Monday, April 30, 2012
W2W4: Mavericks must be better closers
By Jean-Jacques Taylor
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - For the most part, the Dallas Mavericks controlled the first 45 minutes of Game 1 against Oklahoma City.
Then the Mavs fell apart, blowing a seven-point lead in the final 2:33.
Perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised because this has been a season-long trend for Dallas, especially against Oklahoma City. Dallas has lost three games in Oklahoma City this season by a total of seven points.
FYI: The Mavs are 10-14 in games decided by fewer than five points and 7-8 in games decided by three points or fewer.
So their 99-98 loss in Game 1 can't really be construed as a fluke. It's actually representative of how they've played this season.
After all, the Mavs are 13-21 on the road this season. Dirk Nowitzki, the game's best closer, had a pair of turnovers in the final 90 seconds of Game 1 and gave up a three-point play on a dunk to Serge Ibaka.
It's difficult for the Mavs to win on nights Nowitzki falters at winning time.
If the Mavs are going to win Game 2 and return to Dallas with the coveted split in this series, they must do a better job of closing games. It starts with Nowitzki playing his best basketball in the fourth quarter.
What to watch: Free Throws. Rick Carlisle doesn't want Oklahoma City's players, Kendrick Perkins in particular, manhandling Nowitzki. Oklahoma City averaged 32.5 free throws against the Mavs during the regular season but shot just 20 in the opener. Dallas shot 25 free throws, including 10 by Nowitzki, but Carlisle believes the Mavs should've made more trips to the free throw line. The Mavs will be pleased if they can keep the free throw differential under 10 because the Thunder are so adept at getting to the free throw line.
Key matchup: Jason Terry vs. Russell Westbrook Terry won't like this, but Westbrook shut him down in the fourth quarter of Game 1. Terry, who made eight of nine shots in the first three quarters, missed his only shot attempt of the fourth quarter. Terry would say his lack of opportunities had more to do with the offense stagnating and Rick Carlisle failing to figure out how to get him the ball. Westbrook -- bigger, stronger and faster than Terry -- denied the veteran guard the ball all over the court. Terry insisted that won't happen again and vowed to get his usual touches in the fourth quarter when he and Nowitzki have traditionally used an excellent two-man game to close out wins.
Injuries: Thunder -- G Eric Maynor (torn right ACL) is out.
Up next: Game 3 -- Thunder at Mavs, 8:30 p.m. Thursday