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Game Recap: Thunder Push Past Dallas, 121-116

The Okalahoma City Thunder (46-28) come into the American Airlines Center looking to clinch their first ever spot in the Western Conference playoffs.  No one expected the young Thunder to become such a large threat so quickly but they have arrived and many veteran teams would do well to avoid them in the playoffs.  The Dallas Mavericks (50-26) sit diametrically opposed to the Thunder as this team rides into the playoffs with a ton of veteran talent eyeing a deep run.  

Can the Mavericks best the Thunder or do the young guns drop the hammer on Big D?

The Game as a Whole:

The story of the game tonight featured starring roles for both turnovers and late fourth quarter runs.  The defensive light came on for the Mavericks just a tad too late as the Thunder surged on the back of a copious amount of Dallas turnovers.  Dallas coughed up the rock 18 times and that led to 29 points for a Thunder team that can easily beat you if they are given the confidence.

The Mavericks are not a team that is built to win high-scoring affairs, especially against a Thunder team that is going to be infinitely more athletic while looking to dictate their faster pace.  What is so surprising?  The Thunder didn’t need a monster game from Kevin Durant to pull out the win (23 pts on 7-18).  The Thunder sported a balanced attack with six players in double figures.  Not only that, but almost every player on the Thunder scored from the field with the exception of Ibaka. 

Dallas looked like they found themselves briefly with about 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter as they were getting stops and pushing the ball with ease.  A huge spark was provided when Dallas went to a full court press but a dagger three derailed any hopes of a Dallas win.  One has to wonder why the team didn’t stick with the press when it seemed to ruffle the Thunder a bit.

