Game 3 Donuts: Myth-Bustin' & Truth-Tellin'
DONUT 1: The Dallas Mavericks' regular-season road success doesn't translate? A myth debunked.
When the Mavs won a roadie to close the Round 1 series against Portland and then opened with a Round 2 win at LA, it meant two away-from-home successes in five days – the same number of playoff road wins Dallas had managed in the previous five years.
But during the regular season (this year and for the past decade), Dallas was an elite road team. And here, the boistrous OKC fans were quieted ... as cool Lakers fans were for two games in LA before this ... and as rowdy Portland fans were in a Dallas-clinch Game 6 before that.
In Oklahoma City on Saturday, an early 23-point lead allowed the Mavs an eventual 93-87 win over the Thunder. And Kidd was proven right.
The Mavs now have four straight playoff road victories – again, twice as many as they'd managed in the previous 20 tries. And they now have a 2-1 series lead.
DONUT 2: The Thunder boast a versatile offense featuring free-throw-drawing forays to the hoop. A truth, but ...
Not on this night.
Late in the game, the Thunder began taking the ball to the rim and got OKC to within six with about three minutes left. But then they decided to return to the empty well, missing three consecutive 3s – meaning they were 0-of-17 from the arc and flirting with the all-time playoff oh-fer record.
Russell Westbrook finally made a bomb to save face. But Oklahoma City's singular dimension really limited its offense ... and now All-NBA first-teamer Kevin Durant has, over the course of two games, missed 13 straight 3's.
DONUT 3: Westbrook scored 30. So he's back ... right?
Westbrook made just three shots in Game 1, was benched for the entire fourth quarter in Game 2 and played an erratic Game 3 until the final period, when he scored eight straight OKC points to bring his team to within eight.
And really, he kind of played an erratic fourth quarter, too.
His shot selection remained a mess. His turnovers made for easy Dallas pickin's. His inability to get Durant the ball in winning spots is inexplicable.
So yes, he scored 30 ... but it took him 20 shot attempts to do it – hardly the model of efficiency against a Dallas team that works to be the definition of that word.
I'm not denying Westbrook's brilliant potential ... but what Brooks did with the All-NBA second-teamer in G2 and what he himself is doing bobbing up and down in this series ... I'm thinking Chris Paul and Deron Williams and a few others PGs might want to check those hanging chads.
DONUT 4: Dallas doesn't, can't, won't, win without Dirk. ... right?
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle argued against that sentiment all the way back to training camp, when he stressed"unselfishness and balance,'' and one of the reasons for that was Rick's anticipation of the rare off-night for Nowitzki, who in Game 3 made just 7 of 21 shots for his 18 points.
But you want "unselfishness and balance''?
Another guy, Shawn Marion, scored 18. Two other guys, Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson, scored 13. Two more guys scored eight.
"We're a group that's a little dependent on one another more than a lot of the teams left playing, so it's one of the things I love about our team,'' Rick Carlisle said. "Our collective spirit that we play with and our collective will have got to rise up.''
Dallas can win without Dirk ... so much so that it accomplished just that with The UberMan scoring 30 points fewer than he did in Game 1!
DONUT 5: The Mavs' defense – with lacking personnel like Dirk and Jason Terry and with its reliance on the zone – is a fraud?
Well, giving up 112 and 106 in the first two games makes it seem so, but ...
Carlisle spent the last two days prodding his veterans to reclaim the stature they'd built for themselves in the regular season, when this traditional offensive power looked just as stout on the other end. Yes, Nowitzki and Terry are something shy of heralded defenders. But Kidd and Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion ARE heralded ...
And they are among the reasons Oklahoma City fell behind 27-12 after one quarter. The Mavs defense forced OKC into lengthy possessions and then some poor shots, the Thunder making just 4 of 17 in the first quarter. Dallas eventually pushed its lead to 35-12 a couple of minutes into the second quarter, and if you give up 12 points in 14 minutes, it's impossible to argue against your defensive qualities.
That 12 points? A first-quarter season-low for OKC. The 36 points Dallas allowed in the first half? An OKC season-low, too.
"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."
Sounds like Rick is already preparing for two more days of prodding.
DONUT 6: OKC coach Scott Brooks has the answers? I argue that was a myth even when the answers turned out right.
This is no indictment of Brooks, but if the Game 2 decision with Westbrook was so grand, why didn't Coach use the same gimmick in Game 3? Where was Eric Maynor this time around?
Meanwhile, if coaching is also about the cliche of "halftime adjustments,'' how did the Thunder begin the second half by missing more shots, seven straight – lowlighted by Westbrook's airballing a jumper?
Brooks used cheerleader Nate Robinson in his backcourt in Game 1, Maynor running the show in Game 2 and Westbrook in control (and out of control) in Game 3.
Are these strategies or is Brooks just spit-balling?
DONUT 7: The Mavs aren't athletic? Tell it to Marion, who spent time guarding Durant, scored 18 points, muscled inside to make nine of 13 attempts, was a frequent finisher on the break, had four rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
The Matrix is still in there somewhere. "It's a great win for us,''said Marion, who apparently took some abuse from teammates in recent days for passivity. "We're back to playing how we winning most of these games in the playoffs."
DONUT 8: Centers Kendrick Perkins and Tyson Chandler have a rivalry? Myth.
Dallas' Chandler was responsible for 15 rebounds, six on offense. Kendrick Perkins is responsible for cheering for his backup, Nick Collison, doing his best to meet the challenge of guarding Dirk.
DONUT 9: Jason Kidd is too old to be on the same floor with the likes of Westbrook and Durant?
Stop it. You're embarrassing yourself.
After the game, Carlisle reminded the world that Kidd is one of Dallas' "superstars.'' It's not a word frequently used by some to describe the 38-year old, now more reliant on BBIQ than fat numbers.
He scored 13 points. He's got nine steals in the last two games. He was the orchestrator of a first quarter during which the Mavs had eight assists and the Thunder had none.
"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."
DONUT 10: You didn't stay up late to see the FS Southwest analysis on the TV postgame show?
Shame on you. But you are forgiven ... and here, you go ahead and catch up. ...
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DONUT 12: Jason Terry is going to "outperform the entire Thunder bench.'' It's happened, but it's apparently not necessary. The Dallas bench outscored the Thunder's 28-16 –and did so with Terry making just three of 12 shots. Terry and Nowitzki combining for 10-of-33 shooting in a win?
"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.
No, that's not the way Dallas draws it up … but re-drawing the picture is part of the Western Conference Finals' myth-busting and truth-telling.