Hard to come up with something after that. I’m not saying that for dramatic effect. I seriously don’t know what to say.
When the ball left Kevin Durant’s hand as the seconds ticked down, I could see it was very clearly off line. It truly didn’t appear to have a chance. I honestly was wondering if it was even going to catch iron. Shawn Marion’s defense was superb, Durant couldn’t shake him and finally with the clock bearing down him, he just had to let go of a prayer.
Lucky for Oklahoma City, this one was answered. You know how that famous Maradona goal is called “The Hand of God”? A higher power had to have had something to do with this one.
Those last three minutes are almost a blur. Well, they are a blur. I remember James Harden had a nice fast break pass to KD for a dunk. I remember a Russell Westbrook and-1 that was important. Serge Ibaka had a big dunk. And Perk played some all-world defense on Dirk. There were some fouls, questionable and not, a mad scramble for the ball and then Durant hit a game-winner that bounced so high I think it might’ve touched the rafter KD was sitting on in his playoff commercial.
Somehow, someway, the Thunder final score read 99-98, and I’m still not entirely sure how. OKC was down seven with 2:16 to go. And then like someone literally flipped the script from last season’s Western Finals, the Thunder found their way back and KD Dirk’d the Mavs.
“I just didn’t want to settle for a 3 so I just tried to take it closer and shoot a shot. I got enough arc on it and it was able to fall through,” Durant said.
Said Westbrook: “My job was easy. Just get the ball to Kevin. And that’s what I did.”
Smart man, that Russell Westbrook.
Clearly, there was some internal discussion with Durant about his closing shot selection, because both he and Scott Brooks acknowledged it. KD knows he can get that easy 3 over the top, and you saw how hard he had to work for the shot he got. It was a battle for Durant to shake Marion just enough to even have the space to release the ball. But he didn’t want to settle for the easy route. It’s been a learning process for Durant and it kind of seemed like it’s started clicking.
“It takes a lot of misses for me to finally get it,” he said. “I just got to keep going and keep improving, watching film and knowing what it takes for me to take good shots and make good shots.”
Said Scott Brooks: “One thing about Kevin, he’s always improving. He’s a developing player and he believes in what we do and he continues to be a tough critic on himself, with a little help from me. I like the fact he drove to the basket to an area that he can make that shot. It was a great shot. It was contested, but great players make tough shots. That’s what he has to do. There are times he has a tendency to take a 3 that is not needed, but I like the fact he drove to the basket and got into a place that he can pull up above the defender.”
Here’s the bad news though: It’s pretty obvious that this thing isn’t going to come easy for the Thunder. Some of us have been daydreaming about a matchup with the Lakers or what it’s going to take to get by San Antonio, but in truth, the task at hand is the Mavs. And they aren’t messing around.
“We’re going to keep coming at these guys. Trust me. We’re going to keep coming at them,” Rick Carlisle said. “We have a tough-minded team. We have a locker room full of champions and these guys have big heart. We put ourselves in a strong position tonight and we didn’t get it done. And it’s on us, it’s on us. But we will not be deterred. We’re going to keep coming back at these guys. It’s what we have to do.”
The Mavs should have everyone’s full, undivided attention. Because in reality, the Thunder stole this one. The Mavs outplayed OKC and with Dirk and Jason Terry, had no business blowing a seven-point lead in the final two minutes. But then again, there’s your growth, evolution and maturation from last season’s Western Finals. Instead of the Mavs breaking OKC’s heart, the Thunder have done it to the Mavs. Again. That’s 4-1 this season against Dallas, with two of those games being stolen by Durant.
This series is going to be a dogfight, but what matters in the end is putting a win in your pocket. If it’s ugly, pretty or whatever, you just have to get it done and move on to the next one. Issues and worries aside, it’s 1-0 Thunder, and that’s where they needed to be tonight.
“It’s the playoffs,” Durant said. “No matter how it gets done, you got to do it.”
