This series couldn't get much more bizarre if it tried. Game 1 was what everyone expected, as the Thunder crushed the inferior Mavericks. But Game 1 was perhaps a bit too much of what everyone expected. The Thunder had the highest margin of victory in franchise history, and the Mavericks had the second largest margin of loss in franchise history.
But Dallas bounced right back in Game 2, mucking things up enough to force a last second victory. Kevin Durant had the worst shooting game of his career, making just 7 of 33 shots. Enes Kanter was held to just 6 points. And even Westbrook shot 36% and only had 6 assists. The opportunities were there for the Thunder late. But there was a clear problem with Billy Donovan's matching up defensively, as well as the Thunder's ability to move the ball offensively.
The Mavericks were rather successful at hitting threes with their small guards, taking advantage of OKC's lack of quickness. The Mavs also went inside to Dirk a lot, and he was able to generate offense half the time. But really, what sunk OKC was their problems on the offensive end. Serge Ibaka took only 7 shots, and completely faded in the second half. Ibaka is someone who scores effectively off of the movement of others. So Ibaka's lack of production is really an indication of how much the Thunder were forcing the ball. Maybe if OKC slowed down and got a bit deeper into their sets, better shots would arise.
I'd also like to see a lot more of the Westbrook-Kanter pairing. It's a pick and roll made in heaven, and these two guys have to be on the floor creating for each other. The duo only saw 5 minutes together during the entirety of Game 2. But during the massively successful first half of Game 1, Kanter and Westbrook had 9 minutes on the court together. This needs to be a pairing again. I'd especially like to see Kanter get some time on the floor against Pachulia, rather than Mejri. I hate that Kanter has difficulty scoring against Mejri, but it's hard for him to shove away players that are bigger than him. So Donovan must use Kanter in the right place, in the right time, and in the right players. Let Durant and Westbrook score under averse conditions, because they always will.
Or, at least, most of the time.
Anyway, the Mavericks have several injury concerns heading into tonight. Nowitzki, Williams, Barea, and Lee all could be out or in. All of them could make an impact. Williams spaces the floor, Barea is useful in the pick and roll, and Lee can generate points with his back to the basket. And obviously, Dirk is a great shot creator on the wing. If all of them played, the Mavs are still a longshot to win this one. I just don't see KD and Westbrook both being held under 40% against the Mavericks again. That's just as rare as a franchise-record-beating victory.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 94, Dallas Mavericks 88.
What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!
|2015-16 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Quarter-Finals Game 3|
|April 21st, 2016|
|The American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas|
|6:00 PM Central Daylight Time|
|TV: Turner Network Television, Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, KTeXAs (CBS KTXA-TV 21 in Dallas)|
|Injury Report: Cameron Payne (Probable), Mitch McGary (Questionable), Nazr Mohammed (Questionable), Dirk Nowitzki (Questionable), Deron Williams (Questionable) J.J. Barea (Questionable), David Lee (Questionable), Chandler Parsons (Out), Jeramy Evans (Out)|
|The Playoff Matchups: Game 1, Game 2|
|Deron Williams||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Raymond Felton||SG||Andre Roberson|
|Wesley Matthews||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Dirk Nowitzki||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Salah Mejri||C||Steven Adams|