Very little goes according to plan in Thunder's loss to Mavs
By Mike Piellucci
It was a game that was the opposite of the
one we expected in almost every way.
The Thunder, leading the NBA in free throw makes, attempts and percentage, were
dominated at the line by a Mavs team that ranks in the bottom third of the
league in two of those categories.
Meanwhile, the same Oklahoma City squad that ranks 17th in field goal
percentage shot a crisp 48 percent against Dallas, which allows a paltry 43
percent from opponents, good for fifth in the league.
Russell Westbrook, the type of athletic point guard who tends to give an aging
Dallas team fits, struggled. Kevin Durant, playing against the team that has
given him more trouble than any other, thrived.
In the end, though, it was the least surprising outcome that made all the
difference. Dirk Nowitzki eviscerated the Thunder yet again by scoring 34
points, half of which came in a freight train of a fourth quarter, to send
Oklahoma City to a 111-103 defeat that snapped its five-game win streak
Coming out of the gate, the Thunder looked to be the team with the advantage.
The jumpers were slow to fall, so the team compensated with stellar ball
movement, assisting on its first 18 buckets and matching its highest
total in a half since moving to Oklahoma City with 19 in the first two quarters.
Defensively, the Thunder baited a slick-handling Mavs team that totaled just
eight turnovers in two of their past three games into seven giveaways in the
first quarter alone. In hindsight, this may have been the first warning sign for
Oklahoma City: Despite scoring a dozen points off those turnovers, they clung
to a slim 27-24 advantage heading into the second quarter.
Still, in a battle of age vs. beauty, it was the youthful Thunder that looked
to be a couple steps quicker than Dallas. While the Thunder forced only five
more turnovers after the first-quarter bonanza, they utilized their length,
athleticism and lateral movement to force Dallas into tough looks.
Over and over again, a Maverick would attempt to cut into the lane only to be
met by one or more white jerseys, resulting in a kick-out to the perimeter that
either would waste precious seconds and hoist a bad shot, or lead to one from
beyond the arc.
That strategy was particularly effective in the third quarter, in which Dallas
hit just 1 of 9 three-pointers. Again, the Thunder could be labeled fortunate,
as the Mavs were getting good looks at the basket