After Dirk Nowitzki started the game 6-6 from the floor, you knew it was a bad sign for the Thunder. The main objective and main fear for Thunder fans was the impossible matchup Dirk presented.
Oklahoma City tried a little bit of everything. Serge Ibaka. Nick Collison. Kevin Durant. Even 6-7 shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha took a spin on Dirk for a few possessions. When Nate Robinson came to the scorer's table to check in to start the fourth, I thought, "Man, Scott Brooks is really desperate. He's willing to try anything on Dirk."
But it was just that type of night. And by "that type of night" I mean a historic playoff night for Dirk. He finished with 48 on only 15 shots (that's 3.2 per attempt) and went 24-24 from the free throw line, which is an NBA record. The Mavs had an offensive efficiency of 130.1, shot 54 percent and got 53 points from their bench. By almost every indication, they whipped the Thunder in Game 1, right?
Oklahoma City was never entirely in the game, but with four minutes left, the Thunder were down just five. A single stop and a basket and OKC would've been right in the game.
The Thunder stayed close because Kevin Durant was terrific (40 points on 10-18 shooting) and the team went to the free throw line a ton (37-43). But despite the Mavs playing what felt like a near perfect game, OKC was right there. And this is without Russell Westbrook -- the Thunder's second best player -- playing a good game at all. Westbrook was just 3-15 from the floor, but did score 20 points thanks to a 14-18 effort at the line.
“I could bet my whole house that Russell Westbrook won’t go 3-15 again,” Durant said after the game. “You can quote me on that.”
Tyson Chandler had a lot to do with that the way he patrolled the rim, but Westbrook is normally better at finishing there. He struggled in Game 1 against Memphis much the same way, but I never thought Westbrook was doing anything to shoot the Thunder out of it or anything. So if you want a reason to be encouraged, I’d say the Thunder’s second best scorer went 3-15 from the floor, Dirk had a historic night and OKC was a stop or two away from having a shot.
Not completely bad, right?If you're a Thunder fan, you have reason to feel a slight tinge of encouragment after the Game 1 loss. OKC outscored the Mavs in two quarters and held a 27-20 lead after the first. Really what doomed the Thunder was a poor second quarter in which Dallas outscored the Thunder 35-21. Take that away and OKC is completely in the game every step of the way.
It doesn't seem like Dirk will be able to duplicate this sort of game again. The Thunder should do better on him. Maybe he doesn't get to the line 24 times again. Whatever the case, percentages say the Mavs will come back to Earth a bit.
The Thunder just have to regroup a bit and readjust. Come up with a bit better plan for Dirk and try and limit some of the open jumpshooting the Mavs had. I actually am mildly encouraged despite the loss. Being down 0-1 isn’t good and isn’t ideal and it means there’s more pressure for Game 2. But if there’s anything this Thunder team does very well, it’s bounce back.