Tag:Jason Terry
Posted on: May 26, 2011 1:38 am
Edited on: May 26, 2011 2:34 am

Mavs close out Thunder with another late push

The Dallas Mavericks close out the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals thanks to some fourth quarter heroics. Posted by Ben Golliver.


Watching the Dallas Mavericks -- who polished off the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 on Wednesday night to advance to the NBA Finals --  cruise through the 2011 playoffs, you would expect their fourth quarter scoring numbers to be out of this world good.

The Mavericks are now 12-3 in the postseason, after outlasting the Portland Trail Blazers, sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers and out-executing the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Mavericks have done it with clutch plays on both ends, knocking down dagger three-pointers, forcing critical turnovers and getting to the free throw line with regularity.

Despite all that, the Mavericks have actually only won the fourth quarter scoring differential (including an overtime game against the Thunder) by an average of less than two points per game: 26.4 to 24.5. Their average scoring differential during the playoffs has been +7.9. The first glance at the numbers would suggest Dallas played only as well in the fourth quarter as it did in other quarters.

Sure, Portland's monstrous Game 4 fourth-quarter comeback is a major outlier here. Thanks to Brandon Roy's heroics, the fourth quarter differential numbers are skewed a bit. But even if you take that game out of the equation, Dallas wins the fourth quarter scoring by 3.5 points per game: 27.2 to 23.7. Almost all of that difference can be accounted for by the lopsided numbers in the Lakers series. Get this: The Blazers actually outscored the Mavericks in the fourth quarter over their six game series and the Thunder were outscored in the fourth quarter (and overtime) by just four points total in their five game series.

The numbers seem to suggest that Dallas wasn't any more extraordinary late in games than they were at other points. And yet the numbers feel so wrong. Time and again through this playoff run, the Mavericks have come up biggest at the most opportune times, often late in the fourth quarter, by owning the late-game play and launching comebacks of their own when necessary. It's somewhat expected from a veteran, focused group but still amazing how steady that late-game success has been.

The turning point of the Blazers series was the end of Game 2, when Dirk Nowitzki closed the game with 11 straight points, on an array of baskets and free throws that served as the announcement of his postseason dominance.

The Lakers series tipped in Game 1, when the Mavericks launched a massive comeback from a double-digit deficit, outscoring the Lakers 9-2 in the final 3:31 to steal the first game and set the tone for the series.

The Thunder series, of course, would never be the same after the Mavericks dug themselves all the way out of a 15 point hole on the road in Game 4 to force overtime, where they didn't hesitate to slam the door. 

The Mavericks were similarly ruthless on Wednesday, peeling off a 14-4 run in the final 4:18 to send the Thunder into their summer. As was the case against the Blazers and Lakers, it was a combination of timely offense, a bit of luck, some timely rebounds and steady defense that made the difference. The Thunder didn't roll over.

"This is as hard a game I've ever been involved with," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. 

In the closing minutes, Dallas turned to Nowitzki, who got to the line, and to an unlikely candidate in Shawn Marion. Marion had seven points in the game's final four minutes, including a huge run-out dunk that he finished emphatically while being fouled from behind by Kevin Durant. Marion ran out off of a broken play caused by a Nick Collison turnover to get that dunk. His steal was one of three the Mavericks came up with in the final 1:15 of the game, as a frenetic Russell Westbrook made two critical turnovers.  Marion also secured a loose ball late that he threw ahead to Jason Terry, who threw down a buzzer-beating dunk that set the American Airlines Center into a celebratory tizzy.

Those plays summarized this playoff run: excellent energy, perfect focus, right place, right time, back-breaking results.

"We went back big, the finishing group that has been our closing team for most of the years," Carlisle said. "Those guys delivered stops and were resourceful finding ways to get the ball in the basket."

"Resourceful" might be the perfect word, as the Mavericks' spectacular comebacks over the last month were obviously the result of some inconsistent play earlier in the game. And that's the huge elephant in the room here heading into the Finals: The Mavericks will likely face the Miami Heat, who have been closing games with ferocity throughout their playoff run as well. The Heat boast two scorers in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade who can create their own shots and are adept at getting to the free throw line late. James and Wade also aren't liable to wilt under pressure like the mismatched Blazers, lost Lakers and young Thunder each did. 

It's much easier to be resourceful when you're hungrier and better balanced team than your opponent. But will the Mavericks be able to enjoy a similar level of execution against the Heat? That could be the question that decides this year's NBA Finals.
Posted on: May 26, 2011 12:35 am
Edited on: May 26, 2011 5:33 am

Westbrook storms off without shake after loss

Posted by Matt Moore

In 2009, LeBron James left the floor without shaking his opponent's hand after losing to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. It was a humongous upset. For the MVP, it was a disappointing  act of classlessness in the eyes of many. Some felt that as a competitor, you never want to accept losing. Most, though, felt that sportsmanship dictated that you owe it to your opponent and say "Congratulations, good luck." James was killed for it in the press. Looking back, it may really have been the start of James' P.R. fall from grace. It is considered classless to just walk off the floor. 