- Proof the Thunder totally pulled the rug on the Mavs: I wrote this down with exactly 2:16 left in the game: “I would love to pile this one up on the fact the Thunder looked tight or flat or whatever, but I don’t think that was the case. The Mavs just did it again. They straight beat the Thunder.” And yet, the Thunder won the game.
- Though I admittedly care very much about that stuff, one of my favorite things about the playoffs is that scoring numbers, assist totals, awards and all that stuff goes out the window. It doesn’t matter if a guy scores 13 on 3-18 shooting, if you win, you win. Durant struggled shooting going 10-27, but he made one shot and the Thunder won. Who cares what else went down.
- Westbrook’s ball denial on Terry in the second half was incredible. Terry started the game 6-6 and was completely rolling. Westbrook switched over to him and basically just wouldn’t let him have it. Terry only took one shot in the fourth. Kind of hard to score when you can’t shoot. Or get the ball.
- Brav-o on the intro video, Thunder. It led with images of Oklahoma history, then flashed, “If you live in Oklahoma … You understand.” Seriously incredible. The fact that the video didn’t go on to explain that says it all. Because we all understand what this team means to the city and state. You don’t have to say it here. People nationally try to figure out the connection to this team, the passion, the support. But in Oklahoma, we just get it. We know.
- Harden checked in a touch earlier than usual. And the ovation he got was absolutely deafening.
- Poor thinking ahead by the Thunder using blue shirts tonight with the Mavs in blue. Should’ve been a whiteout. Speaking of, fine I’ll say it: I’m over the shirts.
- Carlisle griped at length about Dirk being “grabbed and held” by the Thunder. I found this ironic, because that’s precisely how Shawn Marion defends Durant. Dirk wouldn’t bite on it though: “My style is never to complain after a game. I’ve never done it and I won’t do it now.”
- What got Carlisle started on it was the play before halftime where Dirk was called for an offensive foul trying to separate which led to a Serge Ibaka 3 at the buzzer. That’s right — a Serge Ibaka 3. It turned out to be a pretty important shot as it gave the Thunder some much needed momentum going to the half.
- Perk’s offensive start… not the best.
- Perk’s defensive finish… very good.
- Like that first regular season win over the Mavs, Westbrook carried the Thunder and gave KD the chance to play hero. Westbrook, who had been slumping a bit, got it all back hitting his mid-range pullup, getting to the rim and dishing beautifully. He was just on. If OKC gets that Russell for the postseason, things will be fine.
- An Oklahoma City playoff tradition: Peter Rabbit.
- With about 60 minutes to go until tip, a couple Thunder players passed around a pack of gum. It was called “Rescue,” which is supposed to “relieve occasional stress” with natural ingredients. With the way Game 1 went, it might be wise to buy some stock in Rescue, because the Thunder might need to buy themselves a few boxes.
- This was the Thunder’s first win against a playoff team in eight games. After going 0-7 against playoff bound teams to finish the season, OKC finally got one.
- Joey Crawford did Joey Crawford things late in the fourth. He called an awful foul on Perk that gave Ian Mahinmi two very big free throws, then responded by calling an extremely questionable and-1 on Dirk as Ibaka finished a dunk. But he did get the reach in on Harden right that gave Dirk two free throws to put Dallas up one.
- Seriously though: Crawford and Tony Brothers? What’s that about?
- For a while there in the fourth, Scott Brooks was blowing it. He had Derek Fisher on the floor with Thabo sitting as the Maverick guards diced OKC up. Fisher only ended up playing 12 minutes, but it felt more like 40.
- So, it’s pretty nice to have James Harden back.
- Maybe the best game Serge Ibaka has ever played. He was so assertive and aggressive offensively that he showed a spark of something that could be the biggest development yet for the Thunder. 22 points on 9-12 shooting with five blocks and six rebounds. He was disciplined, caught passes and finished strong. What a game for him.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night via @ThunderBDSays: “Serge will get the opportunity for THREE!!! HE’S GOT IT!!! PIGS HAVE FLOWN!!!!”
Next up: Game 2 at home against the Mavs on Monday.