20. May 2011 00:52
Just when you think you've seen everything. On the verge of falling behind two games to none in the best-of-seven Western Conference championships, Oklahoma City let four backups join Kevin Durant on the floor for the fourth quarter...and that energetic, inspired lineup won the game.
The difference between the OKC backups and the starters is best seen in the plus/minuses. Remember that the Thunder won by six points...
Maynor +18 (backup point guard...20 minutes)
Harden +14 (backup shooting guard...32 minutes)
Cook +11 (backup shooting guard...16 minutes)
Collison +10 (backup post...26 minutes)
Mohammed +5 (backup, but only 2 minutes)
Down at the bottom of the list, the player who needed to be humbled perhaps more than anyone. Russell Westbrook. He exited the court very late in the third quarter with that scowl we've seen on his face too many times. We've seen that arrogant glare aimed at teammates. This one was aimed at his head coach, along with a few choice words. From a 22-year old who's best helped his team in the playoffs BY STAYING OUT OF THE WAY of more consistent scorers. Perhaps sitting there while has backup helped engineer what may end up being one of the biggest wins in the franchise's OKC tenure will help bring some perspective. HoopData's expanded boxscore shows Westbrook's usage rate (ball-hogginess) was a ridiculously high 40.3 before he was benched. It was only 30.4 during that glorious Game Seven triple double against Memphis when he was more focused on the needs of the team.
It's frustrating following the Westbrook story because steps forward seem to be followed by steps backward. Just when you're ready to give him the benefit of the doubt, the immaturity rears its ugly head again. Fascinating that this continuing drama played out this way on this evening.
OKLAHOMA CITY 106, DALLAS 100
2-point pct: OKC 62%, Dallas 49%
3-pointers: OKC 7/18, Dallas 9/27
1's and 2's: OKC 85, Dallas 73
We talked about the issues Dallas was having with two-point defense in prior rounds. Clearly they haven't yet figured out what they can take away in this series. Oklahoma City is dynamic in all facets of play. Dallas isn't slowing down any of those facets.
TWO'S: Oklahoma City is shooting 55% on two-pointers, to 54% for Dallas. All those baskets Dirk Nowitzki made in the first game were followed by 10 of 17 tonight. Yet, OKC is still winning this stat.
THREE'S: Oklahoma City is 14 of 34 (41%, equivalent of 61.7% on two's), which is helping to neutralize what Dallas had hoped would be a big edge behind the arc. Dallas is 18 of 50 for 36% (equivalent of 54% on two's). That's more raw scoring volume for the Mavs, but on a lot more attempts.
ONE'S: Oklahoma City has more makes on more attempts...58 of 70 to 55 of 60. A better percentage from Dallas...but it's clear that Dallas is going to have trouble keeping OKC off the line (as do all OKC opponents!)
That's all there is...1's, 2's, and 3's. Dallas did create some dysfunction amongst the grouchy guys in the OKC starting lineup (Westbrook and Perkins). The Mavs were so surprised by the OKC bench taking command of the fourth quarter that there wasn't time for an effective on-the-fly adjustment.
Chess in sneakers. Except the rooks are pushing and shoving. And, one of the bishops turned around to yell before being sent to confession.
What do we have moving forward?
On the bright side for Dallas:
*It's still a series that goes every other day. That should favor Dallas. Is the OKC bench ready to do THIS every night?
*Dirk is still very difficult to stop, which is likely to matter late in close games no matter what city it's in. Don't assume OKC is going to sweep their home games.
*Jason Terry was only 0-2 on treys tonight, and 3-9 from the floor overall. He's going to be better than that most of the time.
*To the degree experience and maturity matters in the playoffs, that's likely to favor Dallas in later games. OKC was ironically helped by their blow-ups tonight. That's far from a sure thing to happen the next time there's a blow-up.
On the bright side for OKC:
*If sustained fatigue from the Memphis series was an issue, four starters were given extended rest tonight. That will help them deal with the every-other-day format...as will what should be newfound confidence in the bench.
*Durant is just as difficult to stop as Dirk is.
*The refs have established that they're not going to favor the more veteran team in this series. OKC can expect to be rewarded for their aggression on a continuing basis. Especially at home. And, three of the next five games would be at home if it goes the distance (three of the next four as the crow flies). .
*The Thunder won rebounding in the first two games...on the road. That's usually a good indicator in a playoff series.
*They now have the courage to deal with Westbrook when he gets his "bull in a china shop who won't share the ball unless he absolutely has to" mentality.
No game Friday. Back late Saturday with numbers and notes from Game Three of this series in Oklahoma City. Chicago-Miami resumes Sunday.