What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Shock. Total and utter shock. I had no idea the Mavs, after two incredibly close losses in Oklahoma City, would just collapse in Game 3. And by collapse, I mean collapse. The Mavs never looked like they wanted to win this game. Dirk Nowitzki played a decent enough game, but he was the only Mavs player to do so. Vince Carter kept making dumb moves driving to the rim. Jason Kidd took way more shots than he should have. Marion and Terry were AWOL, and did terrible jobs on their defensive assignments.
The only real explanation I have is that the Thunder really focused on protecting the paint tonight. You can see that the Mavs had to take a lot of tough mid-range jumpers and throw up some difficult threes. For the Thunder's offense, nothing really special happened. They probably lived a bit too much on the three point line, but you could see that they were working the ball around the perimeter for solid attempts.
What was tonight's turning point?
The Mavs were pretty much playing a losing effort from the start. A defining moment came during the third quarter, when Russell Westbrook exploded for 11 points after a bit of an offensive drought. By the end of his stint, the Mavs had gone from a 7 point deficit to a 13 point one, and it was only exacerbated by a string of threes early in the fourth. By then, the Mavs had reached the point of no return.
What was, overall, the main reason the Thunder won?
Denying the hot hand. None of the Mavericks players were ever able to get on a roll, save for a late first quarter run by Vince Carter. Because the Mavs offense couldn't find a second go-to guy, it was basically forced to work through Kidd and Nowitzki. Dirk's plays got too predictable, and Kidd isn't enough of a scoring threat to be relied upon to draw pressure anymore. You also have to give credit to the defense of Sefolosha and Durant, who contributed significantly to shutting down their assignment.
What is a key statistic to understanding tonight's game?
The Mavs had 15 turnovers tonight, which is only one above their season average. Meanwhile, the Thunder only had 8 Turnovers, which led to them taking more shot attempts overall. The story is simple: The Thunder took care of the ball. Sure, they might have fired a few too many errant shots, but they were generally good attempts, and the ball movement was excellent. Westbrook didn't try too hard to make Hollywood assists, instead understanding how to keep the ball moving without necessarily driving the ball. Kevin Durant was on fire, and Ibaka cleaned up the post.
What does this game mean for the Thunder today and moving forward?
The win puts the Thunder up 3-0, a deficit that has never been recovered from in the history of the NBA playoffs. But, the Thunder aren't done yet, as they look to Swiffer this series on Saturday.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, for carrying the team in the third.
Thunder Down Under: Kevin Durant, for his best performance so far in the series.
Thunder Blunder: Cole Aldrich, for failing to get a garbage time dunk.
Thunder Plunderer: Yi Jianlian, just for laffs.
Next Game: At the Dallas Mavericks, Saturday, May 5th, 6:30 PM Central Daylight Time.