Tag: Mavs Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder v Dallas Mavericks - Game Five

Video: Hustle plays help Mavericks seal victory

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It was like this all series.

In the big moments at the end of games, Dallas would make the play. The Thunder would not be able to execute. Nothing summed that up better than one play late in Game 5. The play had good defense by Dallas, questionable decision making by the Thunder and eventually a game-sealing dunk by Shawn Marion.

Watch for yourself. In a year or two, the Thunder are going to know how to close out games, but that time is not yet.

NBA Playoffs: Fittingly Mavericks’ execution sends them to finals

Mavericks' players celebrate against the Thunder during Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference Final basketball playoff in Dallas

It was fitting. Maybe it was the only way it could be, with Dallas coming from behind again. Game 5 was a microcosm of the four before it in the Western Conference finals.

Oklahoma City came out and played with energy and passion. Their amazing athleticism caused problems for Dallas, but the Mavericks countered with savvy, good execution of sets and seemingly a different guy every night (Wednesday it was Shawn Marion’s turn). Dirk Nowitzki seemingly never missed (26 points on 15 shots), but still it was Oklahoma City with a healthy lead in the fourth.

Then, when the pressure really stepped up in the end, Dallas executed their plays while Oklahoma City made the mistakes of youth (like seven fourth-quarter turnovers). The result was a 100-96 win for the Mavericks that gives them a 4-1 series win and sends them to the franchise’s second NBA finals (the last was a loss to the Heat five years ago).

After a devastating loss in Game 4, many may have expected the Thunder to roll over and get this over with (like the Lakers did last series in the closeout game). But if you thought that, you don’t know this Thunder team.

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, they all are old-school basketball warriors. They respect themselves and the game too much to fold like that.

And coach Scott Brooks had one wrinkle left — he went small. For long stretches the Thunder went with some smaller groupings, such as a lineup of Eric Maynor with Westbrook as the guards, Harden and Durant as the forwards and Nick Collison as center. That lineup played the entire fourth quarter.

“I knew that to win this game we had to keep moving (the Mavericks’) feet, and we put as much quickness on the floor as we could,” Brooks said afterward.

Westbrook seemed to thrive in it and he finished with 31 points and eight rebounds, some of them key ones at the end. It seemed to throw Dallas off-balance on defense, and the Thunder were getting some of the transition points they needed.

It all was a key reason the Thunder had an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter.

But going small had a couple of drawbacks, and the Mavericks eventually adjusted and made them pay for it. Like they had been doing all series.

One drawback is that Durant is not a particularly good pick-and-roll defender and he kept getting drawn into that play. It was just part of the reason J.J. Barea had 14 points and five assists on another huge night.

The other thing is going small makes it hard to rebound. Especially because Dallas coach Rick Carlisle refused to play along with Oklahoma City — he kept in a big lineup.

Dallas took the lead when Westbrook lost the ball going for a defensive rebound, it came out and Dallas ended up with the offensive board, four guys touched it in quick succession then Nowitzki drained a 3-pointer.

Then, with the Thunder down two and less than 24 seconds on the clock, Oklahoma City needed one more stop and a basket to send it to overtime. The Thunder forced Nowitzki to miss, but Marion was able to out-jump every Thunder player on the floor and tip it out to Jason Kidd, who passed to Nowitzki and then it was all over but for the fouls and the free throws.

That was just part of a monster game for Marion, who had 26 points on 17 shots, plus eight rebounds.

In the end, Dallas executed while the Thunder made crucial mistakes down the stretch. The Thunder had just six turnovers in the first three quarters but seven in the fourth quarter alone. Like all series, the Thunder looked like a team where all its key players are younger than 22 when it got late in games.

“Their time will come, but it’s not now,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said in his postgame interview broadcast on NBA TV.

It’s not, right now is the Mavericks time.

The Mavericks have the best player in the playoffs. They have a deep team where somebody different is stepping up every game. They have good defense. They have fantastic end-of-game execution.

They will have a chance to prove just how good they are one more time against the Miami Heat in the finals.

