Rapid Reaction: Mavs, Thunder set to rumble
April, 26, 2012
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com
ATLANTA -- How it happened: The Atlanta Hawks, needing a win to guarantee home-court advantage in their first-round series against the Boston Celtics, bombed their way to a 31-11 lead and the fat lady was singing late in the first quarter.
The Hawks' 106-89 victory in front of sparse crowd locks the Mavs into the No. 7 seed and sets up an intriguing first-round series with the No. 2-seed Oklahoma City Thunder. Dallas, of course, eliminated OKC in five games in last year's Western Conference finals. The series starts Saturday at the rocking Chesapeake Energy Arena. The NBA will announce game times and dates for the remainder of the series shortly.
The Thunder won three of four meetings against the Mavs this season, but all three of Dallas' losses were tight games, including the first one on Dec. 29, won on a Kevin Durant buzzer-beater from behind the arc. The Mavs were 0-2 at OKC this season and they'll need to win at least one up there if they are going to move on to the second round.
The Mavs talked a good game coming into this one, suggesting it was important, yada, yada, yada. Jason Kidd was in slacks and a sport coat and defense was optional. If this was a tuneup for the playoffs, the Mavs had a funny way of showing it. The Hawks led 60-44 at halftime and shot 56.5 percent.
The Mavs delivered a shot of competitive energy to start the second quarter, nibbling the deficit to 60-49, but the tide quickly turned the other way and the Hawks blew it back open, 67-49. Atlanta had six players in double figures and shot well over 50 percent for the game.
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 22 points 0n 7-of-12 shooting and played 26 minutes, all in the first three quarters. Rodrigue Beaubois had 13 points, six assists and five rebounds. Jason Terry had 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting.
What it means: The Mavs finish the regular season with consecutive losses and a 36-30 record. Their high-water mark for the season was nine games over .500 at 20-11 on Feb. 17 and 21-12 on Feb. 20.
Bold Play of the game: In the second quarter, Nowitzki drove to the basket, collided with the defender impeding his progress and crashed to the court on his left wrist. He sat on the floor holding the wrist and bending his arm for a moment. In a meaningless game that was already a blowout in the Hawks' favor, it was a certainly a hold-your-breath moment, if only briefly. Nowitzki made both free throws and played in the second half.
Stat of the game: The Mavs' 30 losses in this 66-game schedule equals their total losses during the 2010-11 82-game regular season and the 21-game postseason.