Oklahoma City has said all season they want to be talked about in the same breath with Golden State and San Antonio.
In Game 1 of the playoffs they looked like they should.
Oklahoma City made a “we belong” statement with a 108-70 thrashing of Dallas in the first game of their seven game series. Dirk Nowitzki said he was “embarrassed” as his team set a franchise low for points scored in a playoff game.
Oklahoma City opened the game on a 15-2 run, was up 26-11 after one quarter and 59-33 at the half. This game was never close. Russell Westbrook had 24 points, Kevin Durant 23, and neither had to set foot on the court in the fourth quarter.
More than offensively, this was a defensive statement by OKC which was aggressive on that end of the court from the start, holding Dallas as a team to 29.8 percent shooting and 4-of-18 from three (0-of-8 in the first half). Rick Carlisle wanted to play smaller and faster — why so little Justin Anderson for the first three quarters? — and that proved a disaster when the point guard trio of J.J. Barea, Deron Williams, and Raymond Felton combined to shoot 4-of-25 from the floor, while Wesley Matthews was 1-of-6 from three. Williams in particular seemed to go off on his own dribbling around, not passing, and taking poor shots.
To literally add insult to injury, Barea strained a groin muscle, did not play the second half, and is questionable for Game 2.
One Dallas player who didn’t suck was Nowitzki, who was 7-of-15 from the floor for 18 points, the only Mav in double figures.
We knew there was a talent gap between these teams, but it looked like there was a talent Grand Canyon between them on Saturday, particularly with Serge Ibaka playing like his vintage self. Dallas’ big advantage is supposed to be coach Rick Carlisle, and I expect some major adjustments (like playing Justin Anderson?) but it’s going to take a lot more than Xs and Os tweaks to change the tone of this series.
Dallas will make the next game closer, they may win a game or so, but in the NBA talent wins out and it’s clear who in this series has more of it.