NBA Playoffs: Efficient Westbrook, Thunder need to show up

Oklahoma City Thunder v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Six

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are putting up numbers against the Dallas Mavericks: Durant is averaging 29.3 point per game (up from his league-leading 27.7 during the regular season), while Westbrook is at 22.7 per game.

But they are not efficient about it. Durant is shooting 44 percent and is 2-of-18 from three. Westbrook is shooting just 36 percent. Bad decisions, poor off the ball movement, just not enough execution as a team.

On the other end, throughout these playoffs the Dallas Mavericks have been very efficient. Take away Dirk Nowizki — which the Thunder did a pretty good job of in Game 3 with some physical play — and someone else steps up. Or, accurately, several somebody elses. They do what it takes to win.

The Thunder are going to have to find that in them Monday night in Game 4 or they will head back to Dallas on the verge of elimination.

That efficiency has to start on the defensive end — for all the complaining about the Thunder offense, they are giving up 114.1 points per 100 possessions this series to Dallas. During the regular season the Thunder only gave up 104 points per 100 possessions, Dallas scored 107.6.

The problems are particularly noticeable in the fourth quarter and at the end of games when Dallas is getting good looks. Part of it is nobody has a good answer for Dirk Nowitzki. But part of it is J.J. Barea’s curving cuts through the Thunder defense that forces them to collapse and leads to open shooters. Part of it is the Thunder not creating turnovers, not getting some easy baskets in transition The Thunder have to execute better at the end of games, because you know Dallas will.

The Thunder need to get more offense and that should mean less Kendrick Perkins. He’s still a good defender, but this is a bad matchup for him. He would have been great against the Lakers front line, but more-mobile Dallas has proved a problem. You think you can help off Tyson Chandler, but the man knows how to roll to the basket and finish lobs.

The Thunder have better play and plenty of fight in them — remember they had to go three overtimes in their last Game 4 to even up that series on the road, and they went on to win in 7.

But they won that Game 4 despite bad decisions and some inefficient shooting. They will have to play better Thursday, Dallas will not give them that luxury.

NBA Playoffs: Thunder should be optimistic, they were in it

Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Durant drives ball past Dallas Mavericks small forward Marion in Dallas

It was close.

After Kevin Durant drained two free throws it was a five-point Mavericks lead with 4:18 left. Get a stop, knock down a shot and it’s a one possession game.

Tuesday’s Dallas win didn’t feel close — Dirk Nowitzki went off, the Mavs got 53 points from its bench and with each big shot it felt like the Mavs were doing to the Thunder what they did to the Lakers in Game 4.

Except they didn’t. And that is the big positive the Thunder come out of Game 1 with — Dallas played a nearly perfect game for it and Oklahoma City still had a shot in the end. There are plenty of adjustments to make, but the Thunder were in it despite all the problems ad that has to make them feel good.

Because Oklahoma City can play better.

“I could bet my whole house that Russell Westbrook won’t go 3-15 again,” Kevin Durant said after the game.

Actually, that might be a concern — in three meetings this season Westbrook averaged just 14.3 points on 32 percent shooting and hit no threes. (His season average was 21.9 points on 44 percent shooting.) Westbrook has yet to have a good game this season against Dallas and that is starting to look like a trend, not a fluke.

But there are things the Thunder can do. They might want to make it harder for Nowitzki to get the ball 18 feet out on the right baseline, for one. He kind of likes that spot. The Thunder also need to get out in transition more, force turnovers and run on every miss. Even in the half court more they need to get inside and not settle for jumpers (especially against the zone Dallas threw out in spots).

Oklahoma City  did learn that Dallas has no good answer for defending Kevin Durant. OKC has real advantages in terms of athleticism they need to exploit. They need to use those on the defensive end to contest better — Dallas is a very good jump shooting team, you can’t think just protecting the paint is enough. The Lakers did a nice job protecting the paint for long stretches, see where it got them. You have to make it harder on their shooters.

Oklahoma City just needs to be a little better at it — they were already close.