Thunder edge Mavs in Final Seconds of Game 1
MVP candidate Kevin Durant struggled with his jump shot all night long. But did that stop him from taking the last shot in the final seconds when Oklahoma City was down by one?
Not a chance.
Durant’s difficult, contested floater from the foul line barely dropped in before the clock struck zero, and the Thunder escaped with a 99-98 victory against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the First Round.
Should Dallas be encouraged or discouraged?
After Dirk Nowitzki’s and-one play with 2:20 left in the fourth quarter, the Mavs were up by a comfortable seven points and had this game won. But some costly turnovers and giving up back-to-back three point plays in the final minutes became their undoing. Rick Carlisle and Nowitzki blamed the loss on not only these crucial mistakes in the final minutes, but also their inability to get the ball to red-hot Jason Terry (who had 20 points in the first 3 quarters, but none thereafter). Terry’s explosion in the first half made up for a relatively so-so overall game for Dirk, who put the Mavs in a position to win when he scored 11 of his 25 points in the last 5 minutes.
Still, the Mavs should be encouraged despite the loss. Not many expected them to be in a position to steal home court advantage, yet they really dictated play for all but the final two minutes of this game.
Should Oklahoma City be encouraged or discouraged?
Durant may have provided the last-second heroics, but it was really James Harden who kept OKC in the game. In his first game since suffering a concussion from Ron Artest’s vicious elbow, Harden scored 19 points and made several timely baskets to keep the Thunder within striking distance.
In the end, I’m not sure if the Thunder should be too high on this win. Many of the issues that made OKC a mediocre team for the month of April aren’t going away like most expected, perhaps chief among them that Durant still can’t find consistency with his jumper. One saving grace is that Russell Westbrook seemed to have found his shot, days after going a miserable 3-22 against the Lakers earlier last week. Still, if not for Harden and an above-average scoring performance by Serge Ibaka (22 points), Dallas could very well have dominated this game. Durant and Westbrook need to find ways to penetrate Dallas’s zone defense and not settle for outside jumpers, a trend that has really hurt them all month long.
What should we expect in Game 2?
As I said in my series prediction, Dallas has no fear of the Thunder – a team they made relatively quick work of in last year’s Conference Finals. Durant, Westbrook, and Harden all have to be playing well in order to knock off Dallas in this series. For Dallas, as long as they can out-rebound the Thunder and get to the foul line as well as they did in Game 1, I expect Rick Carlisle to rally his guys and come out with the same effort and steal home court advantage. Either way, this is shaping up to be the best first-round series in the playoffs.