Coming into this series the big question was could Dallas get stops. This series featured the second best offense in the NBA this season in Oklahoma City vs. a pedestrian defense in Dallas (16th in NBA). Dallas’ defense was worse after the All-Star break by almost three points per 100 possessions than it was earlier in the season.
That difference was the issue again Saturday night in Dallas.
The Mavericks could not stop the top Thunder scorers — Russell Westbrook finished with 25 points and 15 assists, Kanter had 28 points off the bench, and Kevin Durant added 19 points. The Thunder ran a lot of spread pick-and-roll to expose the Dallas bigs inability to defend on the perimeter, and it worked. OKC finished with an offensive rating of 125.3 (points per 100 possessions) in this game.
They also finished with a 119-108 win that has the Thunder up 3-1 in the series. Oklahoma City can close out the series at home in Game 5 Monday night.
The game saw Durant’s streak of games where he scored 20 or more points end at 67 games, he finished one point short. He didn’t get the chance to pad that number in the final minute after he was ejected for a blow to the head of Justin Anderson. The league will review this foul and could suspend him for Game 5 (although that seems extreme, this was a guy going for a block from behind and not making an intentional blow to the head).
Dallas, coming off a hard-fought win in Game 3, did a good job of keeping the tempo under control, and their effort can’t be questioned. Particularly Dirk Nowitzki who finished the game with 27 points, eight rebounds, and he left every ounce of energy he had on the court. At age 37, he was the best and most energetic Mavericks player — he played it like it could be the last Dallas home game of the season (and maybe his last home playoff game in the building).
But he can’t defend like he used to, and the Thunder dragged him into every pick-and-roll they could. He was paired with David Lee for stretches, and that was a defensive disaster. Dallas got some good bench play out of Salah Mejri, however, he injured his hip and had to leave the game. His status for Game 5 is unknown.
The Thunder got 12 points and eight rebounds from Steven Adams, and he led the Thunder’s continued physical play that has bothered Dallas. That’s not going to change no matter how much Rick Carlisle complains.
He’s not going to have to complain about it much longer.