Blog Entry

Thunder go Bricktown in Game 3 loss to Mavericks

Posted on: May 22, 2011 1:27 am
Edited on: May 22, 2011 1:47 am
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The Oklahoma City Thunder lost Game 3 to the Dallas Mavericks and now trail in the Western Conference finals 2-1. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Downtown Oklahoma City is known as "Bricktown," but this isn't what they meant.

On Saturday night, the Thunder dropped Game 3 at home to the Dallas Mavericks, 93-87, thanks in part to some historically horrific outside shooting. 

As a team, OKC shot just 1-for-17 from deep... good for a paltry 6%. The Thunder set a new season-low for three-point percentage, eclipsing their previous mark of 9% (2-22) in a Jan. 17 loss to the Lakers. They also tied a season-low for made three-pointers, as they shot 1-7 from deep against the San Antonio Spurs in a Jan. 1 loss. 

A search of Basketball-Reference.com reveals only one worse shooting performance in which the Thunder franchise made at least one attempt in the last 25 years: A 1-18 night in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks in 2003.

To help visualize how bad things got, here's a chart with OKC's three-point shooting percentage by game during the 2010-2011 campaign. Game 3 is on the far right, in a chasm all by itself.

okc-thunder-3s

The main culprit was All-Star forward Kevin Durant, who shot 0-8 from deep, a number only trumped this season by an 0-10 outing in a Nov. 3, 2010, loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Defended for much of the night by Mavericks forward Shawn Marion, Durant looked dejected, frustrated and rushed at various points, and he was clearly pressing in his attempt to pull the Thunder back into the game after they dug themselves a 23-point first half deficit. 

Game 3, obviously, was the Thunder's biggest game of the season, a chance to go up 2-1, to maintain homecourt advantage and to provide the first true mental test that the Mavericks have faced so far in the postseason. That they were betrayed by their three-point shooting is surprising, but not overwhelmingly so. On the season, the Thunder were 19th in the league at 34.7% from deep and that number had dropped to 33.8% in the playoffs prior to Saturday night. Durant has seen a similar drop in his outside shooting: from 35% in the regular season to 33% in the playoffs.

On Saturday, the Thunder missed from deep in every conceivable way. In addition to Durant forcing the issue, Russell Westbrook got a little too giddy late in the game, badly overshooting an attempt that would have brought the Thunder back within three points with just less than three minutes to go in the fourth quarter. That was immediately followed by a Daequan Cook three that nearly airballed. 

No doubt some of the Thunder's struggles can be attributed to jitters on the big stage. The Mavericks also deserve some credit. After allowing the Thunder to score 100+ in both Games 1 and 2, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle spent all of Friday and Saturday morning talking about the need for Dallas' defense to show up big. On Saturday night, he got exactly what he was looking for. 

"We played championship level defense for the first time in the series," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "Now the challenge is to sustain it."

It's very unlikely that the Mavericks can sustain the 1-17 three-point shooting result by the Thunder, but maintaining that level of intensity is definitely possible. In shutting down the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers earlier in the playoffs, Dallas' defensive rotations were steady and its communication on that side of the ball was excellent. As a result, the Mavericks forced their opponents to shoot a lot of contested, deep shots and created turnovers at a solid clip.

The Mavericks got back to that formula in Game 3. Their rewards: regaining homecourt advantage and sending the Thunder to do some serious soul-searching.
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