Mavs must match OKC's unexpected heroes
May, 2, 2012
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com
It's only two games and with a little late-game luck the Dallas Mavericks' 0-2 hole might have been a 2-0 cushion with the series shifting to Dallas for Thursday's Game 3.
Late-game luck isn't the only difference in a postseason rematch with the Oklahoma City Thunder that threatens to make the Mavs the first defending champs since the 2007 Miami Heat to go down in the first round. Dallas needs more of the unexpected, more of what the Thunder have received to take control of the series.
Serge Ibaka's 22 points in Game 1 was a season high. The last time he scored 20 in a game? Try Jan. 27.
Derek Fisher's 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting in Game 2 -- after being invisible in Game 1 -- was his most efficient outing in 22 games with Oklahoma City and it tied his second-highest point total.
Kendrick Perkins' 4-of-5 shooting in Game 2 was the first time he had done that since Feb. 22, and he hadn't topped the 13 points he scored since March 25 with 16, his only game of the season with more than 13. Keep in mind that OKC's two wins have come by a total of four points.
"They’ve gotten better, no doubt about that," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, comparing this Thunder team to the won Dallas disposed of in five games in last year's Western Conference finals. "You've got to give them credit for the plays they made in this series and for the year that they’ve had. At the same time, we’re right there and we've got to make the plays coming back home."
The Mavs have received nothing out of the ordinary. Remember the championship run when a different Mavs player seemed to step up every night with something different? Whether it was Corey Brewer for eight minutes against the Lakers, or J.J. Barea putting up consecutive 20-point games -- one against the Thunder -- or DeShawn Stevenson twice dropping three 3-pointers in the Finals or Peja Stojakovic scoring 21, 21 and 15 points in the opening two series, it's the unexpected performances that carry teams to unexpected results.
The Mavs will need to get some punch-quiet sources on their home floor over the next two games to stay alive.
The most likely candidate for a breakout is Vince Carter. He's 7-of-23 from the floor. Delonte West had 13 points in Game 2 but is 7-of-17 from the floor and has yet to make a dent with the type of feisty defense he's known for, that the Mavs are counting on. Starting center Brendan Haywood has seven rebounds and two blocked shots in 30 minutes and was benched to start the second half of Game 2.
Fan favorite Brandan Wright has so far shown that the playoff pressure might be too big in his first postseason. In logging less than 13 total minutes, he hasn't come close to one of his patented dunks and had a case of butterfingers in five awful minutes in Game 2.
If the Mavs are going to survive, the expected performances from Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion that have enabled Dallas to have a chance late must be met by unexpected ones.
Just ask the Thunder.