After a one point loss, it is so tempting to remember. That Serge Ibaka three right before half time, his second all season. Those three straight completely missed hacks on Dirk to start the game. The wide open three that Kidd thought about, and thought about, and missed, or that three that Dirk took early in the shot clock, over Kendrick Perkins, trying to put the game away.
But that’s not how basketball works. Probably, almost certainly. The beauty of basketball is that when it’s close, every shot makes it a different game.
Yes, the Mavericks wasted a lot, last night. Especially, an unreal shooting night from Jason Terry who nevertheless did not get a lot of shots (8-10). An actually excellent shooting night from Dirk, whose 8-18 came after a 1-7, so 7-11 from then on, and whose 1-7 should really have been at least a 1-4 with six free throws, so more realistically an 8-15. Three three balls from Shawn Marion.
And yes, all the stats and odds are now firmly in OKC’s favor, as they probably were ever since the Mavericks decided to grow old.
Still: The Mavs did not waste, for example, a 5-14 night from Vince Carter, a 2-8 night from Jason Kidd or a 2-5 night from a very ill D. West. They didn’t waste a wonderful combined 2-9 from our three centers whom the announcers were kind enough to call our "three headed monster". My friend suggested this was presumably because they look terrible and no one wants to be near them.
In fairness, Hay grabbed 7 boards, 5 o-boards in his 19 minutes, to Mahimni’s 4 in 22, and Brandan Wright didn’t play.
The Mavs CAN play better. They just now really, really have to.
On the same night that Tyson Chandler, who had more than a little of what Delonte had, went 0-3, turned it over 7 times, and apparently killed LeBron James (given the deficit, let nobody say that game was won by flopping. Let everybody say, though that LBJ flopped like an Italian soccer player over and over and over again, and that he ain’t doing himself many public relations favors for anyone who actually watched the game)---the Mavs missed Tyson Chandler more than maybe they had all season.
Not for the boards—the Mavs actually more or less dominated those, 42-36—but for his unrivaled ability in P & R defense. Time and again Russell Westbrook wandered into the teeth of the Dallas defense and took an easy shot. As the Mavs began to adjust, hedging the roll, Westbrook and Durant began dumping it off to one of their high-flyers.
The Thunder first tied it up with a Russell Westbrook and-one with 6:13 left. Their erasure of a 7 point lead with 2:16 to go was capped by a Serge Ibaka and-one. Their first lead came on a Serge Ibaka and-one a minute later. If the Mavericks don’t leave the backdoor cut open, do they give Wesbrook the easy one? If they just let the guy dunk twice, do they win the game?
We’ll never know. We do know that none of our centers can do anything about that, and the Mavericks will have to find a way to survive it.
But they can play better. They can have a healthy Delonte, a more efficient Vince, and a few more points from their centers. They can have more shots for Dirk and Terry. They can do that. And they can play the same level of defense because, frankly, it wasn’t very good.
In basketball, when the game is close, every shot changes everything. It’s the beauty of the game. It’s true for series’, too. And if the Mavericks win on Monday it won’t matter how they got home 1-1.
It changes everything.