All-Access Game 3: Dallas Up 2-1 On OKC
THE FOREWARD: Entering the fourth quarter, Dirk Nowitzki was 3-of-12 from the floor for eight points. And Jason Terry was 1-of-8 for seven points. Now guess the score.
We'll go out on a limb and predict that you wouldn't have had the Dallas Mavericks up 14. The Thunder would make their push, handing more than a cupful of anxiety to Mavs' fans, cutting what was once a 23-point lead to four with 24, then again with 17 seconds to play before Dallas put away the 93-87 win … to take a 2-1 lead in the series and regain home-court advantage.
THE TOP STORY: You won't have to talk to many Dallas fans to believe the officiating should be the key talking point after Game 3, thanks in large part to the fact that the Thunder tripled the Mavs' free-throw attempts (36-to-12) prior to the onset of intentional fouls in the final 33 seconds, but we're going to avert our eyes from that for a moment.
Instead, we'll begin with the fact that the team that has won Game 3 has taken the series in each of the last nine instances Dallas split the first two games of a best-of-seven series.
With Dirk Nowitzki not playing at his peak level -- or even average level -- and with Jason Terry also underperforming, the Mavericks discarded another ghost haunting the failures of their recent past and set aside the label of a one-man team … for at least one game.
This was not Dirk dominating, only to find himself surrounded by the opposition at the center of a battlefield with his teammates having succumbed to the adversity of their counterparts … leaving their star alone to fend off insurmountable odds.
No, this was Shawn Marion having his biggest game of the postseason (18 points, four rebounds, two steals, two blocks) at both ends of the court. Jason Kidd reminding us all of the fact that basketball's mystery, which so many have sought to solve, is merely an algorithm he long ago defined, and now enacts with simple, and often spectacular grace. It was Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood joining Marion to form a wall of shoulders more than capable of supporting the weight of a defense.
Beside this core (of which Dirk and Terry are certainly key pieces) it was role players like DeShawn Stevenson, Peja Stojakovic and JJ Barea doing what was required of them to help deliver a manageable game to the plate of The UberMan and the Jet in the fourth quarter.
They did so with some offense, but it was the defense that was able to limit the negative impact of an off night from their two leading scorers. Through three quarters, OKC was shooting 30.9 percent. Kevin Durant, who Marion took the lead on slowing down, was 4-of-18 from the floor. And, the Mavs had given themselves the cushion they would need to bear the bruises of a Thunder surge without sacrificing the win.
"Great defensive effort, I think, early on, it really set the tone for us," Dirk said. "‘Trix really taking the challenge, I thought Stevenson was great early, and really that set our offense up there in the first half. We didn't really call a lot of plays out there, we just played off our defense, moved the ball, got some good shots, got some good looks, and really executed there well, I thought, in the first half."
The whistles may have been packed away in respects to Dallas, but Dirk pocketed his increasingly evident frustration and devoured the meal laid before him.
Through three quarters, Dirk and Terry combined to go 4-of-20 from the floor for 15 points.
In the fourth, the duo was 6-of-13 for 16 points.
The defense, and the team as a whole, delivered the opportunity … Dirk and Terry simply took advantage of it.
"And then, there in the fourth quarter, (I) just found a little airspace on a couple pull-ups," Dirk said. "I think that was the way to go, obviously didn't get a lot of whistles going to the basket, So, had to go with the one and two dribbles and up, and that created some separation, got some good looks and was able to knock some down."
Sure, there were the seven turnovers by Nowitzki (three in the fourth quarter), but considering the fact that he had never before done this in 115 playoff games, and only five (including this game) times total over 1,109 games (playoffs and regular season combined) … we're prepared to let it go as an extreme anomaly better left alone.
In case you're interested: Dallas has been 4-5 in those Game 3s after splitting the first two. They are now 5-5, and have retaken control of the series.
THE MATRIX AND THE ONE: Shawn Marion is the Matrix. Jason Kidd is The One.
Could the timing have been any better? Could Marion have chosen a better moment for this team to regain his late season form and set a 2011 playoff-high with 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting?
At this moment in time, we're forced to say "no." What say you, Trix?
The shots within a few feet of the rim that seemed to find a home anywhere but in the net during the previous two games suddenly found their course corrected, just as he dug in defensively and found a way to disrupt the league's leading scorer … enabling the Mavs to endure the struggles of their own star.
