The Difference: Oklahoma City Thunder 95, Dallas Mavericks 91

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 6, 2012 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-03-06 at 10.21.05 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Oklahoma City103.343.443.434.116.1

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

  • The closing moments of Monday night’s game offered a disturbing bit of possibility — Jason Terry may no longer be the player who simply does well in clutch situations, but one who demands that the ball go through him. Dallas’ final two offensive possessions were relatively basic high pick-and-roll sets involving Terry and Dirk Nowitzki, and on both occasions JET refused to hit an open Nowitzki on the three-point line (where Nowitzki had only made four of his six attempts on the night) in the name of calling his own number. If Terry were in a position where he had a lane or a step on his defender, that’s a perfectly acceptable decision. Yet in this particular game neither was the case; Terry didn’t necessarily break the play(s), but he sure as hell hijacked it.

  • I will say this regarding the Mavs’ late-game performance before turning to more important matters regarding the greater bulk of the game’s body: Dallas manages late-game defensive situations exceptionally well. Rick Carlisle has developed an excellent change-up in his late-game defensive strategy, in which Dallas actually refuses to foul in what are often considered to be must-foul situations. When facing a two or three-point deficit and the game clock under 24 seconds, most teams would foul immediately as a means of extending the game. But Dallas has developed a tendency — in no small part thanks to their ball-hawking this season — to play for the turnover. In the case of this game, the Mavs allowed the Thunder to make an inbound pass to James Harden, who had retreated as far into the backcourt as he possibly could in anticipation of an intentional foul. Yet the foul never came; the Mavs instead sent Jason Terry to stall Harden, and then seconds later attempted to trap him with Jason Kidd. Oklahoma City was nearly forced into an eight-second violation, and when harden attempted to make an outlet pass to escape the turnover, the pass was nearly picked off. It didn’t quite play out to perfection, but I appreciate the thought process — and, honestly, the daring.
  • Brendan Haywood was in the game for all of 31 seconds before hobbling off with a left ankle sprain. There reportedly isn’t much residual swelling, but on a night where Brandan Wright was already ruled out via concussion, I though Ian Mahinmi (13 points, 5-6 FG, five rebounds), Yi Jianlian, and Sean Williams did a serviceable job as on-the-spot replacements. Mahinmi was able to give the Mavs a presence of some kind inside through his slashing, and defensively he challenged shots and generally maintained effective positioning. He still has a tendency to get distracted by shiny objects and rotate incorrectly at times, but Mahinmi was able to bring far more than he took away from the Mavs in total. Defending the Thunder is tough without Haywood, but Mahinmi, Yi, and Williams altered a few shots and made a handful of big defensive plays. Not a bad outing for the emergency center rotation, evidenced by the fact that Dallas was consistently within striking distance throughout the game. (One big exception: rebounding. A pretty poor rebounding team rocked the Mavs on the glass.)
  • Role players, virtually by definition, lack a certain dependability. Yet Monday night was a rough bottoming out for Vince Carter, who could only stay on the floor for a 10-minute stretch, went scoreless, and posted a single-game plus-minus of -15. That last measure seems a bit exaggerated, but there’s no question that Carter provided little of value. With Delonte West out of the lineup, Dallas needs either Carter or Rodrigue Beaubois to offer something as a guard counterpoint; Beaubois was able to do some of that in small doses, but Carter was wholly ineffective.
  • Kirk Henderson

    Regarding late game situations and JET: in the BS Report during ASW Dirk told Simmons that Terry has a tendency to wander off the reservation 3-4 times a year. In a normal, 82 game season, that probably means for 3-5 games at a time.  Terry has been REALLY off in terms of decision making since the Knicks game (after returning from a brief leave of absence).  The only hope here is that he comes back home to playing within himself by playoffs.  I've feared for a while his “irrational confidence” from the finals would wear itself thin, but Terry really needs to bring it back under control.  I'm not THAT worried, just because these guys have historically done well together in late game situations.

    I do appreciate your attempt to be impartial, but I do think we need to spend some time on the way the game was called in terms of officiating.  Matt Moore and Royce Young went back and forth a little last night with Moore claiming (reasonably) that the Thunder seem to get a lot of calls going there way (as well as a number of no calls benefiting them). Young took moderate offense to this, calling it good defense.  The foul disparity aside, there were MANY situations during the game where things were flat out called incorrectly.  Loose balls called off the wrong person (and you could see it off replay), as well as every single goal tending call (or non calling) being called incorrectly or missed entirely.  Sean Williams is working against the fact that he is Sean Williams, but even the awesomely homerific OKC announcers said the Harden And-1 goal tending call was wrong.  Ibaka is apparently immune from having any shots he 'blocks' being called for goal tending, even if the shot is on a downward arc.  

    Some of it has to be the refs being tired, some of it has to be the excellent Thunder crowd swaying the refs, but a part of it also has to be bad luck and bad officiating.  A game decided by 4 points, there were so many, many calls that went the Thunders way.  At some point or another, the Thunder's excellent luck in late game situations will run dry. Regression to the mean, if you will.  

    The other side of that is we might not ever defend Harden, Westbrook, and Durant as well as we did last night (4th quarter Harden barrage aside).  I thought Odom played as hard as he's played in a Mavs uni to date (though he misses an absurd number of left handed layups for a left handed player).  Mahinmi looked great. Roddy's still not ready for the big moment but he frustrated the crap out of Westbrook.  The positives in this game were really there as well.

