'Rest' Ends. 'Quest' Begins. It's Mavs-OKC!
Also a long time comin': Oklahoma City's elimination of Memphis, a seven-game series finally ended on Sunday while the Dallas Mavericks watched and waited ... and waited ... and waited.
"Five or six years ago I would have said I was worried about (the lengthy layoff),'' Dirk Nowitzki said this weekend. "But with the age of our team ... I'll take the rest."
Now, it can be argued that over the course of this long season, the Mavs and the Thunder are today different teams that they were months ago. Notable: In only one of the three meetings did both clubs have fully healthy lineups and all three games were staged before OKC made the trade with Boston to acquire center Kendrick Perkins trade.
But that's not to say there isn't something to be learned from the clubs' recent history together. So here's a quick recap of the season series, which the Mavs won 2-1.
First meeting - November 24, Dallas at Oklahoma City: 111-103 Mavs
After a close first half, Oklahoma City managed to hold Dallas to 6-of-23 shooting in the third quarter. With 7:43 left Dirk and Jet combined for a fast 10-0 run to put Dallas up 93-90. The Mavericks finished the game with another 12 unanswered points. Dirk led all scorers with 34 points, Tyson Chandler punched in 17 points and 18 boards and OKC's Kevin Durant notched a 32/11 double-double. The Dallas win stopped Oklahoma City's five-game win streak.
"They made their run at the best time possible for them. Right in the fourth quarter, and then we couldn't really close the gap and come back." -Thabo Sefolosha
"[The players] never quit on a game, never quit on a situation, they keep encouraging each other, and we just look for good things to happen." -Coach Rick Carlisle
Second meeting - December 27, Dallas at Oklahoma City: 103-93 Mavs
The Night We Lost The UberMan -- Dirk Nowitzki landed badly after hitting a jumper, screwed up his knee, and left the game early in the second. Everybody in the Dallas rotation managed to pick up the slack, particularly Shawn Marionm with 20 off the bench. Faced with stout defense and Jet coming alive late, the Thunder caved in the fourth quarter.
"That was just an amazing win. I was back here yelling so loud. It was an unbelievable second half. Guys were stepping up left and right, making big shots. And the defense in the fourth quarter was amazing." -Dirk Nowitzki
"This is a veteran ball club and we've pretty much seen everything. Dirk is very pliable and durable. But when he left, I don't think anybody blinked. I think everybody just stayed the course." -Jason Kidd
Final meeting - January 6, Oklahoma City at Dallas: 99-95 Thunder
Life without Dirk (sprained knee) and Caron (surgery to fix a popped kneecap) was no fun at all. Shawn Marion started the game red-hot and finished with 25 points. Jason Kidd, however, punched a donut hole 0-of-7 from the floor. Dallas kept the game competitive until hitting a five-and-a-half-minute stretch with no field goals. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 28.
"I really thought our undoing was not having a stronger first half . . . We had ten turnovers for 12 points and a lot of them were timely -- lot of those four-point plays, where you don't get two and they get two . . . They're a good team, they made some good things happen in the second half." -Coach Rick Carlisle
"Right now, we just have to right the ship, be patient, not get too crazy. And we've got to play with the players we have." -Tyson Chandler
It's our one-on-one Video Visit with DeShawn Stevenson, with insight into trying to contain Kevin Durant ...
Some extra food for thought ...
It came over the course of the season, the proximity of the teams causing some to discuss the notion of Dallas/OKC as a "rivalry.''
During the year, Terry scoffed at the notion.
"I was in Spain with Serge Ibaka, and he made it a point to tell me that they're our rivals,'' Jet said. "And I was like, ‘You guys haven't really beat us that many times.' And he was like, ‘No, we look at y'all as a rival, and we're gonna try to beat you every time we play.' If your name is not the San Antonio Spurs, I don't think there's a rivalry there. But we know that they're a dangerous team."
The Rest is over. The Quest is here. And yes, the danger is present. But ... "It doesn't become a rivalry until you have playoff victories and playoff losses and it's multiple years,'' OKC coach Scott Brooks responded during the year when the subject was broached. "With the location, it does make sense. But right now, they've been places we want to go. And until it becomes a rivalry, we have to be able to get to those places."
The Thunder and the Mavs are nowabout to be in those places.
Here's the full series schedule (all starts at 8 p.m. our time):
Game 1: Tue., May 17 in Dallas, ESPN
Game 2: Thu., May 19 in Dallas, ESPN
Game 3: Sat., May 21 in OKC, ESPN
Game 4: Mon., May 23 in OKC, ESPN
Game 5: Wed., May 25 in Dallas, ESPN
Game 6: Fri., May 27 in OKC, ESPN
Game 7: Sun., May 29 in Dallas, ESPN