One team was melting down. The other was rising up. A furious comeback fueled by the opposing team's careless ball handling, iffy shot selection and suspect defense.
A complete role reversal. Last year, that team was the Thunder. Last night, it was the Mavericks.
A amazingly huge opportunity to steal Game 1, suck the air from the Thunder and deliver a gut punch was quelled on Kevin Durant's soft jumper that bounced home.
There were so many things that happened in this game, so let's get into the bullets after the jump:
- After Dirk Nowitzki's and-one, all the Mavericks had to do was make it a half court game. Take quality shots, don't turn it over, force OKC to score in the half court, which it wasn't doing during that stretch the Mavericks appeared to take control. But then Dirk turned it over. And turned it over. And took one of the dumbest shots I've ever seen him take. I understand Dirk wanting to ice the game with a back-breaking three, but an isolation-jab-step three? Dirk was blowing by Thunder defenders all night and while it wasn't always resulting in a score, it would have put him in a better position. The turnovers are troubling and we'll get into it in the next bullet
- The Thunder's defense against Dirk was night-and-day compared to last year. Ibaka, Perkins and Collison crowded Dirk and trusted their defense behind them. Sometimes that meant Dirk got free throws or a layup, but it worked better instead of giving him space to rain midrange jumpers.
- OKC's ball denial was also huge down the stretch. Westbrook was practically playing a box-and-one defense against Terry down the stretch. It frustrated Dallas, it got them out of their rhythm and was the main reason the offense stalled. The Mavericks will HAVE to adjust to OKC's high pressure with perhaps more back cuts and back screens.
- Depth. In the playoffs, it rarely matters as rotations shrink, but it absolutely saved Dallas and kept them in the game last night. Rick Carlisle was rotating in fresh bodies throughout and while not every move always worked, it kept Dallas in the game with contributions all over.
- No Maverick played 40 minutes. In a one-point playoff game. Unreal.
- Vince Carter was just 5-of-14 from the field but he was wonderful. Carter defended and rebounded about as best as any Maverick player in the game and while that doesn't mean it was always the best defense, the effort was there. Carter was laying bodies on people, boxing out and grabbing seven rebounds. He attacked the rim and made an effort to not settle. He took some silly shots, but considering his effort, that was OK.
- If this is the Shawn Marion we're getting this series, the Mavericks have more than a good chance to win this series. Marion was glued to Durant, not giving him much space at all once Durant approached from the three point line. Marion also was great in getting into the lane and scoring off Dirk, Terry and Carter's double teams when they had it going. He blew some chippies for sure (I remember a specific time in the fourth where Marion spun around Durant and blew an easy layup) but overall, this was a fantastic game for Marion
- And he made three 3-pointers! Huzzah!
- Also, his defense on Durant in the finally moments was nearly perfect. Perfect would have been blocking the shot. Unfortunately, the Mavericks needed perfect. They needed this:
- Jason Terry was stone cold. But he needed more shots. The Mavericks went away from the JET-Dirk two game game down the stretch, partly because of OKC's fantastic ball denial of Terry. JET took good shots and made them too. If this is a sign of things to come, Dallas will have a great chance to steal game two.
- I'm not sure Brandan Wright is ready for the playoffs. The young and rather inexperienced big man looked lost on defense, missing rotations and allowing Ibaka to get free on more than one occasion when the Thunder penetrated. Luckily, Carlisle recognized this early and Wright only played seven minutes. Unfortunately, he only played Brendan Haywood 19 minutes. Haywood was a monster on teh boards and I'm unsure why Carlisle felt Mahinmi had to play more. Maybe it was because of the free throw shooting, but I bet OKC wouldn't have had as many paint buckets in the final minutes if Haywood was back there. At the very least, there wouldn't have been the same amount of and-ones.
- If Russell Westbrook does this (shooting midrange jumpers exceptionally well) then this series could end quickly. The Mavericks played beautiful defense with the right plan and executed it flawlessly: the kept Westbrook out of the paint for the most part, forcing him to hit free throw line-extended jumpers. But he made 'em. Credit to Westbrook, he was a monster.
- Dallas shot more free throws than OKC
- Get Game 2.