It had been an ugly game. To someone watching the game, without knowing the score, it would have seemed like the Thunder were up by 10 or maybe even 20. But the Mavericks, despite ugly, tired play throughout the game, had hung around.
It was now 81 to 85, just four points away. Dirk steps to the line, knocking down two. 83 to 85.
But then, a three point play by Ibaka. A missed three by Barea, and score by Kevin Durant, and all of a sudden, the easy two point lead had become seven, with momentum against the Mavericks.
That's when Dirk decided to change things. Last night, he had connected on his first corner quite possibly in years. It was not a common sight for him to spot up in the corner. But he did, and Kidd swung the ball to him. Without hesitation, Dirk splashed in the shot. Through and three. Durant misses and shot, and immediately, the ball is worked down the court. This time, Dirk's spotting up on the wing. He buries the shot and Ibaka plows into him immediately afterwards. Four point play.
With that, the Thunder's back was broken. They tried to hang around, but Dirk had ignited Dallas, and there was no stopping them anymore. Terry got the bounce on a three pointer on the very next possession. Kidd, who had thrown up bricks all night, hit a pullup jumper off a pick and roll. A few plays later, he knocked down a three from the top of the key. The dam which had stopped the Mavericks all night had been viciously demolished by Dirk, and the game was over.
- The offense when the bench is on the floor is absolutely stagnant. Really, its not the bench offense. Its the offense without Dirk. He truly is the torch that can cause everyone to catch fire, but without him, the entire team often looks like they are stumbling in the dark. Sure, its a given that a team will not play as good without one of the best players in the league, but not like this.
- Tyson Chandler is an absolute beast. 17 points, 18 rebounds, 7 offensive boards, and 7/8 shooting at the line? I've always been under the impression that his biggest weakness is on the glass, but nobody could stop him tonight. He was getting good position, then getting up high with two hands to snag them. And this was with Ibaka and Durant on the floor, two pretty tall guys who are athletic and can jump with him.
- Chandler had only one block, but his defense was absolutely fantastic as well. At one point, he stripped the ball from the Thunder player on back to back trips, forcing a turnover on the first and preventing an easy bucket on the second. Late in the game, but still enough time that OKC was not out of it yet, he had a fantastic defensive series. Westbrook came barreling into the lane, and Chandler jumped straight up, forcing Westbrook to throw up a wild layup. The rebound went to Krstic, and despite the fact that he had just been knocked back by a man running into him at full speed, he recovered in time to swat Krstic's shot away. Just incredible defense.
Again, on Chandler: his 80% free throw shooting is no longer a fluke. He has a smooth form that looked like it should go in, and if you look at the stats, he did have shoot 73% in Charlotte last year. That other center, Haywood, is shooting merely 24% from the free throw line. He shot 74% in 08-09 and 65% last year for the Mavericks, so I think his is more of a fluke.
- JJ Barea continues to provide ineptitude on offense. He has been a proven scorer in the past couple of years, but this year, he cannot get his shot to fall at all. As a result, defenses are sagging off of him and allowing him no room to drive and create, his strength. He's still giving total effort, though, grabbing five rebounds despite being as short as he is. (Note that he got only 14 minutes in this game, less than Stevenson, who had often been getting the short end of the stick in terms of minutes.)
- Dirk scored 34, ho hum. Seriously, why didn't he score 42 again? He sucks.
- Jason Kidd's clutch baskets at the end despite a horrendous shooting game previously reminded me a lot of this game.
- Good game for Caron Butler, whose jumper was falling. He still looks indecisive and lost at times, especially while driving, and he might be one of the worst finishers I've seen in the NBA. But as long as he can get those mid range jumpers to fall consistently and somewhat efficiently, he's doing his role.