If there's one thing Thunder fans are going to remember about this series, it's just how gritty the whole thing has turned out to be. The Mavericks are a team that was constructed almost entirely out of free agency, and they had a lot of expectations going into the season. Most of the players on the Mavs haven't had a lot of success on the NBA level on the past. But the Mavericks primarily consist of veterans, so the team was definitely built to win now. Add on to that the whole DeAndre Jordan tease this Summer, and it's easy to see why the Mavericks are frustrated with being down 3-1 in the first round.
But let's take it a step even further. Somehow, the Mavericks were able to upset the Thunder at home in Game 2. KD had the worst game of his career, and Enes Kanter was almost totally shut down. It was one of the worst games I've seen OKC play. But from the perspective of a Mavs fan, Dallas had basically just stolen home court advantage. If the Mavs could just have secured a win at home, it would have made this a competitive series.
Any betting sports fan knows that the Mavericks are a longshot to make the second round, at best. When Dallas is a complete team, they can score with the Thunder pretty effectively, and challenge them most of the time. But when Dallas is missing Parsons and Williams, combined with a hobbled Matthews....that's already 3/5ths of their starting lineup.
Still, the Mavericks have persisted in doing all they can to keep this series as nasty as possible.
- Charlie Villanueva interrupted Westbrook and Payne's dance prior to Game 2.
- Villanueva continued rabble rousing in Game 4, when he elbowed Serge Ibaka on a rebound in garbage time. Ibaka was called for the technical.
- Raymond Felton tried to intimidate Steven Adams after being boxed out in Game 3. It resulted in a double technical. Felton complained to the press about Adams box out afterwards.
- After Game 3, Rick Carlisle declared the Thunder the "initiators" of aggression in the series.
- Salash Mejri grabbed the back of Durant's jersey as KD went for a layup during Game 4. Mejri then proceeded to clobber KD to the ground, and was called for a common foul.
- During Game 4, Salah Mejri tried to slap the ball out of Morrow's hands. While Morrow was sitting on the sideline. This resulted in Westbrook getting fired up, and a double technical was called.
I understand that being physical is part of the game, but this is just too much. The Memphis Grizzlies are in a similar situation to the Mavs. The Grizzlies were stocked with veterans and had high expectations. But they were swept, 4-0 by the mighty Spurs. Nevertheless, the Grizzlies aren't letting their rage out quite as publicly as the Mavs are. The Grizz took their losses honorably.
Also, consider that this type of physicality existed in the regular season, as well. J.J. Barea was constantly getting in Westbrook's grill during a January 13th game, where they both matched up at point guard. Barea succeeded in getting Westbrook to react enough to draw two technicals, resulting in a Westbrook ejection. But before the ejection was called, there was a minor scuffle. And Charlie Villanueva put his hand around Westbrook's neck during that scuffle, resulting in his ejection. Ibaka even got a technical for reacting.
I'm not here to call out the officials. Some things are missed, and I guarantee you that there's a laundry list of dirty plays that the Thunder have participated in. But I've never seen such poor sportsmanship and frustration from another team in a playoff series. But I'm a bit disappointed in the Thunder as well. The Thunder are clearly letting this get to their heads. KD's bad foul of Justin Anderson at the end of Game 4 is a great example. As Anderson drove to the hoop, KD hit him hard on the head. The foul was ruled a flagrant 2, KD was ejected, and the league later fined KD. To his credit, KD apologized. The apology was immediately after the game via text, and KD met with Anderson 45 minutes post-game to shake hands. Anderson and KD had the same high school coach, who was also present at the post-game meeting.
Still, that doesn't remove the fact that tempers are still flaring high, and the Mavs still want to win. In all honesty, this series can't end fast enough for Thunder fans. The whole nature of this series makes me think that something disastrous could happen in Game 5.
Anyway, in terms of actual basketball, this game is very winnable. Game 4 was similar to Game 2 in that Durant and Westbrook had less than impressive offensive performances. The Mavs were double-teaming the Thunder's stars, and constantly making moves to defend the basket. This left players like Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter to make the main plays, while Westbrook distributed. Defensively the Thunder weren't extremely effective, but bad nights from Matthews and Barea combined with the rim protecting of Steven Adams was enough to give the Thunder a solid edge for the whole game.
I'm expecting the Thunder to come out tonight with a sense of purpose and calm. Just one more win gets the Thunder to the opportunity they've awaited all season.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 117, Dallas Mavericks 99.
What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!
|2015-16 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Quarter-Finals Game 5|
|April 25th, 2016|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|7:00 PM Central Daylight Time|
|TV: Turner Network Television, Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, KTeXAs (CBS KTXA-TV 21 in Dallas)|
|Injury Report: Mitch McGary (Questionable), Nazr Mohammed (Questionable), Salah Mejri (Questionable), Deron Williams (Out), Chandler Parsons (Out), Jeremy Evans (Out)|
|The Playoff Matchups: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, Game 4|
|Raymond Felton||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Jose Juan Barea||SG||Andre Roberson|
|Wesley Matthews||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Dirk Nowitzki||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Zaza Pachulia||C||Steven Adams|