Team Pace Off. Eff. eFG% FTR ORR TOR
Dallas 94.0 104.3 50.0 32.1 27.0 14.4
Oklahoma City 105.3 51.9 25.3 22.0 13.8
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- This should hardly come as a surprise given the final margin, but games really don’t get more balanced than this one. Both teams saw their superstars swell in the spotlight, escaping heroically from the mire of their earlier struggles. The top-notch defenders present didn’t disappoint; Serge Ibaka and Shawn Marion both came up with tremendous play after tremendous play, and the craftier defenders on both teams — Jason Kidd and James Harden — managed to get deflections and key defensive action from off the ball. The rebounding profiles of both teams came to a curious middle. The Mavericks somehow managed to get to the line more often than the Thunder — an incredible feat considering that OKC ranks tops in the league in free throw rate — but also turned the ball over more often than their opponents — an equally incredible feat considering that OKC also ranks last in the league in turnover rate. The elite team and the inconsistent team played their way to a standstill, and Kevin Durant broke the silence with a terrific shot in the face of perfectly played defense.
One could theoretically chalk up a Maverick loss to any number of factors (oddly fragile late-game performance, Dirk Nowitzki’s uncharacteristic turnovers, OKC’s fantastic denial of Jason Terry, a random Ibaka three-pointer, etc.), but I’m not sure I see the point in that kind of exercise. Rick Carlisle and his staff will look to make changes based on Dallas’ many distinct shortcomings, but none of those individual flaws provided a reason for loss so much as the slightest opportunity for one. The Mavs played well. They got real, consistent value from a wide net of contributors, largely forced the Thunder into difficult shots, and managed to negate some of their opponent’s greatest strengths. But someone had to lose this game, and the fact that it ended in a coin flip made the result no less cruel, and such assignments of blame no less arbitrary.
That final moment was the only time the game’s dynamic took any decisive shift whatsoever, and even then, only a ticking clock was able to provide the impetus for such a change. Otherwise, these two teams would have traded blows and well-executed sets and spectacular shots into eternity, with no victor save any lucky enough to be a part of the process. Those of us on this side of the fourth wall certainly were, and with any luck, will continue to be so fortunate.
But all individual games must end, just as this series will eventually succumb to its own lamentable finality. In the meantime, the stage has been set for a fantastic arrangement of call and return — supposing that the Mavericks manage to maintain even a remotely similar form in the games to come. Let’s hope that isn’t such a naive assumption in hindsight, and that those engaged by the possibility for highly entertaining basketball aren’t made to be fools. We know what the Mavs are capable of, and sadly, we’ve come to know how little the Mavs are sometimes capable of. This matchup seems to bring out the best in them and the best in a beautiful game, but if this bittersweet day and this nearly canceled season haven’t taught us to take nothing for granted, I’m not sure what in this sport possibly could.
I honestly have no idea what’s coming, nor the slightest clue of how to conclusively use the information we have to even take a shot in the dark. Yet if nothing else, we have this night of near-makes and infinite possibility. The Thunder and Mavs won’t play again until Monday, and in that lapse we have the invaluable and immaculate gift of tomorrow. For now — even if not for a second more — there are no disappointments. There is only the promise of greater basketball to come, without worry for letdown or regression.
So rest up. Tomorrow’s a big day.