The Difference: Oklahoma City 102, Dallas Mavericks 99

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 1, 2012 under Recaps | 11 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Oklahoma City108.548.558.217.916.0

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.
  • @tcindallas

    Great read. However, I disagree with the “this isn't even Westbrook at his best”…..part. This is the westbrook we expected in my opinion. Taking over, lots if shots, minimal assists. How long have the “critics” waited on him to be a complete pg? This is his game. He's at his best right now. If we're having that discussion, let's go ahead and say that this isn't dirk at his best. And game 2 certainly wasn't JET as his best. Kidd either.

    • Amar'e's left hand

      I kind of agree with you, but at the same time, Westbrook is 23.  It's very doubtful that this is the best he'll ever be.  If, however, you mean this is him playing at his current best, then you're probably right.  On the other hand, Dirk is a decade older.  Again, this is not the best he's ever been.  But he might be playing close to his current best.  

      • Mr Adam Madison

        Where's the study that players DON'T peak at age 23?

        • Amar'e's left hand

          I don't know how old you are, but if you're much older than 23, do YOU really think you were very smart or well-versed in the ways of the world at that age?  23 was only two years ago for me, and even still I can recognize I was a damn idiot.  And while athleticism helps, basketball is about experience and intelligence (ex: a team you may have heard of that won the 2011 Finals).  

          To answer your question, I don't know of any such studies, but I thought the “peak” age was generally thought to be between 25-27.

          • Jacob

            How are you 4 years younger than the rest of Amar'e's body?

  • Mahert001

    The Jet's stupid foul with the Thunder only have 2 seconds to shoot was a killer.  And he is suppose to be “experienced” in playoff games.  What a disaster.  No points in the 4th quarter of the first game and the stupid foul in the waining minutes of the second game. 

    • Jacob

      JET's basketball IQ is as bad as his clutch shooting can be good. Last year's finals game 2 comes to mind immediately. And the Suns game that went to OT in 2005. The only one worse was probably Josh Howard. You gotta take the good with the bad with him. 

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  • 49jbert

    The team that shows up will win. Always has been true. Ask ourselves, “Do the mavs really want it”  like last year. I don't  think so.  But I have been a Mavs fan since Mark Aguire days so I will ride um to what ever end there is.

  • Jensen

    The Mavs offense just grinds to a halt when Dirk isn't in.  With Westbrook shadowing and playing ball denial on Terry, he's had a tough time getting the ball much less decent looks at the basket.  The Mavs need to find another way of generating points in the half court.

    We don't have the same spread-the-floor shooters (Peja, Stevenson, Barea), alley-oop possibilities at center (Chandler), or lane penetration (Barea) that we had last year so it has been more difficult this year to generate the same offensive flow and open looks.  We need to find another offensive option to either open up space or isolate and put in points.  Rick seems to think this is Carter; I would disagree.  While Carter is capable of posting up smaller guards, he has been so woefully inefficient this series that I would not use him as the primary option to fill this offensive hole.

    I would be surprised/disappointed if Rick continues down this path on Thursday.  I would expect some different lineup combinations on the floor to hopefully find a spark or two and get some better spacing.  OKC is far from an elite defensive team but with only two guys to key in on, they've done a pretty good job.  Rick needs to shake it up a little (for both the offense and for the defense especially on Westbrook).

    I'm not sure what he'll do or what exactly I'd like him to do but it would some combination of the following:
    1) Keep Wood's minutes down like last game.  OKC is a jump shooting team that doesn't score that much in the paint in the half court (11th for the season but almost half of those come from the fast break).  As long as we can keep up with them on the boards, there is no reason to have Wood out there versus Ian or Brandan or small with Dirk at the 5 since we can generate more offense and spacing with those guys.
    2) Run more Jet screen sets.  If nothing else, let's wear out Westbrook chasing Jet versus letting him play ball denial outside of the three point line.
    3) Give Roddy a look at guarding Westbrook.  Roddy got some burn in the 2nd quarter last game and I thought he did a pretty good job of staying in front of Westbrook (even though it was mostly within the 2-3 zone).  He could give us an extra defender to throw out there and if it doesn't work, it'll be apparent pretty quickly.
    4) Go down to Trix in the post a few more times in the game.  I am not a big fan of the Marion post-up because there are normally better offensive options on the court, but given the difficulties the Mavs have had with spacing in this series, it would be great to have another look for the OKC defenders to think about.
    5) Counter their 3 guard sets (with Harden) with 3 guard sets of our own to get West more minutes.  He looked great last game but only played 24 versus 33 for Carter playing the 3.  West is one of our best defenders and he's one of the few guys we have that can get in the lane.  He needs some more burn.

    Congrats on reaching the bottom of this post.  Sorry about the length.

  • Andrew

    I had to miss the latter half of game 2 becauseIi had a flight, so I don't know if Carlisle made any defensive adjusments on Westbrook, but so far I don't think Carlisle has been active enough in countering Westbrook.

    In these two games where both Durant and Beard were contained, I would have expected Dallas to grab at least one game.  One of the biggest reasons they didn't is that they couldn't contain Russell Westbrook.  In the abstract, Delonte West matches up pretty well with Westbrook.  However, with Westbrook making his mid-range pull-up jumper, West has no choice any more: he has to start playing Westbrook tighter, which means that he will probaly get beat off the dribble more often.

    Carlisle has to do something unorthodox here, or else risk Westbrook dominating this series.  Here is my idea, although it is not a novel one: (1) When Dallas makes a basket, whoever is guarding Westbrook should deny him the ball during the inbounds pass, (2) if Westbrook gets the ball, the person guarding the inbounder should immediately and aggressively trap Westbrook, hopefully forcing him to cough up the ball.  After the pass, it is then the job of West to aggresively deny Westbrook the ball for the rest of the shot clock, (3) In the case of a missed shot and outlet to Westbrook, a quick big (like Mahinmi or Wright) should aggresively trap Westbrook the moment he crosses the halfcourt line, hopefully forcing him to give up the ball.  The other big would be responsible for covering both of OKC's bigs, while the guard defenders should stay tight on their men (especially if Durant and Harden are on the floor).  The minute Westbrook passes away, Wright is responsible for getting back to his man in time to bring the defense back to equilibrium.  At this point, West must aggressively deny Westbrook the ball. 

    This would create vulnerabilites in Dallas's defense, especially if OKC puts bigs out who could hit the mid-range J in the game.  But it might be worth it.