Thursday, May 3, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Thunder 95, Mavs 79
By Jeff Caplan
DALLAS -- How it happened: Oklahoma City built a 15-point lead in the first and second quarters, and the Mavericks could never keep a run going long enough to make it a game. The defending champions are truly up against it, down 3-0.
To avoid a humiliating sweep after an embarrassing, wire-to-wire Game 3 loss on their home floor, the defending champs must win Game 4 in Dallas on Saturday night.
The Mavs had two promising runs that got snuffed, one late in the second quarter to cut the deficit to seven and one early in the third that chopped it to five, 50-45. But a red-hot Kevin Durant (31 points on 11-of-15 shooting, 8-of-10 in the first half) and his running buddy Russell Westbrook (20 points on 8-of-19, 5-of-8 in the second half) kicked it back in gear to go up 60-48 with 7:21 left in the third quarter, and then it was quickly 66-50.
And then 83-58, and it was lights out.
Durant, after shooting just 34.1 percent in the first two games, was magnificent from the jump. On the Mavs' side, superstar Dirk Nowitzki never seemed engaged. He was 4-of-8 from the floor in the first half and finished 6-of-15 for 17 points. He even missed three free throws. Jason Terry was terrible, 1-of-6 in the first half, and he finished with just 11 points.
Dallas shot an abysmal 34.2 percent for the game.
The bottom line to it all, as much as the Mavs and their fans wanted to believe otherwise, is that this stripped-down version of the title team lacks essential parts to properly function. Gone: the fiery leadership, rebounding and defense of Tyson Chandler; the penetration of J.J. Barea; and the fierceness of DeShawn Stevenson.
These Mavs really are too old and too slow to keep up with the Thunder's remarkable foursome of Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden, all of whom have yet to turn 24. And to think this is the team most fans wanted over the Los Angeles Lakers. It probably didn't matter.
Things got off to a chaotic start in the first quarter with the Mavs believing they were on the wrong side of the whistle more than once. Nowitzki got nailed with a technical four minutes into the game, and then an absolutely irate Rick Carlisle got his own and was fortunate not to get ejected.
Durant and the Thunder came out throwing haymakers, and jumped out to a 28-13 lead. The Mavs closed the gap to 32-26 with a 13-4 run to close the quarter. But Dallas scored just 15 points in the second quarter and 16 in the third.
What it means: No team has come back from a 3-0 series deficit. If Dallas is going to avoid becoming the first defending champion since the 2007 Miami Heat to bow out in the first round, the Mavs will have to overcome decades of NBA postseason history. Miami, one season removed from rallying past the Mavs in the NBA Finals, was swept by the Chicago Bulls.
Bold play of the game: Early in the third quarter, the Mavs were desperately trying to keep a run alive, having pushed to within 50-45, but OKC was back up 54-45. Delonte West drove the lane, looking to score and maybe an and-1, but his shot was swatted away by Ibaka for his third and final block of the game. Westbrook pulled up for a jumper at the other end, and it was 56-45 with 8:51 to go.
Stat of the game: Since the Mavs beat the Thunder 4-1 in the Western Conference finals last season, they are 1-6 against OKC.