I've already described my emotions surrounding the game, so in this recap, I'd just like to touch on a few things that went right and wrong tonight. I could bore you with a description of the game, but hay, that's what the AP is for.
Pressure Defense. Any time you use a defensive strategy of getting in the other team's passing lanes, it's going to generate a lot of points. You'll get a few quick steals, and get a few quick scores.
Perk on Dirk. When Dirk Nowitzki scored three times in the late fourth quarter, the Thunder realized that the Mavs were only going to rely on one guy for their scoring. So they put Kendrick Perkins on him, sacrificing the integrity of their interior defense for having a solid body on Dirk. The move worked, and Dirk was forced into two key turnovers late in the game.
James Harden dominating the ball late. Russell Westbrook squandered a couple of possessions, and his decision making ability was questionable at best. With Harden taking control of the ball, he was able to make better decisions concering when to pass to Ibaka or Durant or when to drive the ball.
Serge Ibaka's Offense. For some reason, the Thunder really seemed to be dialed in to where he was on the floor at any given time. He would dominate the Mavericks smaller lineups, and he did some great work to get open in the post and hit his free throws. His jumper wasn't really there, but it didn't hamper his game, and hell, he hit a three at the end of the half. That was EPIC.
Westbrook's first and third quarter performance. For all of his transgressions in the fourth, he atoned with his play in the first and third. He pretty much fueled the Thunder offense early on, sinking some tough mid-range shots and hitting a corner three. He was also a big part of the third, hitting three of his usual jumpers during that period. You also have to admire the quick steals he got, all of which resulted in immediate points.
Small Lineups. The Thunder went with a small lineup (IE, Durant at power forward) three times throughout the game. All of them had pretty much any combination of players you could think of, but all of them had a negative net result, with one group losing 4 points of ground in 4 minutes in the second, and another losing 5 points over two minutes in the third. Interestingly enough, the Mavs lineups during this time never included Nowitzki. Basically, the Mavs, overall, have better scorers at guard than we do.
Pressure Defense. Because of the defense the Thunder were offering, the Mavs were able to get a lot of walk up and catch and shoot threes on the wing, because the Thunder would overanticipate a pass or try to trap someone.
Derek Fisher. Again, Fisher proved himself to be borderline useless tonight. I was gaining hope with the way he handled himself against other teams late in the season, but he seems to have regressed today. He was missing wide optn jumpers, acting as a defensive turnstile against Jason Terry, and not really contributing to offensive ball movement.
Westbrook taking off the last few plays of the game. If he's not on-ball, he's generally disengaged. At points, you'd see him standing uselessly five feet behind the three point line. Comeon, man!
Nazr Mohammed didn't play tonight. Given that his minutes were pretty regular during the season, this move could be seen as surprising. However, he didn't see the floor during our last series with the Mavericks, so it had to be a bit expected. Whether he'll see time against the Mavs or in the next series (if it happens) is anybodies guess. Since small lineup failed the Thunder do badly, I don't think it'd be too disastrous of an idea to give him some minutes.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, for THE SHOT.
Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, for some key plays down the stretch and great defense.
Thunder Blunder: Derek Fisher, terrible defense, missed open shots on offense.
Thunder Plunderer: Dirk Nowitzki, for putting the team on his back late.
Next Game: Versus the Dallas Mavericks, Monday, April 30th, 8:30 PM Central Daylight Time.