Dallas Mavericks (0-1, 0-1 road) vs. OKC Thunder (1-0, 1-0 home)
Thunder lead series 1-0
View from the enemy: The Two Man Game
The important thing is that the Thunder won. Whether it was by 20 or by a miracle bounce, Oklahoma City leads the series 1-0, which is right where it needed to be. The disconcerting thing is that I don’t think there was any clear separation in talent or ability between the Mavs and Thunder.
Thunder fans hoped, I think, to see a completely renewed side foaming at the mouth for revenge. Especially against a Dallas squad that very clearly isn’t the same team that won the title last season. Wasn’t entirely the case. The game was close, almost mimicking last season’s Western Finals.
But I had fear the Thunder might play Game 1 a bit tight just because they wanted it so very badly. I don’t know if they were tight, but KD certainly didn’t shoot the ball well (10-27) and the team itself went through stretches of poor execution. Before tip-off, I was quietly fearing a loss in Game 1 because of it, with the likelihood OKC would sweep the next four games.
Thing is, the Mavs looked more game than I expected. They almost looked like they had been waiting on this, just chilling out until the postseason. I think this might’ve even caught the Thunder off guard. But the win is in the bag and it’s time to move on. Winning Game 1 is vital, but taking care of home court is critical. You can’t give away that advantage.
Three Big Adjustments
1. Maybe not leave Shawn Marion THAT wide open. One of my favorite things about a Mavs game is the collective “What the s@#%?” that goes through the crowd when Marion attempts a shot. He’s not a good shooter, but when wide open clearly has the capability to drop down 3s. Kevin Durant almost seemed disinterested in even contesting Marion and thereby, he drilled three 3s. Maybe at least put a hand up.
2. Manage the defensive assignments on Dirk. The Thunder weren’t afraid to mix it up on Dirk. Try Serge Ibaka. Try Perk. Try Nick Collison. Use it all and throw those different looks around. Not one Thunderer necessarily is best suited to challenge Dirk, but the multiple variations is wise.
3. Get versatile. One of my favorite small in-game adjustments from Scott Brooks in Game 1 was going supersmall for a stretch mid-fourth. KD played center on Ian Mahinmi with Ibaka on Dirk. It immediately forced Rick Carlisle’s hand to re-match his side against the Thunder and provided a small spark. It didn’t entirely work out as it wasn’t the lineup that led the charge, but I think that kind of willingness to be creative is key. Or the idea to use Russell Westbrook as a ball denying bulldog on Jason Terry. Carlisle outmanaged Brooks in the Western Finals last season, so Brooks needs to be on his game this time around and not be afraid to take a risk or two.
Tip at 8:30 CT. Go Game 2.