G2 First Impressions: Mavs 'Fight' Not Enough
For the second straight game, Dallas will be haunted by failure to execute in crunch time of a winnable contest. You can call it a "game of inches,'' or you can shrug your shoulders and lament the bounces that didn't go your way. Either way, without prompt improvement in late-game execution, the defending champs' season will be facing execution soon after faltering 102-99 to Oklahoma City.
For the second straight game, Kevin Durant was held in check by some inspired Dallas defense, yet everything seemed to bounce the Thunder's way in the end. That's now four times Dallas has held a lead in Chesapeake Energy Arena in the final minute and still come up empty-handed this season.
How close? The Mavs' four games in OKC this year were decided by two and four points in the regular season and now one and three points in these playoffs. Four games, 10 total points.
Oklahoma City was led by Russell Westbrook's 29 points.
"He's been the guy that's been killing us,'' Dirk said.
Durant ultimately scored 26 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, but was only 5-of-17 from the floor and had seven turnovers while often being stymied by Shawn Marion's tenacious defense. Durant was buoyed by stroking 14 of his 16 free throws. Similarly, James Harden struggled from the floor, hitting only 2-of-7 shots, but finished with 15 points by virtue of his perfect 10-10 from the line. He also added five assists and seven rebounds. Derek Fisher also hit five of his six shots for 11 points.
The defending champions wasted another inspired effort from one of their offensive juggernauts. Last game it was Jason Terry. In Game 2 it was Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 31 points on 10-of-19 shooting, including a perfect 11-of-11 from the line. Aside from his defense, Marion added 15 points and eight rebounds. Delonte West added 13 points, eight in the third quarter. Terry also added 13 points but too many ill-advised decisions, either errant passes or foolish fouls, blunted his effectiveness and he would finish with a game-low minus-17 while on the court. Jason Kidd once again stuffed the box score with 10 points, six rebounds, seven assists and three steals, finishing with a team-high plus-13.
Overall, the Mavericks splashed in 42% of their field goals, but shot only 33% in the final quarter. Dallas once again held the rebounding battle close, narrowly losing 35-37. The Mavericks edged the Thunder in the paint 8-2 and limited their younger opponents to only a single fast-break basket.
Though DB.com considers it not good form to complain about the referees, their presence was far larger than most would like. In a physical game, these two teams split 71 free throws. Dallas hit 28 of their 32 while OKC went 37-of-39. It was encouraging to see Dallas punch-back in response to the Thunder's decidedly physical posture. Perkins' fouls on Dirk Nowitzki will be a talking point after this one, but Dallas gave as much as they got in G2.
And if the champs are going down, we will remember them going down with The UberMan fighting ...
Summarized Dirk: "He tried to bully me and I bullied back. We talked about some stuff and moved on."
Overall, Dallas is in a sense executing the plan: limiting Durant, not allowing a "windshield-wiper game" of letting the Thunder run up and down the court. However, it still is not enough. In two games Dallas and OKC are separated by a razor's edge: four points in two games (Dal-197, OKC -201). In this series' first two games there have been 26 ties and 32 lead changes. Dallas has 28 assists, Oklahoma City 30. OKC has turned the ball over 30 times to Dallas' 29.
That's how close these two teams are.
"After getting down 16 we played as well as we have this year,'' Dirk said. "We're not going to lay down. We're going to compete.''
But not even in this Mavs season of lowered expectations is "competing'' or "close'' quite enough. Not at this moment, anyway. "Close'' will not make up an 0-2 series deficit. "Close'' will not help Dallas find its crunch-time crispness.
For the Dallas Mavericks, "close'' isn't cutting it.
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