The one big foul called against OKC – while Dirk Nowitzki was in the process of making a 3-pointer – seemed to turn the game to Dallas’ favor to the
tune of a 111-103 victory. Nowitzki completed the four-point play to tie it at 90-90, all part of the Mavs’ late-game 24-3 run … and as a result,
Dallas is now 2-0 in the first half of this week-long challenge, 5-1 on the road and 10-4 overall.
Two wins. In 24 hours. And another b2b coming Friday at the Spurs and at home Saturday with the Heat.
Suddenly, it seems, despite the team’s failure to meet certain expectations, it’s the Mavs who are doing all the grabbing. Of wins.
“A lot of teams would’ve thrown up their hands and said, ‘It’s not our night,’’ said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle of the late-game situation in Loud City,
which had Dallas down 90-83 one minute and up 107-93 seemingly the next. “That’s one thing I love about our team.’’
Another thing to love: The UberMan, who merits every bit the early-MVP talk that’s been generated by Kevin Durant and the rest of the NBA
Am I right? If KD entered the season as a favorite to win an individual trophy, and if he still merits consideration … Dirk is right there, right?
And by the way: If OKC merits consideration as a serious contender … well, what’s the difference between the 10-4 Mavs and the 10-5 Thunder – besides
the fact that in Dallas there is a “been-there/done-that’’ approach by some observers, whereas in Oklahoma there is parent-like excitement over their
Nowitzki totaled 34 points – giving him 76 points in the last 24 hours including Tuesday’s home win over Detroit. His pair of 3’s (and an and-one)
combined with a Jason Terry trey to provide Dallas a 57-second flurry of points and momentum.
Meanwhile, OKC was held scoreless during that span (and held to 39-percent shooting in the final quarter) thanks to the defensive work of long-time NBA
stalwarts Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler.
Marion (12 points and seven rebounds) was largely charged with the responsibility of containing Thunder superstar Durant, who managed a (relatively)
ineffective 32 points, with just two of those coming in the fourth when the outcome was still in question. (And then two late dunks when nobody cared.)
And Chandler dominated inside, with 17 points, 18 rebounds and a relentless approach to contesting shots.
TC got 35 minutes-plus, more than normal because Brendan Haywood missed the middle portion of the game with a thigh problem. But maybe more minutes for
Chandler is merited, given his postgame reaction to a question about being able to prove that he’s healthy enough to pull this off.
That goal of the Mavs centers to combine for 20/20? They did it! … Even if Big Wood was responsible for just 3/3 of it.
The Thunder had won five straight and among their foundation points is free-throw excellence. Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of the three most
accomplished free-throwers in the league, and as a team, OKC has mastered that method of scoring easy points.
But Westbrook (13 points and 10 assists) was matched by the aged legend Jason Kidd (eight points and 12 assists). … and Dear Reader, this was one of
those Kidd games that you really had to watch for his 36 minutes of burn to appreciate his control … his pinpoint delivery of passes … his BBIQ.
Jeff Green, another budding star who seems to be a small forward whenever he wants but a powerful power forward when that’s needed, had 17 points but
also his hands full trying to chase Dirk.
And to the theme of the night: It was the Mavs who asserted themselves on their way to the line.
At halftime, Dallas was 17-of-20 from the line to OKC’s 10-of-14. In the fourth quarter, Dallas was 6-of-6, OKC 4-of-5. Grand total for the game:
30-of-34 for the Mavs; 17-of-23 for OKC. And result for Dallas, a advantage for the Thunder (which was leading the NBA with 24.7 points per game from
the line) nullified.
Do that math one more time: In an eight-point contest, Dallas battled its way to the line 11 more times than the Thunder did.
The Mavs are a good FT team but are crummy at finding their way there. But believe that their advantages are many, advantages that include a
better-than-ever defense, team depth and unity and, of course, The UberMan.
*Team defense: Dallas allowed OKC to shoot 48.2 percent; that’s high for this group, which has been elite in that category all season. But the Mavs
put their finger in another hole in the dike by playing a zone and still winning the rebounding duel in lopsided fashion, 49-36.
The Mavs scored 100 points for the first time in seven games. It is assumed they will get that fixed, play some intense level of defense to pair
with it, and … hmmm.
*The depth and unity: It was on display in the person of Caron Butler, who started the game and was as effective as he’s been all year, with a
total of 15 points (a more-than-usual number of those on interior plunges.) But in the second half, when he gave way to Marion?
“Caron Butler was standing up and cheering for Marion,’’ Carlisle said. “This is the tightest-knit we’ve had since I’ve been here.’’
*Dirk Nowitzki: One might assume that the Mavericks star’s 34 points here is outrageous. But actually, it’s right at his average (of 34.7 points)
against the Thunder in the three years they’ve been in OKC.
There’s not really an answer for Nowitzki, or at least the Thunder don’t have one … not even when he’s airborne at the arc and Serge Ibaka is
knocking him to the floor.
It was a TSA pat-down … and Nowitzki and the Mavs strutted their way right through the checkpoints.