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Game 4 Thunder Analysis: Kanter leads Thunder to score-first victory over Mavericks

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Carlisle double-teamed KD and Westbrook, opening the door for OKC's role players to shine.

You know nothing, Dirk.
You know nothing, Dirk.
W. Bennett Berry

In the grittiest game that I've seen in a while, the Oklahoma City Thunder managed to overcome the Dallas Mavericks, 119-108. Enes Kanter was the man who stepped up for the Thunder this time, scoring 28 points in just 26 minutes of action. The Mavericks were doing all they could to protect drives to the rim. So when the Thunder got penetration, it was easy for them to kick to Kanter. Later on, Kanter saw a lot of success doing his usual pick and roll thing, as well as tipping in offensive rebounds.

But other Thunder players stepped up as well. Serge Ibaka was 7 of 11, and the Thunder were especially looking to him early. It was apparent that the Maverick defense would forget about Ibaka at times, allowing him to get to the corners and hit pick and pops. I was also impressed by Ibaka's work on the boards, as he was really able to force his will on the Mavs weaker interior.

Even Dion Waiters got into the act for the Thunder tonight. And it wasn't just spacing the floor, like Waiters did in Game 2. Waiters used screens to get into the paint, and hit some ridiculously tough layups. The Mavs are old and slow, so it should seem like no surprise. But really, I've never seen Dion perform so well. Even Waiters' driving and kicking was good, as he finished the game with four assists.

Box ScoreShot Chart/Play-by-PlayPopcorn MachineCondensed HighlightsEnes Kanter 28 Pts HighlightsRussell Westbrook 25 Pts HighlightsKevin Durant 19 Pts HighlightsSerge Ibaka 16 Pts HighlightsDirk Nowitzki 27 Pts HighlightsRaymond Felton 19 Pts HighlightsRussell Westbrook Postgame Interview

Dirk Nowitzki and Serge Ibaka were really into each other all game, with less Collison on Dirk than we've seen in the past. Ibaka did his best to be physical, and meet Dirk around screens. But Dirk turned back the clock tonight, using turnarounds and off ball screens to his advantage. The Thunder would really occasionally double Dirk, but that would usually only lead to a hockey assist to another player. It was really as close as Dirk could have played it to perfect at his age.

KD and Westbrook Grapple with Mav Strategy to lock them down

Kevin Durant had another game where he couldn't score really efficiently. Wesley Matthews was matched up with Durant the entire time, and Durant had trouble even creating mismatches. The Mavericks seemed intent on doubling KD most of the time, except when he was trying to force turnarounds on Matthews. Even when KD was able to evade Matthews, generally there was a help defender there to try to deter the shot.

Russell Westbrook had similar problems. Whenever Westbrook wanted to go to a pick and roll, the Mavs would occasionally attempt to hedge by putting an extra man in the paint. This did successfully stop a couple of Kanter and Westbrook pick and rolls, along with some Adams and Westbrook pick and rolls. But generally, Westbrook was able to find his options in the corners. Westbrook finished the game with a shining 15 assists to just 2 turnovers.

Russell Westbrook's defense left a lot to be desired. I'm not typically fond of dissing Westbrook for his D, but it was particularly noticeable tonight. Felton was able to eliminate Westbrook around screens and get whatever shot he wanted. Not only that, but Westbrook would often fail to get back in transition. And when Westbrook did get back, he'd occasionally lose his man and give up an open shot. This is the nature of Westbrook's game sometimes, but it hurts when Raymond Felton goes off for 19 points and 11 assists. I will concede that part of this was Kanter's fault as well. Kanter just couldn't handle the pick and roll half the time.

How did the Thunder win this game?

It never really felt like the Mavericks had a chance. The Thunder never trailed, and maintained a sizeable lead throughout the second half. But Dallas was able to stay in this one because they had so many opportunities in transition. Furthermore, the Thunder would occasionally switch around screens, leading to favorable mismatches for the Mavs. Whenever the Thunder would get a bit too gung ho about scoring quickly, the Mavs would make a defensive play. The Mavs always capitalized on that.

Anyway, the Thunder's offense tonight was simply too potent to stop. Kanter saw a ton of time with Westbrook and played in the clutch in place of Adams. With the Thunder having already secured a lead, they seemed content to simply outscore the Mavs for the rest of the game. So I'm gonna go ahead and attribute this win to the powerful stretch we saw from Dion Waiters in the first quarter. Waiters scored or assisted on four straight possessions, even demanding the ball from KD after he got a block on the defensive end. I've just never seen him play so....dominantly? Even if only for a moment. After the run, the Thunder had their largest lead of the game at 15. It was on the back-end of a 20-5 run that also included some Kanter early on.

