First Impressions: OKC Sweeps Mavs
While the defending champions Dallas Mavericks fought all night with perhaps their most complete effort of this short series, they were found wanting against a younger, more talented Thunder team.
The third member of Oklahoma City's elite perimeter trio, Harden had 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting while adding five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Scoring champion Kevin Durant added 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting on a game-high 11 rebounds with four assists. Russell Westbrook and Derek Fisher each added 12 points apiece. Westbrook added five boards, six assists and three steals and if Mavs fans want to stretch for positives, we can point out that Westy needed 12 shots to achieve his 12 points.
Meanwhile Fisher, proving his ex-Lakers worth (in contrast to former Laker-turned-Mavs cancer Lamar Odom) hit five of six shots with three boards and three assists.
As the defending champions were fading quietly into the night, Dirk Nowitzki lead all scorers with a game-high 34 points on 10-of-25 shooting, on a similarly game-high 13-of-13 from the line, with five rebounds and four assists. Jasons Kidd and Terry, in possibly their final games as Mavericks, scored 16 and 11 points respectively. Kidd had another solid game with seven rebounds and eight assists. Unfortunately, Terry needed 12 shots to achieve his 11 points, going 2-of-4 on 3's in what might be his Dallas swan song. ... ane maybe that's why we feel symbolism in him stripping down at the end of the game, giving away most of his wardrobe to fans.
Jet was given the starting nod, Carlisle wanting to pour everything into a good Dallas start. Terry did not provide his typical spark, however, and now must face a summer of uncertainty, much like his Mavericks brethren.
"I think a lot of our guys will be back,'' Carlisle said, but in fact, even the coach's contract is up. So for now, uncertainty reigns.
Overall, OKC shot 52% from the floor, including 65% in the fourth quarter to ruin three quarters of inspired Dallas effort. Meanwhile, Dallas only shot 22.2% in the final frame, a series low, while hitting 41.8% overall.
Dallas had a 13-point lead in the second half but failed to score a field goal in the final 5:47 of the game.
For the game, Dallas and Oklahoma City matched each other on the boards, grabbing 39 rebounds each. However, the Thunder nearly doubled-up Dallas in the paint, scoring 52 points to the Mavericks' 28 in the painted area. OKC had 12 fast-break points to Dallas' five.
A sweep speaks volumes. It is difficult to beat a team four times in a row, especially the defending champions. However, on this night, OKC clearly demonstrated itself as the heir apparent in the Western Conference, snatching the torch from the elder statesmen Mavericks.
While it is perhaps an false and incomplete narrative given how much change the Mavericks have undergone in this shortened season, Oklahoma City clearly deserves credit. Carlisle is right; they are the better team and maybe even the class of the conference, especially when future potential is considered. As much as this cobbled-together Mavericks team attempted to put up a fight -- and as much as we can point point odd bounces that were costly in close Games 1 and 2 and in G4 as well -- the Thunder clearly out-classed Dallas in most facets for four straight games.
The sweep will leave an ultimately bitter taste in the mouths of Mavericks Nation. And yet, with a sweeping change of strategy in the midst of a CBA-impacted and compacted season, hiccups and disappointments were almost inevitable. With the adoption of the plan to chase big-name free agents, maybe those remaining in the locker room were left feeling like stepchildren in the grand machinations of the Mavs Brain Trust. Some will always argue that such plans risked leaving certain central members of the Mavericks past feeling disenfranchised and such sentiments can undercut the desire to defend the franchise's only championship.
Or maybe OKC was just better.
Here comes summer. Here comes pressure. The front office must produce bountiful fruit (in the form of free agents) or risk being roundly ridiculed by those who never were on board with their high-risk plan all along.
The 2011-12 team might be scattered to the wind, but redemption is possible. With nothing left to play for but pride, the remnants of the Mavericks only championship team did battle. Some of the pieces are in place.
Some more pieces will be added. Banners Fly Forever, but for now, Carlisle is right.
The better team won.
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