, but on 7-22 shooting. Westbrook was basically the reason OKC got back in this game as he scored 30 including eight straight in the fourth, but he was just 8-20 from the floor and had only four assists and seven turnovers. Really, take away the free throw line (32-36) and the Thunder are completely dead.
You tell me Dirk is going to go 7-21 for only 18 points, Jason Terry 3-12 for 13 and J.J. Barea would score only four points, I’m thinking the Thunder took this game easily. But that would be under the assumption that OKC you know, would actually make a few. They didn’t. Well, actually maybe that’s correct. They only did make a few.
It’s a shame to give home court right back here, but my feeling has always been that the Thunder either wins this series in six games or loses it in seven. Either one is still an option. I’ve felt from the beginning that this game would likely hinge on Game 5 in Dallas. The Thunder have to bounce back once again, but I think all of us even in our never-ending optimism felt like this series would likely be 2-2 going back to Dallas. Now in order to get there, the Thunder have to show up in Game 4. The world hasn’t ended for the Thunder, even though it sort of feels like it right now.
- There is no doubt the Thunder were finally allowed to play Dirk with a bit more physicality tonight. He only took ONE free throw and that came from a technical. Rick Carlisle tried to tread lightly talking about that but still had a comment: “I don’t know in terms of legal limits. I believe the line has been crossed at times.” Collison was permitted to get away with a lot more, especially off the ball. But most of it truly was just great defense.
- The Thunder won a lot of the box score. Outrebounded Dallas 45-37. Took 18 more free throws. Had nine blocks. Equaled the Mavs with 42 points in the paint. Really the separation was that Dallas hit seven 3s and OKC just one. In those terms, the Mavs outscored OKC by 18. That was the difference.
- KD on the Thunder’s start: “Frustrating.”
- KD is now 2-18 in this series from 3 and 0-13 the last two games. But he’s not going to stop firing. “I can’t come into a game and pass up wide open shots.” There’s no doubt about that. OKC has to have Durant taking — and making — 3-pointers.
- The Mavs defense really does deserve most of the credit. They were much more active, especially in the first half. “We were much better defensively and we had to be,” Carlisle said. “Tonight we played championship level defense for the first time in the series. Now the challenge is to sustain.”
- KD should bet his house that he doesn’t shoot as poorly again.
- OKC missed a big opportunity to cut into Dallas’s lead in the third. The Mavs went just 6-22, but the Thunder responded by going 7-21. In the end, despite a touch of momentum and a decent run, the Thunder only made up two points going into the fourth. There was a chance to maybe have it at eight or less.
- Serge Ibaka picked up his first block of the series in the first quarter. That’s kind of amazing.
- Scott Brooks was asked pregame about his starting five and said there would be “some long, hard discussions” about possibly inserting Harden into the first five. He said there wouldn’t be any changes this year though.
- I have never seen a crowd that was begging a team more to get in a game than this one. It was remarkable to see people cheering for every stop and rebound down 20. It was impressive.
- It really never looked like the Thunder had any kind of flow or rhythm in this game. Most of their good play was as a result of attacking, scrapping and getting to the line. Only 11 assists total for the team. Reminded me of the offense during the first two months of the season, except this was against a much better team.
- James Harden had just seven points and was 2-9 from the floor. He did have nine rebounds though.
- The Thunder bench saw only two players score combining for a total of 16 points. Quite a reversal from Game 2.
- I don’t know what I thought about the rotations tonight. OKC really was able to pick things up offensively when Brooks went with KD at center, but Tyson Chandler was able to out-muscle him for two big rebounds. I’m not sure how much Perk really adds right now. He just doesn’t match well with Chandler. He’s great when the other team has a player that’s a post presence and a focus of the offense. But with an energy, garbage player like Chandler, Perk doesn’t do as well. At least this Perk that’s not close to 100 percent.
- Eric Maynor didn’t play a second in the fourth quarter. I wonder if he’s like so pissed right now.
- This is old news now, but I asked Brooks pregame if the roles were reversed and KD were on the bench during a big fourth quarter bench push, would he have left him there too? His answer: “That’s probably not fair to talk in hypotheticals. It didn’t happen. If it does happen, I’d be willing to answer that question.” In other words, “I hate your question. Next.” After, Berry Tramel made a good point saying he would’ve said no, because Durant is much more versatile and there’s no Eric Maynor behind KD. Good answer.
- Oklahomans Hanson sang the national anthem. My 1995 wife was stoked. And former Thunder great and mustache Hall of Famer Kevin Ollie did the pregame prayer. Pretty cool.
- The atmosphere in the arena before tip was as charged up as I’ve ever seen it. Maybe Game 3 against the Lakers was as good or better, but it the place was absolutely ballistic.
- For people in the arena, was the PA and music ridiculously loud to anyone else tonight? Felt that way to me.
- I have no idea what tonight’s halftime show was supposed to be. Some guys in gold suits slowly dancing?
- On the Harden flop: Everyone really freaked out on me on Twitter about it when I said if I couldn’t tell if it was a flop or not. Chandler definitely hit him in the face. Harden sold it more than he needed to though.
Say it with me: 26-6 after a loss. Twenty-six and six.
Next up: Game 4 in OKC Monday.