    I'm pissed we lost. But I'm also pleased with the fire the team has shown as of late. If they could drop the hammer on the Knicks tonight, I'd be just delighted.

  • Matt Hulme

    Kirk, I agree in full with everything you said. And yet, I'm still so pissed about last night (between JET and the zebras) that it's difficult for me to work up the effort to respond. But I'll give it a go. This'll probably turn into a rant. Oh well.

    I simply cannot bring myself to be fully impartial as Rob has done, but to the best of my abilities, last night's contest was one of the worst officiating jobs I've seen this season. I watch a lot of basketball (not just Mavs; about a game a night, usually the night's “premier” game), and I can only think of two games with as bad if not worse officiating, and one of them was another Oklahoma Durants game.

    I'm not saying that the Durants get the calls due to their popularity, youth, marketability, and the NBA's ongoing agendas, but I'm not saying they're not. Kidd's right; I cannot ever remember a defending WORLD CHAMPION getting so few calls.

    All JET-idiocy and JET-surrender-monkeying aside for the moment, the game should have never been that close in the end. Kirk, that “goaltending” call was ludicrous. I guess I just don't understand the ever-changing-to-fit-the-situation-and-involved-players rules of the NBA or something, but when they called that goaltending, my initial thoughts were, in order:

    1. There's no way that's goaltending.
    2. There's no way they're giving him that continuation. He was fouled with the ball at his hip, took two more steps (he'd already taken one), and THEN put the shot up after almost everyone had stopped moving due to the earlier whistle!
    3. Oh, right. The Durants. I forgot we were playing the already crowned Western Conference Champions. You're right; they deserve the respect and calls. Well earned.

    On top of that, later in the game there was a second ridiculous goaltending call against the hapless Mavericks, only then to have Roddy take the SAME SHOT on the VERY NEXT POSSESSION, have it GOATENDED the exact same way, and it's a no call; a clean block. I was, and I am in retrospect, still livid.

    THEN, the biggest joke of all, the play that should have decided the game one way but twisted it in the opposite, the Mahinmi sixth foul call. Perfectly timed. Perfectly angled. Perfectly blocked. Nope. Foul. Out. Two free throws. Game.

    Now as for Jason Eugene Terry. In the words of the ever-eloquent Mark Jackson (but used here in a different context that originally intended), “momma, there goes that man.”

    JET has been on a tear lately of forcing up absolute garbage. He's fighting hard for something(s), his next contract, his legacy, his name, his pride; whatever it is, it's detrimental to the team. JET: for the last time, you are not, nor have you ever been, the Dallas Mavericks' closer. You're the second option. The kick out. The open guy for the corner three once our closer (an imposing German fellow by the name of Dirk Werner Nowitzki) draws the double or triple team. That's you. That's your role. In almost every case, once Dirk draws the D, there's no one else I'd like taking that open three at the buzzer. (Maybe Kidd sometimes.) But YOU CANNOT CREATE YOUR OWN SHOTS. NEVER.

    Terry has a crazy-mean streak in him that's at times both diabolically ruthless and moronically self-serving, and that's just the way he has always been. But, and maybe I'm crazy, but this season it seems worse than ever. And it's not just the shortened/compacted season, it's the substantial number of games that Terry seems compelled to force his will upon, and it makes him look so selfish and so single-minded (his legacy, not the W). It's very off-putting for fans to watch him completely break down the offensive game plan with ill-advised jumpers and uncontrolled drives which result most often with turnovers.

    The worst offense of all, though, is that Terry has completely forgotten how to run (or deliberately abandoned) the two-man game (ha!). It's as if Dirk upset Terry at some point and now JET's holding a grudge, refusing to pass back out of the pick and roll, even when he draws both defenders into a packed lane with a mile-wide open Dirk Nowitzki sitting at or near the top of the key. We have a cold-blooded, MVP-winning, championship-winning, lights-out, near-impossible-to-guard, top-20-player-of-all-time sitting there, BEGGING for the ball in the closing moments when he's earned it ten fold for years, watching helplessly as his teammate forgets he's on a team.

    Look, I love JET. He's so ballsy, he's ironclad. But I also hate him sometimes. It's always been a love/hate relationship between Mavs fans and Terry. But it's getting worse. His playoff performances will only carry him so far. People have short memories and even shorter fuses. JET's usually the boisterous one, which is usually good. But now JET's good is starting to be outweighed by the bad. And something's gotta change. Dirk, Rick, J-Kidd, Matrix, I'm looking at you. Wake him up. Or sit him down, end of the bench.

    Wow, this was long. Okay. Um, let's win tonight. Crush some CarmeLin Chandlemire. (That one was terrible, I'm sorry.)

    • Kirk Henderson

      Just wait until Cuban offers him less than he wants this summer and he makes a scene. Cuban talked at Sloan about the inflationary market for players which is coming due to people having excess cap room.  Terry will get offered more than he can afford to turn down playing elsewhere.

  • Shmichael

    That had to be the most frustrating end to a game we've seen all year by the Mavs.  If I was Dirk I would be in Terry's face.  I'm baffled Dirk didn't even touch the ball towards the end.  Mind blown.
    Ian Mahinmi seemed to tail off badly.  If memory serves, all 13 of those points he had came in the first half.  I want to say that he didn't even attempt a single shot in the second half.  He seemed to be fatigued and cut to the basket slower and worked the boards less.  
    Hopefully they make it up tonight.