That’s more like it.
Actually, let me try that again.
THAT’S MORE LIKE IT.
What the Thunder really needed was one win in Dallas. Well, that’s out of the way. Emphatically out of the way. Oklahoma City not only took Game 3 to go up 3-0, but the Thunder did it in rip-your-heart-out-and-stomp-on-it fashion. Impressive is the buzzword here. Damn impressive.
The first two games of this series were excruciatingly close, and really, the Mavs might’ve lost this thing when Kevin Durant’s jumper bounced around and in. Because that was Dallas’s shot to steal one and make this thing a legit series. We’ve seen it all this season that the Thunder are the superior team, but there was reason to fear the Mavs because of, you know. But this game was coming at some point. It looked like it was coming Game 2, but OKC couldn’t close the first half and go for the killshot. In this one, the Thunder had three different cracks at the killshot, and finally pulled it to close the third quarter.
In Games 1 and 2, Russell Westbrook was the one doing most of the heavy lifting as KD struggled to find his shot. What you saw is just how lethal this Thunder team can be when both Westbrook, Durant and whoever else is finding an offensive rhythm. Because there’s really no good way to handle OKC. KD scored 31 wonderful points on 11-of-15 shooting, Westbrook sputtered early but ripped off a vintage Russ third quarter dropping mid-range jumpers everywhere and the Thunder bench got cooking as Daequan Cook and Derek Fisher went 5-10 from 3 for 19 points.
And the thing is, you just can’t expect to hold KD down for long. Shawn Marion deserves a lot of credit, but come on, 75 percent of KD missing anything is simply because he missed. People defend him well, challenge him and get physical. But through all of that, he still has led the league in scoring three straight years and pretty much gets 30 when he wants it. But Durant is too good. He’s too good to shoot 34 percent for long. It was the universe correcting itself.
Again, impressive. The mental toughness it takes to go into an arena that that’s hyped up against the defending champs that possess an incredible amount of pride and beat them down, is… well, impressive. I totally expected a battle, simply for the reason that the Mavs weren’t going to lie down. And I don’t think they did. At least voluntarily. They were forced to lie down because they were repeatedly bludgeoned by KD and Westbrook.
The Thunder have quietly played really quality defense this series and while the offensive fireworks put on by Durant and Westbrook is what stretched this thing to cruise control, OKC’s defensive effort was outstanding. Dirk was 6-15. Shawn Marion was 1-8. Jason Terry, 3-10. As a team, the Mavs shot 34.2 percent. They missed fifty shots. Outside of getting to the line, Dallas just had no real offensive option. The Thunder closed the paint, contested everything and rotated beautifully as the Mavs tried to penetrate, kick and swing the ball.
The job’s not done though. You know it, I know it and the team definitely knows it. The Thunder were in the exact same position last postseason against the Nuggets and came up just short on the sweep. The toughest win in a series is the last one. Especially when it’s got to come on the road against a team that’s desperate to not just protect their trophy, but their pride. Scott Brooks said it succinctly, but perfectly after the game.
“You have to win four. It’s as simple as that,” he said. “It’s not over until you win four.”
- As I mentioned, the Thunder missed two opportunities to put the Mavs away. OKC led 28-13 in the first quarter, but the Mavs closed the gap to six to close the period. The Thunder were up 15 in the second quarter, but Dallas got it down to nine going to the break. OKC came out of the third playing well again and instead of failing to shut the door, the Thunder finished the third on a 7-0 run and essentially closed it down.
- I know I wasn’t the only one that was still a bit anxious during the fourth quarter. The wounds from Game 4 haven’t entirely healed, at least not for me. I definitely let out a sigh of relief when Rick Carlisle pulled Dirk.
- With his 11-of-15 effort, KD’s shooting percentage for the series jumped from 34 percent to 44 percent.
- KD’s last shot was awesome. He drilled a deep 3 that essentially said, “Peace out, Mavs.” Immediately after he hit it, the Thunder’s subs came in and the game was for all intents and purposes, was over.
- Perk deserves a whole lot of credit. He’s flat out been good.
- James Harden really wasn’t that good in this game, but he thankfully didn’t need to be. He was just 3-10 for 10 points and appeared to be forcing it a bit early on.
- Wonderful stat: Only eight turnovers.
- Brendan Haywood is terrible. Terrible.
- Quality tweet to me from @MaseInUrFace: “two straight Scott Brooks appearances on Inside Tracks. Rick Carlisle probably cursed too much.”
- “Game 3 is Game 7.” — Jason Terry. So does that mean we can go ahead and just not play Game 4?
- KD was obviously terrific, but he quietly registered six assists too.
- Brian Cardinal tried to come in and mix it up a bit, and I absolutely loved the way KD pushed him out of the way. It had a very “Get out of my face, dad,” look about it.
- Serge Ibaka played an incredible game in Game 1, a not great one in Game 2, and a very solid one in Game 3. He finished with 10 points, 11 boards and four blocks, and basically sealed off the paint in the first half.
- OKC’s garbage time unit didn’t score a point the last four minutes. But Cole Aldrich definitely gave it a shot.
- Lesson: The more pissed Russell Westbrook looks, the better you know he’s playing.
- Rick Carlisle’s freak out in the first quarter was pretty awesome. He definitely had good reason to be upset, as Perk absolutely goaltended, but yeesh, he was fuming.
- I say this knowing OKC probably got the benefit of the whistle tonight, but worst call I’ve seen this postseason: The foul on Nick Collison trying to get through a moving Vince Carter screen in the third quarter. Collison was sandwiched between Dirk and Carter, being held by both and somehow was called for the foul. Worse of all, it put Dallas in the bonus and gave them two free points.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night via @ThunderBDSays: “Turned him in! Turned him out!! Turned him into sauerkraut!!!”
Next up: Game 4 in Dallas Saturday.