Team Pace Off. Eff. eFG% FTR ORR TOR
Dallas 94.0 105.3 44.9 40.5 27.3 12.3
Oklahoma City 108.5 48.5 58.2 17.9 16.0
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- Basketball fans tend to see their teams as either the cursed or the ordained, but in reality every franchise is somewhere in between; whatever forces govern the seemingly random bouncing of the ball tend to slide in whichever direction they like, and as much as we’d like to pretend that there’s a real image to be discerned from the breaks of the game, doing so is akin to claiming that stars are drawn for the sake of constellation.
Performance is and will always be based in execution, but as Dallas has shown over the first two games of this series, sometimes that execution isn’t enough. It’s not sufficient to merely create opportunities; in the inevitable close games that come in a playoff run, the currency of those opportunities must be exchanged. They’re worth something in themselves, but only by utilizing those windows can Dallas — or any team — attain something of more practical value. The Mavs are trying their damnedest to get more out of those crucial chances, but for the moment they’ve only (and admirably) managed to put themselves in a position to flip a coin. In that, Rick Carlisle and his team can’t be wholly disappointed that the flip keeps coming up tails.
Dallas, through late-game blunders and all, had their shots. They just weren’t the ordained this time around, and thus failed to make the most of their aforementioned opportunities. Dallas may have left the 2010-2011 season as conquering heroes, but the days of improbable comeback after improbable comeback and huge shot after huge shot appear gone. The magic has left from this Maverick world, with a departure only so sure as the inevitability of its return.
- This wasn’t a game decided by foul calls, but by free throws. Both teams got the benefit of the officiating crew’s quick whistles in the second half, to the point where the third quarter was ground down into a free-throw shooting contest — a development that actually aided the Mavericks’ efforts by bringing Loud City to a steady murmur. Yet that dynamic ultimately came to betray Dallas; the Thunder managed to remain competitive in the fourth quarter despite not making a single field goal in the final 4:52, per TNT, pitting the Mavs’ execution against sure makes from the charity stripe. That’s a tough battle to win, and though Dallas managed to come awfully close, it ultimately wasn’t to be.
- In a series that would be most naturally billed as a head-on collision between Dirk Nowitzki (31 points, 10-19 FG, six rebounds) and Kevin Durant (26 points, 5-17 FG, 10 rebounds, seven turnovers), I’ve been just as — if not more — captivated by the incredible play of Shawn Marion (15 points, 5-9 FG, eight rebounds, one unenviable defensive assignment) and Russell Westbrook (29 points, 10-21 FG, two assists). Nowitzki played wonderfully in Game 2 and Durant has 25.5 points per game and a particularly heroic shot to his name, but the sidekicks have simply played the more spectacular part in this series to date.
Marion has led the Mavericks in rebounding in both games thus far, scored 32 total points on just 23 shots, and also happens to be providing a master class on how to defend Kevin Durant. Apparently, it’s just that easy to hold the NBA’s scoring champ to 15-of-44 (34 percent) shooting from the field and an average of 4.5 turnovers per game; so long as you have an incredible wingspan, age-defying athleticism, phenomenal defensive instincts, tremendous technique, and a borderline illogical persistence, you too can replicate Marion’s performance. Just sterling work from an All-Defense candidate.
Westbrook, on the other hand, has been the Thunder’s saving grace in light of Marion’s shackling of Durant and James Harden’s fits of passivity. And, in pitch-perfect fashion: Westbrook is beating the Mavs without even masquerading as the pure playmaker his critics demand that he be. Westbrook hasn’t been selfish by any means, but he’s dominating the game as a shot creator. He’s creating looks for others by way of passing and penetration, but the bulk of his damage is done by getting to the rim, getting to the line, and elevating on — as Matt Devlin did an excellent job of highlighting on TNT’s broadcast — those idyllic pull-up jumpers. This isn’t even Westbrook at his best, and yet he’s put up more points in this series than any other player, and anchored his team’s efforts in two keynote victories.