Let’s Look at the Quarters…

1st Quarter:
  • Erick Dampier gets the start tonight in place of Haywood. 
  • Nowitzki sees a late double team and misses his first shot. 
  • 11:05, Butler takes it hard to baseline and picks up two foul shots for his trouble. 
  • 10:31, Marion refuses to kill his dribble and gets all the way to the rim for a nice flip shot. 
  • 9:03, Dirk gets the two handed jam off of an over the top pass from Caron.  The chemistry between these two is starting to get scary.
  • 8:36, Splash down on another elbow jumper for Nowitzki.
  • The Mavericks need to be extra careful with Russell Westbrook. They are going to need a lot of help defense due to his speed.
  • 6:31, Dampier picks up his second foul and is headed to the bench.  Haywood clocks in at his part time job.
  • 6:15, Kidd hits a pull up jumper off the dribble.  He should start taking more of those to keep the defense honest.
  • 5:21, Veteran move by Butler who gets fouled on the pump fake.  The Thunder defense tonight is being extremely "jumpy" closing out hard on every shot.
  • 4:35, Dive cut from Marion nets the Mavericks 2-points.
  • 3:36, Mavericks narrowly avoid disaster as a foul is called on a potential Thunder steal.  Marion gets two more foul shots.
  • 3:32, Excellent defensive play from Marion leads to a steal but Nowitzki can’t hook up with Terry on the fast break.
  • 2:19, Kidd picks up his second foul late and Beaubois gets to come in and run the point without another point guard on the floor.
  • 1:36, Jason Terry drills a pass to Haywood off the dribble.  He doesn’t usually create shots for other Mavericks.
  • :44.9, Nowitzki tips in his own miss.  He is being more forceful on the glass tonight.
  • Not good for the Mavericks, Beaubois banged knees with Nick Collison as the quarter ended.  Hope the kid is all right.
2nd Quarter:
  • Marion also gets hurt at the end of the quarter, looks to be his side.
  • 10:51, Barea gets a block and Najera comes in to relieve Nowitzki.  This unit doesn’t have the greatest scoring potential.
  • 10:42, Najera picks up a technical foul, he hasn’t even been in the game more than 10 seconds.
  • 9:48, Mavericks may need a timeout, the Thunder are starting to run and put up points quicker than Dallas would probably like.
  • 8:52, Mavericks come back with a post play to Haywood (who draws a foul).  Best way to slow the game down is to continue to dump the ball down into the paint. 
  • 8:13, Terry gets a swat that leads to Barea’s first basket of the night.
  • 7:21, Butler has the presence of mind to punch the ball out to Barea to get a new 24.  Mavericks miss again but more Butler hustle gets the ball back due to a kick ball by the Thunder. 
  • 6:17, Haywood goes up for a nasty dunk but instead is on the wrong end of an Ibaka block.  Lucky for Haywood, the refs send him to the line.
  • Kidd picks up his third foul, time to head back to the bench.  Can’t remember the last time Kidd picked up three fouls this early.
  • 5:30, A drive to the basket for Nowitzki allows Dampier an open lane for a tip in.
  • 4:48, Stevenson is looking like he will get some good minutes tonight as he replaces Terry in the lineup.
  • 3:42, Dampier saves a ball and Stevenson pushes the ball into the heart of the defense drawing a ton of contact. 
  • 3:22, Marion, due to his back injury, tries for a breakaway lay up (rather than a dunk) and ends up blowing it.
  • 2:03, Kevin Durant bodies up Nowitzki and earns a foul.  Durant is not happy about the call even though he had both hands on Dirk.
  • :50.0, Haywood with a little fancy footwork in the paint as he doesn’t bring the ball back down and still scores.
  • Terry misses the buzzer beater and the Mavs go into the locker room down 8 points.
3rd Quarter:
  • Beaubois is back in the game after sitting out most of the second quarter.  Marion won’t be back with a strained muscle.  Mavericks have to be happy they have Caron right now.
  • 9:53, Kidd throws up a rare floater that rattles around before falling in. 
  • 9:29, Kidd goes coast-to-coast for a lay up after some nice Beaubois defense on Westbrook.
  • 8:43, Textbook ball movement for the Mavericks as Nowitzki receives a pass while slicing to the basket for the score.
  • Kidd is currently 5 for 5 and has 11 points on the night. 
  • 7:30, Jason Kidd gives the ball up immediately to a streaking Beaubois who hits on the reverse score.  Didn’t really need to ratchet up the difficulty that much on the shot.
  • 6:25, Beaubois absolutely decimates the Thunder defense as he gets the score plus the foul through four defenders.
  • 4:53, Game is starting to slip away from the Mavericks a bit.  Beaubois picks up his third foul and the Thunder are mercilessly attacking the boards.
  • The Mavericks are currently getting slaughtered on the short jump shot.  Turnovers are leading to a lot of open looks for the Thunder.
  • 3:15, Jason Kidd drills a three and is one of the few bright spots for the Mavericks tonight.
  • 2:54, Kidd jumps into Kevin Durant as he rushes out to the three-point line to meet him.
  • Kidd is powering the Dallas machine with 17 points.
  • 2:24, Nowitzki to the foul line after the lay up attempt.  Mavericks cut the Thunder lead to 10.
  • 2:07, Back to the line goes Nowitzki and the Mavericks have rattled off 8 points.  Life has returned to the American Airlines Center.
4th Quarter:
  • 11:15, Caron plays the best defense he can but Jeff Green still hits a contested jumper.  There was no way to play that possession better.
  • Terry is currently 0-6 from the three-point line.  He may want to drive a bit more. 
  • The Thunder second team has pushed the lead back up to 15.
  • After the timeout, Terry comes out without the facemask on (hoping to increase his luck) and Nowitzki nails a quick jumper.
  • 8:17, Kidd throws up a horrible over the shoulder shot that doesn’t fall and still gets his own rebound and puts it back before the shot clock expires.
  • 7:04, Kevin Durant rocks the building with a high-flying alley-oop.  That one can’t feel good for the Mavericks.
  • 6:22, Mavericks move to the full court press and get three baskets in less than ten seconds.
  • 5:50, Nowitzki goes 2 for 2 at the line and draws the Mavericks back to within 11 of the Thunder.
  • 4:37, Najera drops a three in and the crowd goes wild.  Dallas is feeding off the crowd and this young Thunder team is starting to look a little scared.
  • 3:29, Collison is on the receiving end of a Najera block.  Every team needs a good hustle guy.
  • 2:40, Nowitzki punches it into the lane and picks up the foul.  He has been attacking the paint when it matters most tonight.
  • 1:59, Mavericks are swarming in the paint and Collison draws a foul.  Collison makes 1 of 2 from the line.
  • 1:48, Najera isn’t a scoring machine but he is picking up the slack tonight, he hits on the reverse.
  • 1:07, Nowitzki gets the ball stuck on a miss and it’s actually a lucky break since it results in a jump ball.  Dallas can’t secure the tip.
  • :52.7, Barea draws the offensive foul on Westbrook and then breaks down the defense to draw the foul on offense.
  • The Thunder seemingly put the game away with a late three.
  • Beaubois loses the ball on a scoring attempt and Dallas is on its way to a loss.
  • Najera hits a running one handed three pointer, that one has to make the highlight reel for tonight.
  • Mavericks fall in a close one, 121-116.

Some Choice Statistics:

  • Dallas shoots 82% from the floor in the first quarter. 
  • The Mavericks packed on 56 points in the paint during this game.
  • After shooting 53.1% from the field, the Mavericks still get the loss.

Final Thoughts:

Taking two loses in a row isn’t the best tool to build confidence for a Dallas team that desperately needs it.  The Mavericks still have new pieces that may not be completely integrated and it will be interesting to see how they finally look in the "second season".