First off I’d like to give credit to the Basketball Jones for the Dirk nickname. I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that I’m that clever. I’m not.
Dallas gets physical with Oklahoma City and beats them 121-112. Dallas leads series 1-0.
The Mavericks let the game get away from them early and then they caught back up and never looked back. From the second quarter onward it was all Dallas all the time. More correctly it was all Dirk all the time as Nowitzki posted a 12 of 15 shooting, 48 point, 6 rebound, 4 assist, and 4 block night. It was a spectacular performance from Dirk. This game was a game where despite good defense the offenses of the opposing side prevailed. Completely lost on the night is the scoring of Kevin Durant who scored 40 points in the shadow of Dirk’s game. Dallas simply had a better system to win. I say this because even when Dirk wasn’t in the game Dallas went right along scoring. Defensively they didn’t let the Thunder get in a rhythm with Durant’s scoring, which is OKC’s biggest strength, but instead opted to disrupt Westbrook and Harden.
Westbrook and Harden had a bit of trouble when the got into the teeth of Dallas’s zone defense. This caused Harden to become passive as he settled for perimeter shots, long twos, or simply moved the ball altogether. Westbrook got to the basket and missed a lot of layups. He did this partially because he had to drive so hard to the basket to beat the zone that he simply did not have enough control to do anything other than throw the ball off of the backboard and, partially because Dallas made it extremely difficult to score near the basket at all. Oklahoma City can feel good because Kevin Durant and Coach Sott Brooks both agree that Dirk had the biggest night of his playoff career and they only lost by 9 points.
Defensively OKC gave up too many points to Dallas players not named Dirk. I like J.J. Barea as much as the next guy but there is no way he ought to have 21 points against a team playing good defense. It’s true that Barea is extremely skilled at working the pick and roll, especially when he’s on the floor with Dirk but that’s no excuse. It is imperative that the defending point guard stay in front of Barea at all times. The Thunder failed to do this and got torched.
Conversely Dallas gave Westbrook, Maynor, and Robinson absolutely nothing to work with. The Mavericks held the Thunder point guards to an abismal 16% from the field. Westbrook was the only one who made any shots at all out of the point guards. If the Mavs can continue to heckle OKC’s guards they stand a good chance of winning this series.
With a combination of winning offense and a steady diet of J.J. Barea and the pick and roll Dallas was able to put the Thunder away in game one. This series however is anything but over. The Thunder despite the shooting woes of Russell Westbrook did a lot of things right in this game that they can build on moving forward. They went to Serge Ibaka in the low post, they moved quickly to score fast break points instead of facing the Dallas zone, and they defended the three point line well (even though Jason Terry scored from there pretty well.) Jason Terry did score 24 points though. The Thunder need to find ways to limit Dallas’s role players. Terry and Barea can be stopped. The Lakers got swept and didn’t exactly leave a blueprint behind but, these guys are beatable.
This series just like the Eastern Conference Finals is going to be a great series. It has the potential to go the full seven games or it could be over in as few as four or five. All of that depends on the adjustments both coaches make going into game two.