How in the world were so many points scored?
The Oklahoma City Thunder have endured one of their most heart-breaking losses of the season, losing 135-131. The Mavericks point total was their second highest in regulation this season, and the Thunder's point total was their second highest in regulation this season as well. Offense flowed freely, as the Mavs shot 61.5% from the field and the Thunder shot 45% from three.
Despite the shared offensive success, the tale of how each team got there is quite different. The Mavericks focused on spreading their offense inside the arc, finding space wherever they could. In fact, Dallas spent the first three quarters equally distributing their two point shots between the paint and mid-range. It wasn't until the fourth, when things got more intense, that Dallas took the vast majority of their shots in the paint. Meanwhile, the Thunder ran a strict pick and roll offense that saw a bit less success from mid-range, but a bit more success from beyond the three point arc. My best explanation for this strategic focus is that the Mavericks have more players capable of scoring in mis-match isolation situations, while the Thunder (Waiters excepted) have players that work much better in a system.
At the end of the day though, the stats tell the story. The Mavericks had a whopping 40 second half points in the paint, compared to only 8 for the Thunder. Kanter couldn't provide much defensive resistance at the rim, and the Thunder had no real bigs on the bench. The Mavericks were also able to get 19 points off of turnovers, compared to only 8 for the Thunder. Most of them were from the turnovers of Waiters and Westbrook, who would occasionally get their pockets picked as they charged the lane.
Westbrook's Victories, Defeats
In a game where the rest of the team shot 57%, Westbrook only managed 31% on a whopping 32 shots. There was good with the bad. A triple double, despite a low shooting percentage an high turnovers, can't be ignored. But it seems like one aspect of Westbrook's game is always holding him back. In the first half, it was his shooting, as Westbrook only managed to hit 2 of 13 shots. In the second half, it was his turnovers, as Westbrook lost the ball just as many times as he got an assist.
The poor shooting came as a result of the Mavs forcing Westbrook where he didn't want to go. It's an old theme that's been in the back of my mind since the 2011 West Finals, but the sentiment still rings true. When Westbrook gets stuck in the center of the lane, he simply cannot score:
The rest of Westbrook's misses are a combination of poor shot selection and just not having any rhythm. Rondo was giving Westbrook whatever he wanted in mid-range early on, but Russ rushed into the jumpers, missed a couple, and just could never find his stride. Furthermore, most of the threes that Russ took were around screens and very low percentage shots.
Westbrook's defense on Rondo was very game-y, though. Russ was content to let Rondo take a mid-range shot whenever he wanted. Rondo definitely hit those early on, and finished the first half shooting 5-7. Fortunately, Rondo would miss all five of his remaining shots as Westbrook psyched him out, and it helped the Thunder get a big third quarter run.
When the fourth quarter rolled around, something even crazier happened. Westbrook didn't take a single shot from 3:53 to 0:31. It seems like a short time, but it's unusual to see Westbrook hand the shooting responsibilities over to anyone but KD. Then, with 30 seconds to go and the team down 3, Russ charged into the paint and got fouled, bringing the deficit to one. It was up to Westbrook to get the final needed stop on the other end, as he found himself in a mismatch with Parsons. But Parsons easily raised up for the mid-range shot, and the Thunder found themselves down by 3 and down to their last possession.
Of course, Westbrook ended up taking the last shot. The initial 3 was no good, but Russ got his own rebound and spotted up again in the corner. No one can fault Russ' effort or will to win, but Russ missed a wide open Morrow a few feet away while taking that last shot. It was obvious to everyone on the telecast, and it really sucked to watch as a fan. Still, it's hard to blame Westbrook here, especially with how Morrow had just missed two consecutive threes.
Morrow posts 32, finds offensive sweet spot
Wanna know how to get Anthony Morrow hot? Just set him weak side screens and have him shoot from the top of the key. A-Mo hit three shots from the elbow in the second quarter using this very strategy, and his hot shooting never subsided. It seemed as if Morrow couldn't miss all game, until he clanked two consecutive threes within the final 90 seconds.
That being said, Morrow's defense was really on point, Morrow gets destroyed by his size on occasion, which is why most think of him as a defensive sieve. But Morrow's hands are incredibly quick, and that comes in mighty handy against the Dallas Mavericks. During the fourth, Morrow had a steal on Tyson Chandler and did a great job of meeting Al-Farouq aminu in the paint on a baseline drive. Furthermore, Morrow's speed had him constantly out on the break, finding space and ways to score.
Kanter scores a career high 30 points in first three quarters, scoreless in fourth
Can you believe this? I can't either. We could sign Nenad Krstic off of Anadolu Efes right now and he'd play better defense than Kanter. Despite that, Kanter was easily the most effective offensive big man in this game. Kanter was destroying Tyson Chandler on post-ups early in the game, which is remarkable on its' own. But if that weren't enough, Enes even hit a surprise corner 3!
