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Thunder vs. Mavericks: Game 3 Pregame Primer

Thunder vs. Mavericks: Game 3 Pregame Primer



Western Conference Quarterfinals (Best 4 of 7)

Mavericks (1-1, 1-1 road) vs. Thunder (1-1, 1-1 home)

TV: TNT/FSOklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 6:00 PM CST

Series tied 1-1

Playoff Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats – out of 16 teams)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 99.9 (10th), Mavericks – 80.8 (15th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 80.8 (2nd), Mavericks – 99.9 (7th)

After two games, this series is looking extremely reminiscent to the Grizzlies’ series the Thunder had in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. You remember that series, right? The one that went 7 games, featured 4 overtime games in a row, and had a key player (Zach Randolph) suspended in Game 7 for throwing a “punch” in Game 6. Well, fasten your seatbelts, because this series may be just as bumpy.

Game 2 was especially eerie in its similarity to Game 2 of the Grizzlies’ series. The Thunder were coming off a convincing victory in each of the Game 1’s of both those series. But in Game 2, both opponents muddied up the game and made life extremely difficult for the Thunder’s two superstars. In Game 2 of the Grizzlies series, the Thunder duo shot 23-56 from the field and 6-19 from deep. In Game 2 of this series, the Thunder duo shot 15-55 from the field and 3-17 from deep. All that inefficiency brought the Thunder offense to a halt and, it was at that point, that the Mavericks had a chance in this game.

Kevin Durant struggled immensely in Game 2. And the Mavericks are using the same technique the Grizzlies used two years ago. Use physical defenders and make Durant uncomfortable with when and where he catches the ball. Instead of Tony Allen, this time around it has been Wes Matthews and Justin Anderson. Both, along with the help of the refereeing equivalent of Three Blind Mice, did an exemplary job of defending Durant in game 2.

In addition to both stars struggling, the game also featured an (almost) unlikely hero in Steven Adams. The Thunder big man made a tip in as time expired that would’ve given the Thunder the victory…except it came a couple tenths of the second after the final buzzer. If you remember in Game 2 of the Grizzlies’ series, Kendrick Perkins had a put-back off a rebound as time expired to send the game into overtime. All we need now is for The Oklahoman to release a ridiculous headline that they will ultimately retract after a couple hours.

3 Big Things

1. Involving The Others

Durant and Westbrook carry the lion’s share of blame for their performance in Game 2. Not only were they inefficient, but they were also tunnel-visioned, racking up just 8 assists between them. The thing that worked extremely well in Game 1, was visibly missing in Game 2, which was ball movement. Probably in an effort to get Durant going, the team allowed the ball to stick in Durant’s hands for possession upon possession. And while that usually brings good results, in this game, it became the hole in the dam that kept getting bigger and bigger.

It’s on Durant and Westbrook to recognize when they are struggling and get the others involved. After scoring 42 points between them in Game 1, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, and Dion Waiters had 35 points combined in Game 2. It wasn’t that the others were struggling, it was that they weren’t involved in the offense at key points in the game. But then again, this isn’t a new problem.

2. Andre Roberson

Welcome to the playoffs, Billy Donovan. Challenge No. 1: What to do with Roberson? Roberson was rendered completely ineffective in Game 2, as his defender played off of him and clogged the lane the entire evening. Dallas always had a third defender in the way when Westbrook or Durant ran the pick and roll with Roberson on the floor. Donovan noticed this and sat Roberson throughout the game, playing him only 16 minutes. Moving forward, it will be interesting if this becomes a Thabo Sefolosha situation. Roberson is 0-4 on threes this series, and is shooting just 14% for the series.

My solution: Caron Bu… I mean, Anthony Morrow. Dallas won’t beat you with wings, so Morrow won’t be as much of a liability on the defensive end. And offensively, the floor spacing with Morrow will allow Durant and Westbrook to operate a lot better from their spots.

3. Momentum

The momentum was roaring in the Thunder’s favor after Game 1. But with Dallas snatching home court advantage, all the pressure will be on the Thunder to perform. The Thunder vets have been here. But the playoff neophytes (Waiters, Kanter, Morrow, Roberson) have yet to experience playoff-level pressure. Welcome to the playoffs, gentlemen.

Thunder Killer

Dirk Nowitzki – I think the presence of a pick and roll with Raymond Felton in the game will open up Nowitzki for some open looks. Mess around and give him too many of those, and he can make it feel like 2011 once again.