It’s been hard to find any media member who does NOT believe this Thunder-Mavs series has been the best of the postseason thus far. Tonight, the foes took that notion to extremes by providing more twists and turns in one quarter than the Knicks and Heat had for the entire previous 150 minutes. Here’s the “Tale of One Period:”
* All those columns the past week that have warned, “The Thunder could easily be down 0-2″ were aiming directly at Kevin Durant and his 34.1% marksmanship through two games. Durant apparently read an article or two, coming out firing for 15 points in the first 10 minutes.
Of course, he couldn’t resist a heat-check 25-footer that missed badly on a possession when his team could have pushed its lead to 14 or 15, only to see the Mavericks storm back to within single digits by the quarter’s end.
* Russell Westbrook’s first nine minutes: 1-7, 3 points, one moronic offensive foul for lowering a shoulder against Jason Terry, one dubious foul drawn for possibly tripping over his own foot at the end of a breakaway. Westbrook has been a force of nature in these playoffs, but it was nice of him to remind us all he’s still capable of incredibly shaky decision-making.
* Vince Carter unleashing a thunderous tomahawk jam last spotted in Toronto around 2002 (followed on the next possession by a retro fadeaway corner three)
The fun continued in the second quarter, with comet-like events such as Jason Kidd penetrating and finishing a layup, Carter blocking Serge Ibaka’s shot, and the Thunder putting the game away.
That last development actually flew under the radar. In the midst of this eventful game, it was easy to focus on the trees and miss the forest. This was the moment at which the Thunder asserted itself as the superior team.
Oklahoma City’s superstar outplayed Dallas’(Dirk Nowitzki managed 17 points, to Durant’s 31). They had an answer for the matchup zone that befuddled them 11 months ago. They have ramped up their own defense to force Dallas into 43 turnovers against 43 assists in three games. They even found the range from beyond the arc (12-28 threes, after hitting 11-32 in the first two games).
This was a game in which a championship team makes a statement: leading 2-0, facing a hostile crowd, in position to go for the kill. Tonight, the Thunder looked like a championship team, and in doing so made the reigning champs look like pretenders.
Their remaining tasks are straightforward: take care of business in Saturday’s Game 4, and watch plenty of Los Angeles Lakers film. It looks like James Harden may get his chance to strike back at Metta World Peace sooner than he hoped.
About the Author
Written by Steven Jones
Portland native, Highland Park resident, middle school teacher/basketball coach.