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Thunder Squeak by Mavs Again, Lead Series 2-0

This game showed why this is a budding rivalry. From Dirk’s elbows in the first quarter, to how the Mavericks fought back from yet another deficit against the Thunder. However, unlike last season, where the Mavericks fought back, tonight they did not. Kevin Durant hit two free throws with 50.4 seconds left, and James Harden hit the next four free throws to seal a 102-99 win. The Thunder victory has put the defending world champions on their heels as they head back to Dallas for Game 3 on Thursday.

“They [OKC] did what they had to do, they held serve.” Coach Rick Carlisle said. “Now we have to go home and hold serve too.”

It was Russell Westbrook he led Oklahoma City through the fire tonight. With Durant struggling from the floor, Oklahoma City turned to Westbrook to fight through the tough parts.

After a very intense first quarter, which resulted in double technical fouls being called on Kendrick Perkins and Dirk Nowitzki. Oklahoma City’s second unit came on and really pushed the tempo, and the lead. Oklahoma City was tied 24-24 when Westbrook and Durant checked out. When they came back in the second quarter, the reserves had given the Thunder a double-digit lead at 36-26.

Russell Westbrook led the charge, pushing the lead to 46-30 with 5:40 left in the second quarter.  The Mavericks called a time out, trying to handicap any momentum that the Thunder had at that point.

They had it alright, the ‘Peake was rockin’ and it was loud.

Dirk checked in and there came the Mavericks. It wouldn’t be a Mavs-Thunder matchup without Oklahoma City blowing a double-digit lead.

The Mavericks cut the lead to 50-47 with 2:12 left to go in the half, but the Thunder reasserted themselves, pushing the lead back to 10 points with 48 seconds to go in the half. The Thunder would lead 57-40 at the half.

The Third quarter was almost a complete 180 degree from the first two quarters. First two quarters, the officials allowed the teams to really be physical, and let a lot go. However, the second half would not see that.  Both teams would combine to shoot 23 free throws in the third quarter alone.

With the Thunder getting into foul trouble, really benefited the Mavericks. Dallas continued to try and penetrate, while the Thunder froze up with the Dallas zone defense. In all honestly, the Thunder looked like they were trying to play street ball for most of the second half.

Both teams traded the leads before Westbrook was able to give the Thunder the 79-77 lead at the end of the third quarter.

The Fourth quarter was very intense, and Nick Collison fouled out with nine minutes to play in the game. He left to a standing ovation. With Durant’s shot not falling, Derek Fisher came up big in the fourth quarter, along with Westbrook, Oklahoma City grabbed a 92-88 lead off a Fisher three from the corner. The Three was really the first set play, ball movement points in the second half.

Oklahoma City was able to score six of the final eight points of the game, allowing Oklahoma City to escape with the three-point victory. The win gives the Thunder the 2-0 series lead. The last time the Thunder led a series 2-0, they went on to win it (2011 1st round against Denver). Oklahoma City hasn’t lost a series when up 2-0 since the 1994 NBA Playoffs when, as the Seattle SuperSonics, they fell to the #8 seed Denver Nuggets.

Post Game Grades

Limit Dirk: C
Yeah, he had 31 points, but he wasn’t as involved in the second half as he was the first half. He had 20 in the first half, and 11 in the second. He also missed a chance at giving the Mavericks the lead with under 30 seconds to go.

Serge Ibaka: C
Ibaka might not have scored 22 points, but he was still very involved in this game. He finished with the second highest +/- with +14 tonight.

Get to the line: A+
Oklahoma City, the #1 free throw shooting team in the regular season, looked just like that tonight. They shot 39 free throws. What’s even more wild about it, is that they hit 37 of them! That’s nine extra points on the board, because OKC made their free throws.

Thunder Thoughts

  • Really, I’m going to lead off with Derek Fisher. It was hands down his best game in the Thunder uniform. Fisher was playing like it was 2002. If he can keep this up, Oklahoma City’s bench will be very very dangerous.
  • The threes were not falling, for either team. Both teams combine for 10-for-39 from deep.
  • Durant had another bad shooting night. He was 5-of-17 from the floor. However, Durant did much more than just letting his bad shooting night get to him. He finished with a double-double tonight. 26 points, 10 rebounds.
  • It’s just really amazing on the progression of Russell Westbrook. This guy has come so far since last season. A lot of people were questioning him at the beginning of the season. However, it was very obvious at this point that the lack of training camp effected him, and others (See Serge Ibaka). He’s really come into his own. I don’t think anyone on the Mavericks can stop him.
  • The Mavericks pulled down 12 offensive rebounds, well below the Thunder season average. However, they seemed to be key offensive rebounds. Also seemed that the Mavs really capitalized on every single one of them.
  • Um, Oklahoma City had just 18 points in the paint. Dallas had 40. The Thunder’s low number really can be contributed to their frequency at the free throw line.
  • Kendrick Perkins really responded offensively for Oklahoma City. He had 13 points tonight. 7 of them were in the first quarter, but they were very important, kept OKC in a streaky first quarter.
  • Some people tweeted that Dirk is a villain. I’m going to disagree. Has he been a lot different than we’ve ever seen him? Definitely. I don’t think Dirk is a dirty player.  I do think Perkins and Ibaka have really gotten into his head.
  • I’ve already heard some Mavericks fans complaining about the rate of the Thunder getting to the lane. I just would like to point out that OKC committed 28 personal fouls, to the Maverick’s 26. Just sayin’
  • Coach Brooks is really sticking to his guns and not playing Mohammed. I think he would have fouled everyone out, and played only guards before he played Mohammed, no clue why.
  • Lastly, it’s safe to say this is a rivalry. There is a lot of hate here, from both sides.

Next Up: Thursday at Dallas for Game 3. Two nights between games, so rest up. Watch some basketball.

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