Last season in the Western Conference Finals, the Mavericks and Thunder played each other close, but when it came time to execute under pressure at the end it was Dallas making the plays. Dirk Nowitzki was a legendary player who could not seem to miss.
This year the torch has been passed.
For the second game in a row it came down to the final minute and for the second game in a row the Thunder made the pays. This time it wasn’t Kevin Durant with a fortunate bounce on a last second shot, it was Nowitzki and Jason Terry missing late three pointers, Oklahoma City hitting its free throws and holding on on for a 102-99 win.
The Thunder are now up 2-0 and Dallas goes home for what is a virtual must win — they are not winning four in a row. They need to hold serve on their home court.
Mavericks fans can easily say that they are just a couple bounces away from being up 2-0 in this series. They are right, which is why they should have hope.
But the Thunder have won two games with Kevin Durant shooting a combined 15-40 — he is going to find his groove. Although tip your cap to Shawn Marion who has played well on defense.
Russell Westbrook has had to be the man for the Thunder — for those of you who say he needs to be more of a traditional point guard, these games show why OKC needs him to be a scorer. He had 29 in this one. The Thunder also have James Harden, who just makes smart plays late — he had 6 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in the fourth quarter alone.
For Dallas, it’s just the little things. And some lucky bounces. Dallas shot 33 percent in the fourth quarter of this game, if they can knock down just a few more shots they win it. The kind of shots that fell for them last year. Meanwhile Derek Fisher is scoring 11 for the Thunder.
This series is getting chippy and physical, like we expect of playoff basketball. Nowitzki and Kendrick Perkins pushed and had words after Serge Ibaka had taken an elbow to he face.
While Dallas is in a tight spot down 2-0 it doesn’t feel hopeless — they are not getting dominated. They could easily take the next two and make this a best out of three. The Thunder win either one of the next two and they will be in total command. But to do that they are going to have to play a better — improve their ball movement, get Durant going, play better defense.
The Mavericks are the defending champions, they will not go quietly.