Highlight of the Night

There's always room for more Westbrook.

Slammin' Notes

  • Steven Adams perhaps wasn't as effective at protecting the rim tonight as he was in the past. But the Mavericks weren't really driving the ball while Adams was in the game, and Pachulia wasn't really looked to as an option. That speaks volumes to Adams ability, and Carlisle's avoidance of Adams on offense.
  • I really appreciated Adams' increased scoring while Pachulia was in the game. Adams had 12 14 points tonight, nearly all of them coming while Pachulia was in the game. Adams worked the pick and roll perfectly. But Adams also filled the lane whenever Westbrook or KD could draw a double-team, and was always ready for the pass. I also admired Adams ability to grab the rebound, kick it out, and reset. Much better vision than we give him credit for.
  • Roberson got blocked in transition once, which wasn't pretty. But I did like his one cut from the corner to score, when the Mavs were hedging the Westbrook pick and roll.
  • Randy Foye was 1 of 4, and took a couple of unnecessary on-ball jumpers in the fourth quarter. Foye also bricked a corner three, and made a wing three. All I'll say is that he's an effective game manager and stays out of the way. Also, he could deal with his opposing point guard half the time (while DJ dealt with his opposing PG on defense almost never). So I'm still happy with this pickup. (I know, I'm the only one.)
  • Nick Collison got 11 minutes of time, and had two steals. The play that sticks out in my mind is when Collison got caught around a screen on the perimeter. It looked like Dirk had an open layup, but Collison rushed back to deflect the interior pass to Dirk. It was a Herculean effort, and definitely justification enough for having Collison in the game.
  • Anthony Morrow apparently got 2 seconds of time at the end of this game. Billy D loves teasing us....
  • Kyle Singler got his second consecutive DNP-CD. But he'll be back next series....
  • J.J. Barea was 0-7 tonight with 6 assists. I mostly credit that to the fantastic defense of Robes, as well as OKC stopping him at the rim.
  • Wesley Matthews looked as bad as ever. There were a couple of stylish-looking, quick threes. But that seemed to be all Matthews had. Matthews couldn't nail any deep turnaround shots on KD, and a lot of his threes were rushed.
  • Devin Harris was 4-5 for 12 points, and made three threes. One of Harris' threes was a pull up on Roberson, while another was on an inbounds play that wasn't broadcast by FSOK. I also saw Harris catch Dion napping at one point.
  • Justin Anderson had 10 points on 4 of 8 shooting, with 7 rebounds and 2 assists. Anderson didn't have much range (0-4 from 22+ feet), but provided a lot of energy for the Mavs.
  • Deron Williams played about a minute in the first quarter, but immediately re-aggravated an abdominal strain. Williams sat out for the rest of the game.
  • Mid-way through the second quarter, Morrow caught an out of bounds ball while sitting on the bench. Mejri attempted to swipe it, and things got a bit testy. Westbrook did some shouting, and Barea shoved Morrow. In the end, Mejri and Westbrook were given double-technicals.
  • Mejri grabbed Westbrook's shirt on a drive, and basically clobbered him to the floor. Ruled a common foul.....ugh.
  • Mejri left the game with injury with 6:35 to go in the fourth. Poetic justice?
  • Ibaka fouled Nowitzki at one point, complained, and Russ had to step in to shove him away.
  • With 50 seconds to go, Justin Anderson got between KD and Kanter on the baseline. The game had been decided. KD slapped Anderon on the noggin, possibly inadvertantly. But the refs called a flagrant 2, and ejected KD.
  • With 20.8 seconds to go, on a free throw, Charlie Villanueva elbowed Serge Ibaka on a rebound, and Ibaka was aggressive in kind. Ibaka got the technical foul.
  • "I must be operating in another dimension." -Brian Davis

Marina's Awards

Thunder Wonder: Enes Kanter, for finally destroying this team with no bigs

Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, for his defense of Dirk and continually solid shooting

Thunder Blunder: KD, sorry dude

Thunder Plunderer: Dirk Nowitzki, who looked pissed after the game

Next Game: Versus the Dallas Mavericks, Monday, April 25th, 7 PM Central Daylight Time.

What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!