Just as Marion bounced back to form, Jason Kidd reminded us all that he is … Jason Kidd.
Much like Marion, Kidd orchestrated the game at both ends of the court. He came up with timely defensive plays and manipulated the offense with masterful control. Whether it was blocking a Russell Westbrook drive (even if they officially count it as a steal in the boxscore) or drawing a 3-point foul on Kevin Durant by getting him into the air and making certain contact would follow, Kidd found ways to pry cracks into porous crevasses in the Thunder's approach.
He finished with 13 points, eight assists, six rebounds, four steals and two turnovers. And, as is so often the case, those numbers only provide a glimpse to his true impact.
STOP THE FLOP: Will this be another rescinded T on TY?
We suppose that it's nice that Harden has contributed something besides scoring in one game ... with flops in the other two ...
THE ENTERTAINING ONE-SIDED BATTLE: Kendrick Perkins was a great acquisition by the Thunder at the trade deadline. He will solidify their interior defense and provide them with a much-needed boost in toughness.
And, the Mavs couldn't be happier about that.
In almost every conceivable manner, Tyson Chandler is dominating Perkins.
Perkins is left to parlor tricks on the court with meaningless shoves and unnoticed attempts at intimidation, and calculated words to the press left to wallow in the purgatory of the ignored off of it.
For the second consecutive game, Chandler tripled Perkins' rebound total (13-to-4 in Game 2, 15-to-5 in Game 3) and, with no fear of what Perkins is capable of on offense, was able to roam on defense to alter almost every shot attempt taken within the paint.
Perk's stats are about as handsome as he is.
Chandler finished with eight points on 3-of-3 field goals, 15 rebounds, including six at the offensive end, two steals and a block.
We go into the locker room with TY:
BIG WOOD: Prior to Game 3, Brendan Haywood made news by questioning the Mavs defense, both in approach and effectiveness.
During Game 3, he let us know that if the defense were to fail again, the blame would not fall to him. The stats and the minutes may leave one to conclude his impact was minimal, but the numbers fail you here.
Those numbers: four points, two rebounds and one block … what's left from the page: he was instrumental to maintaining the defensive disposition when Chandler left the court early in the game.
"To hold a very good offensive team," Dirk said, "or explosive offensive team to 36 percent shooting at home, that's very good and really won us the game."
Credit Haywood as one of many contributing to this defensive effort. And check him out, chillin' ...
SO, IS WESTBROOK ‘A STORY' NOW?: What we just witnessed was one of the least efficient "superstar'' tandems in the NBA.
No, no. Not Dirk and Jet. Jet didn't make All-NBA second-team, did he?
Our boys Mike "Machine'' Marshall and Kevin Brolan are playing a game on Twitter, fake-encouraging "Westy'' (or "Shawty'') to keep shooting, to keep performing like HE's "the man'' … and by gosh, Westy got himself 30 points … on 20 shots, along with a skillion turnovers and poor decisions and tough-guy posturings.
Kevin Durant had a poor night, making just seven shots. But his heart seems in the right place (and no, we don't mean "in his backpack.'')
Westy? It's hard to make excuses for him. Some are trying. But if you don't think his seven turnovers are meaningful, and if you don't think Dallas would rather he shoot jumpers than KD, you obviously haven't discussed the matter with the Mavs coaching staff.
But keep shootin', Shawty. And KD, you go ahead and keep "betting your whole house'' on stuff.
FOR OUR SPANISH-SPEAKING READERS: And for Miss Universe ...
THE NUMBERS GAME: Let's crunch:
*Kevin Durant has now missed 13 straight 3's in this series.
* The Mavs now have four straight playoff road victories – twice as many as they'd managed in the previous 20 tries.
* Oklahoma City fell behind 27-12 after one quarter, the Thunder making just 4 of 17 shots. That 12 points? A first-quarter season-low for OKC. The 36 points Dallas allowed in the first half? An OKC season-low, too.
*Let's not be too shocked by the outcome; the Mavswere the only team to win two games at Oklahoma City (30-11) in the regular season.
*And one more number: NBATV offers up Saturday's top five highlights:
THE BENCH TALLY: In the Game 1, the Dallas bench outscored their Thunder counterparts by 31 points. In Game 2, they were outscored by 21.
