Thunder 107, Mavs 101: The Dirk & OJ Problem
The Dallas Mavericks' failure here is a familiar one: The inability, when playing a top-tier West team, to milk maximum offensive production from Dirk Nowitzki and from O.J. Mayo.
In this game, Dirk scored 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting -- but astoundingly, did not attempt a field goal in the entire fourth quarter of this close game.
"We didn't do a good job'' getting the ball to Nowitzki,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "I'll take responsibility for it."
The Mavs also didn't find a way to get production out of Mayo, who also attempted just 10 shots, making four of them and finishing with nine points. In that final quarter, these top two options combined for 0-of-1 shooting for four points. Meanwhile, OKC's Russell Westbrook scored 35 and Kevin Durant qualified as a classic fourth-quarter go-to guy with Durant 7-of-11 shooting for 19 points in the final period alone on the way to his 31 points.
How much of this lack of production represents a trend for the Mavs vs. the Thunder, which swept the season series 4-0?
*Mayo's numbers in four games against OKC: 9.8 points, 34.9 field-goal percentage, 14.3 percent from the arc, 5.3 assists, 4.0 turnovers, plus/minus of minus-8.3 (which is a plus/minus tied for Mike James for third worst on the roster).
*Dirk in four games against OKC: 15.0 points, 37.3 percent shooting, 30.8 percent from the arc, 6.3 rebounds, 1.0 turnovers, plus/minus of minus-7.8 (plus/minus ranks just behind Mayo).
And remember, all that is a jump up from where Dirk was before Sunday, when his numbers included a 12.3-point average on 26.8-percent shooting.
And to be frank, the trend extends beyond just OKC and all the way through the top-tier teams in the West.
Consider Mayo's numbers against other contenders:
*Mayo's per game averages in four games against the Spurs: 9.8 points, 37.5 percent shooting, 0.0 percent from the arc, 4.3 assists, 1.8 rebounds, 2.8 turnovers, plus/minus of minus-17.5 (second worst of Mavs in those games)
*Mayo's per game averages in three games against the Grizzlies: 10.7 points, 38.7 percent shooting, 50.0 percent from the arc, 3.3 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 3.7 turnovers, plus/minus of minus-4.7 (third worst of Mavs in those games)
*Mayo's per game averages in two games against the Clippers: 14.0 points, 37.0 percent shooting, 10.0 percent from the arc, 5.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 turnovers, plus/minus of minus-5.5 (6th worst of Mavs in those games)
Now Dirk's averages against the West's other top clubs:
*Dirk's per game averages in four games against the Spurs: 13.0 points, 41.9 percent shooting, 44.4 percent from the arc, 6.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 1.0 turnovers, plus/minus of minus-8.8 (eighth worst on the Mavs).
*Dirk's per game averages in two games against the Grizzlies: 13.5 points, 47.4 percent shooting, 75.0 percent from the arc, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1.0 steals, 1.5 turnovers, plus/minus of plus-6.0 (third best on the Mavs).
Dirk's per game averages in one game against the Clippers: 15.0 points, 38.5 percent shooting, 33.3 percent from the arc, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 4.0 turnovers, plus/minus of minus-10.0 (only Darren Collison and Chris Kaman worse, both at minus-11.0).
There are plenty of wrinkles to include in some of these numbers. For instance: When looking at those numbers it's worth nothing that Dirk played the Spurs twice and the Thunder once prior to being reinserted into the starting lineup … a trio of games that significantly lower his numbers against those teams.
Same with looking at Sunday's game by itself. The Mavs were without Shawn Marion (calf), lost Roddy Beaubois (who broke his hand) and have a complaint when it comes to foul-shot discrepancy: Dallas made all 16 of its free throws while OKC was allowed to shoot 30 of them (making 24).
Nevertheless, Brandan Wright and Mike James were among the Mavs who took more shots than either Dirk or Mayo took. And in the end, the Mavs -- with slim hopes of making the playoffs for a chance to oppose a top-tier team in the first round -- can't find their scorers well enough to avoid having a 1-12 record against those four contenders.