Was it really less than a week ago that Kevin Durant
threw down a game winning three on the Dallas Mavericks
in OKC? It seems unbelievable in my mind. Today, the Mavericks closed out their fourth game against the Thunder in three weeks by totally annihilating us in every way that mattered. And the only thing worse than leaving your rivals with such a bad taste in your mouth is having to wait an entire month for the rematch, on Feburary 1st.
But before I get into any analysis, something needs to be said for the absence of Thabo Sefolosha
and Daequan Cook. Daequan Cook was out before the game with the flu, and Thabo Sefolosha was also exhibiting symptoms. Sefolosha played through the sickness, but he re-aggravated the heel injury that nagged him at the start of the season, so we saw none of him in the second half. Believe it or not, these guys were missed. The Thunder couldn't get the threes that Cook usually provided in order to spark runs, and Carter and Terry were running all over the Thunder defense without Sefolosha. Lazar Hayward
did a poor job replacing them, playing inadequate defense and missing on a few critical offensive plays.
Aside from their absence, the number one issue had to be rebounding. It's actually rare in today's day and age to have a solid four man rotation at the 4 and 5 spots, so the Thunder generally don't have any issues winning or at least equaling the rebounding totals of their opponent. But the Mavericks were really relentless about getting to the line tonight, and the Thunder's
bigs were quickly put into foul trouble. As a result, rather than putting in Cole Aldrich
, the Thunder decided to go small in the second quarter. The result was disastrous, as Dirk had almost no challenge to his shots and the Mavericks had a plethora of second-chance opportunities. The Thunder, meanwhile, had to fight for everything they got.
Below: More Analysis, Awards!
After they had fallen behind because of the aforementioned problems in the second, the Thunder's problems were compounded in the third when their offense had grind to a halt. Harden had been getting cold for some time, and was having trouble setting up the offense like he wanted it, often settling for bad three point shots. Westbrook was effective at charging the lane, but he hasn't run the offense all year. Essentially, the Thunder were left with dumping it off to Durant or taking a contested jumper, and went 8:10 without any player scoring but Westbrook or Durant. The Mavericks kept their lead, and commanded a 13 point advantage.
Brooks had mostly backups in by the start of the fourth, and the game quickly got out of hand.
Strategically, Dallas was more diabolical than they've ever been. Rick Carlisle
generally runs really simple plays, and that held true tonight. Other than the dumps to Dirk on the wing, Carlisle is really fond of the backdoor play, whether that be through a wing player running the baseline or a post player freed of his defender. Carlisle spent so much time pounding it on either side of the post that he actually got the Thunder bigs afraid to provide help defense due to foul trouble. This basically kills the Thunder's main defensive strength, and allowed Mavs guards to drive the lane with ease.
The Thunder are a team that thrives in transition and struggles in a half-court offense, so seeing only a total of 6 steals in this game was a little bit disheartening. Most of them came off of rebounds or bad passes. Where was the pressure defense on the perimeter? If Lazar Hayward can't provide that, why not put Ivey in there? Having a backup scorer is all well and good, but aside from political reasons, having both Hayward and Jackson on the active roster is redundant. Send one of them to the IR and bring us some Royal Ivey
On the Mavericks side, this was a bit of a coming out party for their new high-profile acquisitions. Vince Carter
had a season high 14 points, was effective at getting to the line, and was essential in keeping the Mavericks ahead in the first and second quarters. Lamar Odom
only played 20 minutes, but in addition to his efficient (and season-high) 8 points, he added 5 rebounds and 2 assists. He's adjusting well to his role as a glue guy, but I still think he would be better served as a more important part of the Mavericks' general scheme.
The loss puts the Thunder at 5-1, but they remain a game ahead of the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Standings. Oklahoma City and Portland are the only two teams remaining in the West with a single loss. The Thunder are tied with Miami for the best record in the NBA, as Miami lost to Atlanta tonight. With the win, the Mavericks move to 2-4, and are tied with Memphis for 14th place in the West. Things aren't likely to stay that way for long, though.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, 27 Points
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook, 18 Points, 8 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 3 Steals
Thunder Blunder: Lazar Hayward, Offensive 0fer, Defensive Liability
Thunder Plunderer: Dirk Nowitzki, 26 Points, 6 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 2 Steals
Next Game: Versus the Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, January 3rd, 7 PM Central Standard Time