1. Fresh off the biggest single-game upset in NBA playoff history (OKC was favored by 14 in a Game 2 that Dallas would win), the Mavs came home confident, well-rested, and eager to take on Oklahoma City in front of a raucous crowd at the American Airlines Center. The Thunder however, would prove to be just too much for the ailing Mavs to handle as they cruised to a 131-102 victory on Dallas’ home floor, leaving coach Rick Carlisle to wonder if Our Boys In Blue gave it their all.
"I think when we look at back at this game,'' the Mavs coach said, "we're going to have regrets because we didn't compete the way we need to compete.'
2. Rick did add that he'd need to review the film before truly having that answer, and while I get the "Triumph Of The Working Man'' bit (Fish's column here) I hope he comes away with a different impression. The ‘Masking Tape Mavs’ are what they are: still beat up, hoping for needed help with the return of David Lee and J.J. Barea, crossing the fingers that track records matter.
On paper? Lee gives Dallas an active and skilled body to bang around on the boards, while Barea gives them a dynamic and energetic scoring option at the point. The return of these players could -- again, on paper -- be a big boost for the Mavs who missed their presence in the first two games in the series desperately.
But I say JJB wasn't right thanks to the groin problem. And Lee? Read on ...
3. On the other side of that however, was the absence of Deron Williams, who was unable to go in G3 due to a lingering hernia issue that took him out of G2 midway through the third quarter. While his court vision and scoring would obviously be a big loss, it is his leadership, poise and clutch-time play that Dallas would really have missed in the game. D-Will has arguably been the Mavs best clutch-time player this season, and he’s always a guy they look to in those situations to make a big play.
But to be "clutch'' late, you've got to be "close'' late. That didn't happen here.
4. It was important for the Mavs to get off to a good start and put the pressure on OKC. While they would trail 27-21 heading into the second, the Mavs were able to put themselves right in the thick of it behind Dirk Nowitzki’s nine points on 80-percent shooting in the quarter. Not to be outdone however, Kevin Durant would also throw up nine points on 4-of-6 shooting, while Serge Ibaka would contribute seven of his own for OKC.
5. Well, add another victim to the ‘Masking-Tape Mavs.' Justin Anderson went down with an apparent shoulder injury early in the second quarter. He was able to return to the game, but the Mavs are already banged up, and can’t afford to lose another body.
6. I’m starting to believe that OKC doesn’t have a decent set of jerseys to put on the floor. In the first two games, they decided to go the long-sleeved route, and this is what they follow with? Whatever happened to their light blue and orange road threads? Unacceptable, men, unacceptable.
7. In the second quarter, Oklahoma City was able to extended the lead to 10 points, and take a 58-48 advantage into the locker room. Despite three fouls, KD continued to dominate on offense, ending the half with 20 points on 50-percent shooting. Russell Westbrook would be held in check for the first 24 minutes, after scoring just six points. For the Mavs, Wes Matthews led things with 11 points, while Dirk struggled in the second quarter, scoring just one point.
8. Look, there was no way that Durant was going to come out and shoot 7-of-33 again in game three. He’s just too good of a player to follow up Game 2 with another bad performance like that. His silky smooth jump shot, intense work ethic and genius-level BBIQ make him one of the leagues two or three best players. He’s arguably one of the best scorers of the basketball that we have ever or will ever see in the NBA.
9. Here, Durant was on a mission from the start, shooting 11-of-25 and scoring 34 points to go along with seven boards. Wes Matthews is a fine perimeter defender and Justin Anderson is young enough to believe that he can cover KD on a consistent basis, but when KD sets his mind to it, nobody can stop him. ... unless he stops himself, as was in part the case in Game 2, when he shot 7-of-33.
"I bet he's never had a game like that before in his life,'' Carlisle said, meaning to hint that we shouldn't expect another one.
10. Things started getting chippy in the third quarter, first with Ray Felton and Steven Adams getting into a semi-scuffle, followed by Dirk and Andre Roberson exchanging words after he ran through Dirk on a screen. It might have been an effort to get under OKC’s skin, or maybe these two teams just plain don’t like each other.
Dallas didn't win many calls as it regarded Thursday's physicality, though I might certainly be biased there. Either way, conflict has been a consistent thing in this series, and you should expect it to continue into Game 4.
11. Oklahoma City exploded in the third period, scoring 39 points and shooting 67 percent from the field. While the Mavs were able to muster 30 of their own, the Thunder would take a 97-78 lead into the final quarter, giving the Mavs a very steep hill to climb to get back into it. Russell Westbrook, after scoring just six first-half points, ended the quarter with 12 points and five dimes to lead OKC, while Durant followed him with 11. The Mavs, meanwhile, would get 10 from Felton on their end.
12. The fourth quarter was just more of the same for the Mavs. OKC ran through their defense like a hot knife through butter, and scored 34 points in the process. The Mavs are going to have to find a way to slow down the Durant/Westbrook combo in Game 4, or my money is on another blowout just like this one.
13. When it comes down to it, the Mavs just don’t have the defensive stoppers to match up against OKC in this series. KD and Westy are too dynamic and too explosive for Wes Matthews and Justin Anderson to hang with ... especially when OKC opts to iso one one of them.
And let’s be honest, if Game 2 wasn’t the worst playoff performance of Kevin Durant’s career, this series is well on its way to a sweep for the Thunder.
Stat(s) of the night: OKC can shoot again. After a much-maligned shooting performance by the Thunder in Game 2, they answered the critics by shooting 57.7 percent from the field, including 15-of-27 from three-point range.
This game was over when... The Thunder decided it would be. The Mavs did a vailant job of keeping pace for the first 24 minutes, but once Oklahoma City decided to put the Mavs away, they did just that.
Should have seen coming... A rebound performance from Durant and Westbrook. We all new KD would bounce back following arguably his worst performance ever, and he did just that, scoring 34 points on 44-percent shooting.
Not to be outdone, Westbrook had a nice bounce-back game of his own, scoring 26 points and dishing out 15 helpers in the process.
Couldn't see coming... David Lee, who the Mavs have been sorely missing in this series, failed to make any kind of impact for the Mavs in his series debut. The Mavs needed Lee to come in and contribute, but maybe because of the bum foot, he just couldn’t do it.
What's next?: The Mavs, now down 2-1, will remain home and attempt to rebound from Thursday’s disappointing loss. They’ll take on OKC in Game 4 on Saturday night at 7 at the American Airlines Center.
The Final Word: "They were the more aggressive team tonight, and usually the aggressive team gets the benefit of aggressive play." - Wesley Matthews.