The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 112, Oklahoma City Thunder 105

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 24, 2011 under Recaps | 10 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2011-05-24 at 11.45.48 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Oklahoma City101.047.821.141.724.0

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • If you’re one for hyperbole, then you just witnessed the greatest playoff comeback in Dallas Mavericks history. If you’re not, well, you still witnessed the greatest playoff comeback in Dallas Mavericks history. To say this was an all-timer is no exaggeration, as the ridiculous 17-2 run the Mavs used to create a competitive game where there ought be none was shot on pre-aged celluloid, ready to be used in a hundred NBA commercials and playoff specials and retrospectives. This was a performance of immediate historic importance, and Dirk Nowitzki’s spins and fakes will become inseparable from the spine of playoff lore. The Mavs continue on their long, steady march through this season’s playoffs and toward their ultimate goal, but just four games into the Western Conference Finals, they’ve already reached immortality.
  • Nowitzki (40 points, 12-20 FG, five rebounds, three assists) was obviously the mover, the shaker, the game-taker, the back-breaker, but the box score was populated by the influence of the often overlooked. Dallas doesn’t win without combined — and I do mean combined, as their play was often in tandem — defensive efforts of Jason Kidd (17 points, 5-9 FG, 3-6 3FG, seven assists, five rebounds, four steals) and Shawn Marion (seven points, 1-5 FG, four rebounds, four steals). They swarmed and switched against Kevin Durant (29 points, 9-22 FG, 15 rebounds, four assists) and Russell Westbrook (19 points, 7-22 FG, eight rebounds, eight assists), and Marion’s game-saving block on Durant at the end of regulation and his tandem stop with Kidd against KD in overtime were only the tip of the iceberg. These two played exquisite floor D the entire night; they doubled at the right times, contested shots, deflected anything that went over the top, helped in transition, and created a dynamic front for a scrambling defense that threw Oklahoma City for a loop. Kidd’s 17 points were huge, but it’s the four steals apiece from Kidd and Marion that really set their performances apart.
  • On the Thunder side, the Mavs’ aggressive defense on Durant and Westbrook opened up plenty of scoring opportunities for Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka, and Nick Collison. They were able to convert layups, dunks, and open jumpers during the bulk of Game 4 — as evidenced by their 42 combined points — but when OKC’s offense wilted late (as it so often does), those three couldn’t offer the solace of a made J or a strong cut. Everything the Thunder had built turned to dust, ground into an unrecognizable ash by way of the unnecessarily arduous reality of OKC’s endgame offense. There’s no question that Sfealosha, Ibaka, and Collison were instrumental in the victory that almost was for the Thunder, but their contributions were notably absent during one of the biggest playoff meltdowns in modern NBA history.
  • Dallas used a 10-2 run to close the second quarter, a 7-0 run to close the third quarter, a 17-2 run to close the fourth quarter, and a 7-0 run to close overtime. “Always Be Glengarry Glen Rossing,” as they say.
  • The Thunder more than tripled the Mavs in offensive rebounding rate, but that advantage can be — and was — negated with the right combination of elements. Still, it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that offensive rebounding, a product of positioning and effort, nearly brought this series to a 2-2 tie. The opportunity to take a 3-1 lead is substantial, but the Mavs’ inability to box out through a majority of Game 4 very nearly gave the Thunder the most commanding win of the series. OKC was so close to sprinting away, and Dallas so close to all of the self-analysis that come following losses of lethargy.
  • In further efforts to comprehend the fourth quarter shift aside from simply praising Nowitzki’s phenomenal shot-making: the Thunder committed a number of costly, foolish backcourt fouls that allowed the Mavs scoring opportunities with a stopped clock. That’s real currency in a comeback attempt, and perhaps the greatest proof that Dallas couldn’t have won this game without Oklahoma City’s help. It took makes and miracles and defensive execution, but the Mavs were only put in a position to remain competitive by way of the Thunder’s miscues. Kevin Durant took some horrible shots down the stretch. Russell Westbrook has a million voices in his head, all with the assured confidence of sages, telling him to drivepassshootkickgyregymblepickrolldribble; he’s playing like a man preoccupied with silencing critics, without the confidence in his game to assert his own voice and his own will. Scott Brooks is throwing out some odd lineups and doodling aimlessly on a clipboard. The Thunder’s problems are perhaps a bit richer and more complex than these sentences will have you believe, but they stem from the team’s stars and coach, and trickle down accordingly.
  • I’d be remiss to not reflect a bit on Jason Terry’s odd night. JET’s lows were perilous; his first half was uncharacteristically Magoo, and he nearly blew the potential for a comeback by attempting to draw a foul on a late-game fast break rather than actually attempt a legitimate shot. Yet in spite of all of the weird passes and near-turnovers, Terry was invaluable as a scorer and opportunistic defender. His 16 points spanning the second and third quarters helped keep the team afloat when the Thunder lead could have exploded, and JET scored as many points in overtime as OKC did as a team. There was plenty worth criticizing in Terry’s Game 4 performance, but this is why you stick with him, even when he starts slow. Dallas needs that scoring, and JET is far more capable of playing through his own poor play than most give him credit. He’ll have off nights and will be exploited defensively at times, but for better and worse the Mavericks need Jason Terry.
  • Kirk Henderson

    Well that was fun.   Even my dog was excited.  I hope they crush them in game 5.

    Random thoughts: Dirk refused to rebound that game.  He floated a ton and we paid for it.  Also, Maynor is simply abusing Barea.  Barea also needed to dial it down a notch. He shot WAY too much.  I appreciate his tenacity, but jeez, cool the jets when you've missed 4 straight.

  • Dustinf100

    Okay, what does this picture mean?

    • hop scotch

      I thought it was Homer (game was epic) or Herodotus (game was historic), but am kind of doubtful about either.

      • Brad

        Looks a bit like Zeus. God of Thunder?

  • Duke

    Hehe, I thought it was supposed to be the German Moses. Shows what I know…

  • JD

    I don't have a problem with JET taking it to the hole if it is one on one (even though it seems he loses those battles more than he wins) but he wasn't one on one – he was two on one.  Make the pass to Marion who just made the defensive stop so the defender can't measure you up and marion goes in for the dunk.  Not smart in the situation and it really could have cost us.  Overall though just a pleasure to watch that game unfold.

  • Josh Frey

    Spot on with your comments about Terry. There were many moments last night when I worried about the nature of his play. His costly turnovers and propensity to take bad shots was frustrating. At the same time he sank some pretty incredible field goals to help the Mavs come back and that made all the difference.

  • TheViewer

    In the 4th quarter the game commentators kept reffering to the negative impact of James Harden fouling out had on the Thunder, do you think the Beard not being in the game was as significant as the commentators seemed to portray it?

    • Jon

      There were a lot of things that went wrong in the 4th quarter for the Thunder. One was that Durant and Westbrook looked confused under pressure. (As Rob noted, Marion and Kidd did an outstanding job defensively last night.) Another was that the other players didn't do a good job of stepping up when the Mavs were pressuring those two.  Finally, one who seemingly was doing what was necessary (Harden) fouled out. 

      I don't think Harden was huge, so much as he was a spark plug for the Thunder. Once he was gone nobody stepped up to get them going again. It was pretty much the opposite of the Thunder/Grizzlies 3OT game. The Thunder looked defeated by the comeback alone before the Mavs even took the lead in OT.

  • Mths

    Keep up the good posts Rob. I think you're the best mavs writer on the interwebz.