Welp. Welp. Welp.
Look I'm not going to sugarcoat it. I didn't expect Dallas to win this game (or the series), but holy shit that was awful. The Mavs got dominated more thoroughly than the Rockets today, and I didn't think that was possible. All I can say is that I hope most of you were watching the Stars playing fun hockey and taking a 2-0 lead instead of the first half of this game.
I'll probably keep this brief, since I'm sure everyone wants to forget this game as quickly as possible. But there are a few things we need to discuss.
What the hell was that Rick?
Okay. I have to start by saying that we all know Rick Carlisle is a genius black magic sorcerer of a coach, who has more basketball wisdom than I will ever know. He's incredible and in my opinion, second only to Gregg Popovich.
But I'm seriously over the way he treats rookies. Just watching this game tonight, it really felt like he cared more about proving some tiny point to Justin Anderson and Salah Mejri than he did about, you know, winning the game.
Salah got the start, but was yanked very quickly. As if he was the problem, and not the perimeter defenders who kept giving up uncontested 3s. Or Deron Williams, who dribbled around, almost never passed, and threw up bad shots with impunity. But Salah was the one that absolutely needed to be taken off the court. Meanwhile, Justin Anderson played all of four minutes in the first half. In case you need a reminder, these two starting was a major key to the insane run Dallas went on the last month to even make the playoffs. But JJ's back at like 40 percent strength, so apparently that was all out the window.
I really didn't understand Carlisle's decision to go small against OKC. I was completely unsurprised when it led to the Thunder quickly building a double digit lead which they only built on as the game went along. Barea has been huge with D-Will injured, and I know Rick has a soft spot for the crafty little guy. But I still think it was a mistake to start him instead of Simba. Not least because JJ reinjured his groin and did not return after halftime. But instead of realizing his mistake, and going back to what had been working, Carlisle doubled down, starting Felton in Barea's place. And the OKC lead continued to build. With less than a minute left in the 3rd, the Thunder led by FORTY-ONE POINTS. IN A PLAYOFF GAME.
A number of Mavs writers and fans spent most of the third quarter asking some variation of "where is Justin Anderson?" If only Rick had checked his twitter timeline at some point in this game.
Everyone talked about how Rick Carlisle was Dallas's biggest advantage in this series. Tonight it felt like he was a major liability. Probably he'll come back in game 2 with something entirely different and awesome. That's what he does. But for now, I am beyond frustrated with how he has handled two promising young rookies who have been a huge factor in Dallas making the playoffs. I hope he learns from this.
Dirk is still Dirk
Am I the only who feels like Dirk was the only one who knew or cared that tonight was a playoff game? Friend of the site Jason Gallagher got it:
When your 37 year old franchise player who can barely walk is still the only one on the roster that's worth a damn. pic.twitter.com/KizBnyKEBP— Jason Gallagher (@jga41agher) April 17, 2016
Dirk had 18 points tonight. And he didn't play at all in the 4th quarter because.... well, why would he? No other Mav broke double digits in scoring. (For the record, my boy Dwight Powell was the second leading scorer with eight.)
Throughout the game, I felt very distinctly that Dirk really wanted to win this game. Unfortunately, he got exactly zero help from his teammates. I can't even imagine how frustrated he must be with the effort and efficiency tonight. And personally, I'm really tired of seeing this repeat itself over and over every year since the title.
The offense was just so so so bad
Anyone want to guess what Dallas was shooting at half? Anyone? No? Bueller?
The Mavs shot 26 percent from the floor in the first half. And missed every single one of the eight threes they took. Things got marginally better in the second half, but that is hardly anything to write home about. Dallas shot 30 percent from the floor and 22% from 3. Dallas scored 33 points in the first half. At one point, I began to question whether they would break 50 at all in the game.
In the end, the Mavs scored 70 points. Which is officially the lowest amount of points Dallas has ever scored in a playoff game. The 38-point deficit was the 2nd largest margin of loss in Dallas Mavericks playoff history. However, for the record, the Thunder defense was absolutely suffocating tonight. This was the most locked in I think I've seen them all year. They made everything hard, but Dallas should've adapted at least a little. They didn't, and they got destroyed as a result.
So yeah, historically bad. This was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad game.
Russ and KD are an unstoppable force of nature
Even if everything I just complained about had been perfect, I'm not sure it would've mattered. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are both among the top 10 players in the NBA. They are insanely ridiculously good at basketball. KD has 23 points on 7-15 shooting to go with 9 rebounds. Russ had 24 points, 11 assists, and 5 rebounds. And neither played all that much in the second half.
Maybe the loss was inevitable. Those two superstars are like a fiery blinding supernova of basketball brilliance. But there's no reason this game couldn't have been closer and harder fought. Rick Carlisle is one of the best ever, and so is Dirk. This team is made up of a lot of savvy, knowledgeable and gritty vets, along with a couple of athletic, determined rookies. Admittedly, this team is really banged up, but dammit, they just got run the hell out of the gym.
It was discouraging. But the Mavs have to move on, and so do we. Hopefully Rick learns from this game and adapts his lineups and strategy accordingly. Hopefully Dirk's teammates play a bit smarter and harder next time around. Hopefully Russ and KD aren't quite as blazingly destructive. Etc. Etc.
So yeah, have a drink. Get some sleep. Forget this frustration.
And for those of you in Dallas and surrounding areas, come watch Game 2 with Mavs Moneyball at the Granada Theater. We can all commiserate together. Misery loves company.