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Blog Entry

NBA Playoffs Thunder-Mavericks: Matrix Reloaded

Posted on: May 22, 2011 1:58 am
Edited on: May 22, 2011 2:19 am
 
Shawn Marion was the difference for Dallas in Game 3 in Oklahoma City. 

Posted by Matt Moore



A surprising number of people entering the Western Conference Finals completely overlooked Shawn Marion. Despite Marion being a seasoned veteran who has still contributed at both ends for the Mavericks this season, he was written off as being a non-factor, despite being in great condition at 33 years old. When the topic of Kevin Durant was discussed, the assessment was that Maron was an afterthought to be sacrificed to the Durantula God. 

Instead, in Game 3 amongst the rabid throng in Oklahoma City, it was Marion who made the biggest difference on both ends of the floor. Marion shadowed Durant aggressively off-ball, limiting his ability to find open opportunities. While Durant did his damage on drives, mostly at the free throw line, Durant was just 7-22 from the field, thanks largely to Marion who kept up with Durant on his cuts and didn't lose him as often. The result was fewer minutes for Peja Stojakovic and DeShawn Stevenson, which meant less offense. Or, at least that's normally what it means. But Marion justified Carlisle's decision by also showing up on the offensive end.

Marion was 9-13 from the field for 18 shots, and added 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. His offense wasn't just dump-off passes from Kidd or cutters from a double off Dirk, either. Marion flashed the kind of offensive production he showed so consistently and brilliantly in Phoenix during the Seven Seconds or Less era in Phoenix. Marion hit a floater in the lane to punish the Thunder's adjustment to aggressively defend the perimeter. Marion's work was all done on the inside. In Game 2, the Thunder lived with the Mavericks working the pick-and-roll with Tyson Chandler due to their ability to guard size with size. But Marion worked much more effectively, getting dunks with his remaining explosiveness.

The first two games of this series were defined entirely by offense. Game 3 was decided when the Mavericks decided to commit to defense. For the first time in the series, a team was held to a below-100 offensive efficiency as OKC struggled from the field. Offense drove the Mavericks to outshoot the Lakers. After the first two games in the Western Conference Finals, Rick Carlisle has made the first significant adjustment, refocusing his rotations to defense. Marion rewarded that strategy by not only making the difference on the Thunder's best weapon, but by adding offense. The result? Dallas regains homecourt advantage and quiets that rabid crowd. 

Comments

Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: May 22, 2011 3:26 pm
 

NBA Playoffs Thunder-Mavericks: Matrix Reloaded

Matt, your assessment is right on target. But it may not have been all the Matrix. Durant played a poor game and his 3-point shooting, along with the whole Thunder team, was awful. The game four adjustments will surely see Durant knock down shots more consistently. Even the best defenders have not been able to shut him down all season. Where the Maverck defense has also been supurb is nearly everyone except Durant and Westbrook. The Thunder simply have to regain their third option. In game two it was Harden.  In game three Harden was 2 for 9, Cook was 0 for 2, and Ibaka was 4 for 11.

Westbrook was 8 for 20 in game three with 30 points but tried to put the game on his own shoulders dishing out only 4 assists with 7 turnovers. Can the Thunder respond? I would expect Durant to respond but without a third option it may not be enough. Dallas has not played well off the double teams of Nowitzki. Jason Terry in particular has struggled but did have a critical bucket in the closing minutes. Can the Thinder keep Terry and Nowitzki suppressed in game four? If not the series is over.


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