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Mavs-Thunder Analysis After 2 Games

May 3, 2012

Glass Half Full:

Parity: For a 2 vs. 7 matchup this series is clearly closer than it historically should be. The Mavs in game 1 led almost throughout the game and lost due to a few missed shots and 2 turnovers in the final 2 minutes. The Mavs in game 2 were down +15 in the 2nd quarter but by the 9 minute mark in the 3rd quarter had evened up the game and were neck and neck with the Thunder the rest of the game. Compare that to the Heat-Knicks series where the Heat have beaten the Knicks by a combined 43 points (Thunder have won by a combined 4 points) and it’s easy to see that the Mavs-Thunder series is at 0-2 but is still anyone’s series. I expect another couple of games to come down to the final few possessions and if the Mavs can pull one out then this series could still go the 7 games I initially predicted.

Durant: Kevin Durant is a -6 (+/- ratio) in this series after 2 games and I think it’s a pretty valid stat as he’s a combined 15 for 44 (34%) from the field to go along with 9 turnovers.Marion has been spectacular on him as his height has affected his shot in a way most players cannot and his quickness has forced him to stay a jump shooter throughout the series. If it weren’t for the fact that he continues to get every single call imaginable his numbers would be downright awful and even with the free throws helping he still has been an average player in this series. Re-watching game 2 I saw a few lucky misses on the Mavs part (had two wide open 3 pointers in the 2nd half that he missed) but otherwise it looks like the defense is causing his poor shooting so it likely will continue. Last year Durant shot 46% from the field in the regular season but dropped to 43% against the Mavs in the playoffs so it’s pretty clear to see a pattern emerging whereMarion affects Durant’s efficiency. This is a huge positive for the Mavs if it continues as I think it will.

Refs: Durant has received almost every call imagineable and Dirk, especially in game 1, couldn’t get a call to save his life. It really angers me how little respect he gets as the REIGNING FINALS MVP and inarguably one of the 25 best players of all time yet things could change a bit as the series switches toDallas. Last year Dirk received every touch call in Game 1 inDallas on his way to 48 points on 80% shooting. I could see a similar game as he got no calls in game 1 and game 2 was close to getting out of hand due to the physical style in the first half that almost resulted in two fights. Dirk should get his free throws with the series inDallas and it could be a big factor in the outcome.

Jet: If this is Terry’s last series in a Mavs uniform he’s going out in a big way as he’s shooting spectacularly, 59% FG 55% 3pt, and making the most of his chances. When Westbrook guards him it clearly has affected him as he seems to be too quick and elusive for Thabo Sefalosha (a great defender in his own right by the way) but seems to have trouble getting open vs. Westrbook’s deny style of defense. Look forCarlisle to run more back picks or counter plays that should expose Westbrook’s aggressiveness and hopefully will get Terry the ball more often. He hasn’t had a ton of chances but he’s been outstanding when given opportunities so I would suspect that the coaching staff will find ways to get Terry the ball more frequently.

Glass Half Empty:

Clutch Play: I picked the Mavs to win this series in 7 games largely due to the fact that I like my chances in the final two minutes of a game with Dirk/Terry/Kidd over Durant/Westbrook/Harden. I still preferDallas’ trio but in game 1 they turned the ball over twice in the final two minutes and in game 2 Terry stupidly fouled Durant, Kidd threw a terrible entry pass into the post for a turnover, and Dirk missed a wide open 3 pointer and a contested fadeaway. Both shots are ones I expect him to make and if he made either of them I think the series is tied 1-1. The good news is Dirk hasn’t just suddenly lost his clutchness and I expect it to pop up sooner or later in this series (saw a glimpse in game 2 during his 14 point 2nd quarter) but the bad news is that the Thunder appear much more adept in these final few minutes this year compared to last year. I continue to think that the Thunder are a year away from truly competing for the title but if they win this series by outplaying Dirk, Terry, and Kidd in the clutch then all bets are off and they will be legit title contenders in my eyes for the first time.

Role Players: While Durant is a -6 (+/- ratio) the role players from the Thunder are killing the Mavs with Ibaka (+16), Fisher (+12), and Harden (+15) looking to me like the difference makers. I’ve been a big fan of the Vinsanity acquisition from the get go and he’s had his moments of glory this season but so far these playoffs he has been terrible (7 for 23 30%). Haywood has been arguably even worse (6 pts 7 rebounds TOTAL in 2 games!) and with Rick deciding to almost never play Roddy B. and Brandan Wright (combined are only averaging 8.5 minutes per game) it’s made the discrepancy between the Mavs bench and the Thunder bench an even bigger factor in this series. If I wereCarlisle I would begin playing Roddy and Brandan more as they are exactly the high energy, athletic role players we need to counteract their Ibakas and Westbrooks who are making Haywood and Kidd look slow and old. Everyone is focusing on the play of Dirk/Terry vs. Durant/Westbrook but it could be the role players who decide this series.

Russell Westbrook: He’s shooting 52% for the series, has played under control the entire time, hasn’t been the ball hog many accuse him of being, has played outstanding deny defense on Terry, and is consistently hitting the mid range jumper. Last year my wife and I got into an argument in that I told her I could see him being named NBA MVP someday as the difference between his skill set and Derrick Rose’s is much less than most think. This series is an example of why I said that as he’s turning into a complete player who now makes teams pay for laying off of him and clogging up his driving lanes. He’s still at his best when driving instead of shooting but this year he can do both and Kidd’s intelligent defense against him last year (held him to 36% shooting in the 5 game series) just isn’t working this time around. Hopefully the change in venue will reduce his effectiveness because otherwise I can’t see the Mavs winning any easy games against the Thunder. The series was cast as a rematch between Dirk and Durant but Westbrook has clearly been this series’ best player.

Conclusion: The Mavs outplayed the Thunder in game 1 and played them evenly in game 2 yet are down 0-2 due to a few unlucky bounces and uncharacteristic plays by the team’s veterans in the clutch. I don’t expect that to continue and I think Dallas still has a chance to come back and win this series but they’re right on the precipice at this point and it will be tough to pull both games out in Dallas if they each come down to the final possession. Having a nice easy Game 3 win by a comfortable margin would be just what the doctor ordered and I actually could see that occurring as Westrbook has been spectacular and Dirk has yet to receive the touch calls most superstars are afforded. If either of those change I think game 3 ends in a 5-10 point Mavs win. My prediction for game 3 is just that with the Mavs 103 and the Thunder 95 behind +30 from Dirk, +20 from Terry, and +15 from Delonte West who barely missed out on having his own article in the glass half full section (that steal and dunk in game 2 was amazing). Maybe I’m too much of a Mavs homer to see their eminent demise but I still like them in 7 in this series and think it starts tonight with an 8 point win at home. Go MAVS!

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