Kanter's first quarter honeymoon didn't last, though. Soon Carlisle switched the more offensively skilled Amare Stoudemire onto Kanter, and Amare got whatever he wanted in the post. Kanter would continue to post in the scoring column, but almost all of his points in the second and third came on pick and rolls, o-boards, or off-ball cuts to the basket. Kanter's post-up game somehow disappeared, and he only managed to touch the ball twice in the entire fourth quarter. One of those touches was a failed post up very early in the fourth during a Maverick run, which may have had something to do with it.
Dirk Nowitzki, the X-Factor
Dirk ended up with the most shots for the Mavs tonight at 17, and he was definitely frustrating to watch. Perhaps the most annoying point for Thunder fans came in the second quarter, when Dirk posted up Steve Novak five times in six possessions, hitting on three of the attempts. The second most annoying point came when Dirk was going mano el mano with McGary in the third. Dirk scored on three of four possessions here, all outside of the paint. One was due to a waiters switch, and the other two came when Dirk beat McGary to the three point line off-ball. To make matters worse. McGary racked up two quick fouls around this same time against dirk (one on a scoring play, one on rebound frustration).
Without those two stretches, Dirk was 2 of 8 on the night. We miss you, Serge and Nick!
Waiters vs. Ellis
Dion Waiters: 19 Points, 7-15 2Pt, 3-5 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 4 Assists, 0 Steals, 3 TO
Monta Ellis: 26 Points, 9-14 2Pt, 0-1 3Pt, 8-9 FT, 5 Assists, 4 Steals, 1 TO
These are different players, but they basically serve the same role. Both of them are extremely effective scorers off the dribble that are heavily relied upon by their teams. But while Monta Ellis uses speed and athleticism, Waiters uses size and footwork. And at this point in their careers, even on good nights for both of them, Ellis is just that much better. Monta's more focused about getting up the court offensively, his shots are less contested since they mostly come from mid-range, and he's much, much better about getting contact at the rim. Also, Ellis picked the pocket of Westbrook and Waiters twice each, which says tons about his quickness.
- Chandler Parsons went 2 of 6 in the first, then went 8 of 9 the rest of the way. Make no mistake, he was getting open shots early on. He just looked a bit rushed, and was finally able to get his usual fast break/weak side cut stuff later on.
- Sometimes I wish our offense was as complex as the Mavs'. More give and gos, more motion, more post ups. Then I remember that KD is still on our roster.
- Still, there were times where OKC just kinda rushed themselves into a shot to keep the pace going.
- I swear, that first half was nothing but terribly defended pick and roll play. It was like watching a game of 2K where neither person knows how to make defensive adjustments.
- Rajon Rondo won a jump ball with Mitch McGary. And I'm pretty sure he cheated by just going for the ball after McGary tipped it. Barf.
- The Mavs were down by 3 at halftime shooting 59.1% from the floor. They had only committed one turnover! The boards told the story, but those two stats on their own are insane.
- Russell Westbrook had a triple double, yet could not capture FSOK's player of the game (went to Morrow).
- Lots of problems with the floor tonight. Stoudemire slipped in the middle of a play, and Waiters slipped at mid-court following a score.
- OKC went on a 29-12 run over a stretch of 6:07 between the second and third quarters. As you might have guessed, it involved the starters.
- There was a play in the third quarter where Kanter tipped a pass to Stoudemire, and Westbrook got his hands on it. However, Westbrook's momentum carried him out of bounds, and Russ accidentally threw it to a Maverick. Monta Ellis got an easy 3. We lost this game by 3.
- I love it when the Thunder get threes out of HORNS, which happened a couple of times in the fourth. Having two monsters of the middle in the high post is so valuable.
- Enes Kanter played 38 minutes, which may explain how terrible OKC's defense at the rim got towards the end.
- Steven Adams had two big steals, but he wasn't nearly as much of a factor as he was in Phoenix. Kanter's offensive success probably had a bit to do with it, as did Adams' foul trouble. Once Adams racked up four fouls in the first 33 seconds of the third, he was out of action until the fourth.
- OKC racked up three consecutive fouls from the Mavs on one possession in the early fourth. It was amazing, and got the Thunder to four fouls in the quarter with a whopping 8 minutes and 11 seconds to go. But the Thunder wouldn't enter the bonus until the final three minutes, when Carlisle went Hack-a-Adams. OKC would take two more separate trips to the line in the final three minutes of the fourth, but they were shooting fouls anyway. It's kind of reminiscent of Sunday's Jazz game. There, during the third quarter, the Thunder entered the bonus with 6:13 to go and only drew one subsequent foul.
- Perry Jones hit nothing but glass on his one attempted three.
- **EDIT** Adams left the court with a right ankle tweak in the final moments of the game. His status is currently unknown. (Thanks to clra2 for the reminder!)
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, because I say triple-doubles rule all
Thunder Down Under: Anthony Morrow, the best shooter this team has ever seen (I don't miss D-Fish)
Thunder Blunder: Steven Adams, for racking up the quick fouls and exposing us in the second and third with his lack of presence
Thunder Plunderer: Chandler Parsons. 13 points in the last five minutes, including the game-sealing basket.
Next Game: At the Memphis Grizzlies, Friday, April 3rd, 7 PM Central Daylight Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!