G1 First Impressions: OKC 99, Mavs 98

'Imagine what could be accomplished,' Mavs sports psychologist Don Kalkstein tweeted recently, 'if we doubted our fears instead of our dreams.' The beauty of Mavs-Thunder is that the defending-champ Mavs have no fears. The nightmare, though, is that in a 99-98 Game 1 loss, OKC hit a final-tick shot to win, continuing an uncanny run of last-second Mavs misfortune. First Impressions:

"Imagine what could be accomplished,' Mavs sports psychologist Don Kalkstein tweeted recently, 'if we doubted our fears instead of our dreams.''

That's the sort of BBIQ that permeates the locker room of the Dallas Mavericks, and it is the backbone of the defending champ's willingness to plow forward despite Saturday's soul-crushing Game 1 loss at OKC. There is allure in the fact that the Mavs and the Thunder are, as we predicted, separated by a whisker. That is why Dallas -- which has seen it all -- has no fears.
But then there is the nightmare.

In this 99-98 Game 1 loss, OKC hit a final-tick shot to win, Kevin Durant topping a poor shooting night with a fortuitous bounce with 1.5 seconds remaining.

"It looked bad when it left my hands,'' said KD, who scored 25 but shot 10-of-27. "I was struggling all night with my shot, missing open ones. Thank the Lord that one went in, man.''

For this year's Mavs, the Lord works in mysterious ways -- and we'll stop there before we tumble into sacrilege. This outcome represents a continuation of an uncanny run of last-second Mavs misfortune: KD's shot -- which was released over the solid defense of Shawn Marion with help from Ian Mahinmi -- caromed off the front of the rim and then clanked against the backboard above the square before settling in a place it truly did not belong -- is the fifth game-winning shot made against the Mavs in the final five seconds of contests this season.

"We were right there,'' says Dallas Mavericks standout Dirk Nowitzki, who was also plagued by late-game turnovers. "We made some mistakes, little stuff like that puts them in transition. We didn't make the plays down the stretch."

That's been a season-long issue here, and at some point a "fluke'' matures into a "habit''; really, think about that aforementioned number; 67 games this year. Five improbable finishes all falling in favor of the bad guys. That's a "miracle'' every 13 games or so.

And then there is this: The Mavs have now played three games at OKC this season, a place that is supposed to be a pit for the visitors. Dallas has indeed lost all three of the meetings -- but has done so despite leading at some point in final minute of each contest.

Russell Westbrook led OKC with 28 points and five assists and three steals but it was Durant's shot that will be the resonant tale of Game 1. The Thunder only received points from five different players, but Serge Ibaka had 22 unexpected points, including far too many dunks, six rebounds and five big blocks. James Harden also added 19 points, including 9-of-10 at the free-throw line, to go along with six rebounds.

An uncharacteristically inefficient Dirk did score 25 points, but did so on just 8-of-18 shooting. He struggled to get calls all evening despite repeated aggressive drives to the basket. Jason Terry played a superb game, chipping in 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting with five assists to finish with a game-high +-eight -- and the argument made by Dirk and others that Jet didn't get enough late-game touches. Shawn Marion also added 17 points and eight rebounds on 7-of-14 shooting, but could not get off a shot before time expired after receiving the inbounds pass with 1.5 seconds remaining after Durant's game-winner.

Overall, Dallas shot 43.6 percent from the field but hit 10-of-22 from the arc, thanks in large part to Marion's 3-of-5 and Terry's 4-of-5. (OKC splashed in 48.1 percent of its field-goal attempts.) However, the Mavericks only shot 37 percent in the fourth quarter.
Encouragingly, against the No. 1 FT-shooting team in the NBA, Dallas had as many makes (20) as OKC had attempts from the line. That's why it's bogus to put this on the officiating crew of Joey Crawford and pals for not aiding Dirk in his battle against clutching-and-grabbing defense; despite its collective experience and veteran poise, Dallas struggled down the stretch in this one, getting outscored by five points in the fourth. Dallas turned the ball over four times in the final quarter, displaying an uncharacteristic lack of execution.

As with any series in which your team doesn't have home-court advantage, the goal in the first two games is only to win one. Dallas still has one more opportunity to do that on Monday night. Capturing one of two in OKC still constitutes a mission accomplished for Dallas.

And maybe one would think that by now all the last-second demons are exercised -- but that's only if you believe this negative results are about "demons.'' The Thunder finished the game on a 12-4 run to win Game 1. That is to OKC's credit. On the other hand: The Mavs won the battle of rebounds, shot more FTs, made 10 treys, led by seven points in the late-going on the road to a heavily-favored team ... and lost.

"This is definitely as tough of a loss as you can get,'' says, Dirk, adding, "(But) if a team can recover from it, it's an experienced one. We definitely have a lot of old guys that have been through a lot."

Yes, they've been through a lot. A lot of close losses to NBA teams. A lot of close losses at OKC.

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