Even as Terry struggled with his shot, Barea scored only four points, and Peja did not explode; the Dallas bench was able to post a 28-to-16 advantage in Game 3.
For the third consecutive game, the winner of the Battle of the Benches left the court with the victory.
QUOTEBOARD: What they're saying in the locker room …
*"Jet and myself were off, so I guess we'll take the win, if our top two shooters and top guns are off like that and we still won the game,'' Dirk said.
* "Nothing he does surprises me,'' Brooks said of Kidd, "other than playing the way he's playing at his age. I give him a lot of credit."
"We were much better defensively tonight and we had to be,'' Carlisle said, calling the effort "championship-level defense. … The first two games we were horrible. Now the challenge is to sustain it."
Check DB.com for the full Quoteboard coming up! And right now ...
Dirk and Durant try to summarize ... Carlisle and Brooks also take their stabs ...
MAVSELLANEOUS: Singing The National Anthem: Hanson?! We'd like to see the Mavs come back in Game 5 and roll out our version of Hansen. But we're not sure Dale can sing. … So Brooks plays his bench in Game 1 (all the way down to Nate) and they lose. So he's wrong. In Game 2, he plays his bench (so much so that Maynor replaces Shawty) and they win. So he's "ballsy'' and "brilliant.'' And in Game 3, he plays Westy but doesn't much use Maynor. Is he dumb again yet? … We don't know if we're supposed to tattle like this, but here goes: The Thunder games feature WAY pumped-in crowd noise. One time, the fake crowd noise was accidentally shut off – and Loud City was in a complete hush. … It's weird to think The UberMan just scored 30 points fewer than he did in Game 1. We see him bouncing right back in G4 if Dallas immediately goes to setting him at the top of the key to work, free of double-teams, against Collison ...
FEAR THE BEARD?!: ESPN's telecast including something about "Notable Playoff Beards.'' Those honored included Bill Walton, Clyde Frazier, Kareem and ... James Harden?
Are we really that starved for legit/humorous angles?
James Harden -- a young player suddenly elevated to Kareem level because he scored 23 points in a playoff game (where's Harden's statue!!) -- had just seven points and was 2-9 from the floor on Saturday.
You know who else in this series in sporting a beard? Letsee ... JJB. He has a beard. Oh, and Tyson Chandler. Bearded. Um, Peja's had that distinctive black beard for about a decade now.
Anybody else gotta beard?
Yeah. Look to the right. Dirk has a beard. Too bad ESPN doesn't find him to be "notable'' enough.
THE OFFICIATING: It's easy not to press this issue too hard with a win in hand, but it's hard to deny the fact that consistency was not a trait belonging to the calls made in Game 3. Nick Collison played outstanding defense on Dirk, and that shouldn't be taken away from him, but the physical style of play he employed was the precise style drawing constant whistles at the other end of the court. He was great … the issue is that it felt like Dallas wasn't given the chance to match. Two quick facts:
One, Dirk Nowitzki did not attempt a free throw granted by a personal foul committed against him until 33.6 seconds remained in the game. He took seven shots in the paint and was particularly aggressive in the fourth quarter … but it took intentional fouls to get him to the line.
"Well, they're making a great effort on him," Carlisle said of the Thunderon Dirk. "Now, I don't know in terms of legal limits, I believe the line may be crossed at times. And if so, the league will see that."
Two, the Mavericks attempted 42 shots in the paint, OKC took 41, and both teams scored 42 points there. Yet, prior to the onset of intentional fouling by the Thunder, the free-throw total was at 36-to-12 in favor of OKC.
THE FINAL WORD: Dallas gets 31 points from Dirk and Terry combined on 10-of-33 shooting (30.3 percent), find themselves at the wrong end of a huge free-throw disparity, were outrebounded 45-to-37, shot 43.9 percent from the floor as a team … and won the game.
Jet looks forward to better days while expressing happiness in the defensive work ...
Rick Carlisle has preached the importance of "disposition'' and defense all season, and his insistence upon it was on display in Game 3. With their shots errant and their leading scorers out of rhythm, Dallas never allowed the game to get out of control.
Their reward: they are now up 2-1 in the Western Conference Finals.