With the two games decided by a total of four points, the difference in the series so far is that the Mavs have crumbled in crunch time while the Thunder have thrived. Oklahoma City outscored the Mavs by a 10-4 margin in the final two minutes of Game 1 and 6-2 in the final two minutes of Game 2.
But it’s not just the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City has outscored the Mavs by a 52-29 margin in the final two minutes of the eight quarters in this series.
“All these things are just attention-to-detail things,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Then you’ve got to make shots or you’ve got to put yourself in position to not foul or whatever the case may be. Ends of quarters in NBA games are difficult. Guys are skilled; they make plays. So you’ve got to be solid.”
What to watch: Can the Mavs get buckets in crunch time? Give the Thunder credit for closing, but the Mavs have also blown opportunities. The biggest culprit has been Dirk Nowitzki, who was such a dominant closer during the Mavs’ championship run last year. He committed two turnovers in the final 90 seconds of Game 1. In Game 2, Nowitzki missed a wide-open 3-pointer and had a baseline fadeaway roll around the rim and out. “It still comes down the stretch to make some big shots,” Nowitzki said.
Key matchup: Dallas defense vs. Russell Westbrook – Will Rick Carlisle make a major adjustment or just hope that Westbrook stops making so many midrange jumpers? Westbrook, one of the NBA’s most explosive penetrating threats, has lit up the Mavs primarily by shooting over Delonte West and Jason Kidd. Switching defensive stopper Shawn Marion onto Westbrook (28.5 points on 52.3 percent shooting in the series), but that would present a major problem defending three-time NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant. Marion said he will start the game on Durant again.
Injuries: Thunder – G Eric Maynor (torn right ACL) is out.
Up next: Game 4 – Thunder at Mavs, 6:30 p.m. Saturday