Russell Westbrook just walked off the floor. Thirty-four second mark here:


Now, first of all, Jason Terry, I know you're excited. It's the Finals. Pull up once you see the clock. It's done. No need for the extra dunk. 

Moving on, Westbrook also declined to go to the podium after the game, with James Harden at the presser instead. Westbrook might have simply been too upset to make the presser. After a game where he scored 31 points (on 28 shots) and had eight rebounds, five assists with only three turnovers, he was obviously disappointed. Westbrook constantly soared for rebounds and pushed the ball to get buckets in transition. With Kevin Durant off for most of the game, Westbrook again tried to lead, with successes and failures. Westbrook also lost his emotional cool with a technical in the second half by shoving Jason Terry.

It's going to be a pivotal summer for Westbrook. He's shown tremendous ability and became an All-Star. But his immaturity and decision-making led people to question his role on the Thunder. A stellar performance by James Harden at the point guard position only complicates matters. Westbrook's going to have to decide what role his career is going to be defined by for the next several years, and he's going to have to grow up a bit to learn to control his emotion and harness it in a positive way.

And he's going to get killed in the press for not shaking his opponents' hand after another late-game collapse.
Posted on: May 25, 2011 6:49 pm

LiveChat: Thunder-Mavericks WCF Game 5

What: Livechat for Mavericks-Thunder Game 5 as the Thunder try and stave off elimination on the road in a must-win, and the Mavericks try and advance to the NBA Finals for the second time in franchise history. 

Where: You're looking at it.

When: 9 p.m. EST. 

Why: Because where else are you going to debate how ridiculous Russell Westbrook's decision making is, or how Jose Barea is a denial of logic in terms of basketball ability. Also we debate if this is really a must-win for the Thunder since all it means is the Mavericks are up 4-1.

Posted on: May 25, 2011 2:33 am
Edited on: May 25, 2011 11:54 am

Playoff Fix: Can the Thunder get over Game 4?

Posted by Royce Young

One Big Thing: It definitely feels like this series is over. That's probably because it sort of is. The way the Thunder fell on their face in Game 4 and gave away a win basically sealed their fate. Now not only do they have to try and recover from that but they have to do it on the road. Chances aren't good for them.

However, the other humiliating loss the team suffered, they bounced back from. After a Game 3 loss to Memphis where the Thunder blew a 10-point lead late, OKC bounced back and won a crucial Game 4. Their backs are to the wall even more and they're even more heartbroken now. Do they have anything left? That's the question.

The X-Factor: Mental fortitude. How do you shake the feeling this series is over? How do you stop replaying those final five minutes in your head over and over again? That's what the Thunder have to do. They're going to show people what they're made of in this game. They have every reason to just pack it up and quit. Will they? Or are they going to play with that same resiliency that got them this far?

The Adjustment: The Thunder have to figure out how to score the ball in clutch situations. This has been gone over a million times but whatever the solution is, the Thunder haven't found it. Russell Westbrook can't create everything and score on his own. Kevin Durant can't get away from Shawn Marion for open looks. When James Harden isn't on the floor, the Thunder don't know where to go for points. The Mavs defense has been really good in those circumstances but if the Thunder are close in Game 5, the question is, can they score?

The Sticking Point: I just keep coming back to whether or not this young Thunder team is ready to say they've had enough. Durant is a player that has a ton of pride. Same with Westbrook. The Mavs have a serious chokehold on the series and it's just a matter of closing out a young, rattled team at home. No problem, right?

Thing is, these Thunder aren't quitters. And the temptation for the Mavericks could be to relax and try and coast out of the Western Finals. But mess around and give this one away at home and the series will return to Oklahoma City where you can be sure the Thunder don't want to embarrass themselves again in front of their home crowd. The Mavs could play with some fire here if they don't take care of business.
Posted on: May 24, 2011 3:04 am

NBA Playoffs Mavs-Thunder: Marion vs.Durant

Shawn Marion shut down Durant and the scoring champ made things worse with his decision making.

Posted by Matt Moore

Shawn Marion finished Game 4 with four rebounds, 4 steals, and a block on the defensive end. In the final six minutes of play counting overtime, Marion had 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block. Nearly half of his impact came during the Mavericks' furious comeback to win Game 4 and take a 3-1 series lead. Lost in the Thunder collapse, Dirk Nowitzki's brilliance, Jason Kidd's ice-cold dagger and did we mention Dirk was awesome? Those two steals and that block?

They were all on Kevin Durant.

Everything was set for Durant to step up and be the hero for the Thunder. He'd been aggressive since the start, complimenting his perimeter game with slashes to the rim and no-regard dunks. The Thunder needed him with the offense completely unraveling, and all he had to do was get by a 33-year-old player best known for his time on a no-defense high-octane offense in the mid-00's but who had been a pest in these Western Conference Finals.

But Marion attacked. He attacked his dribble, forcing Durant to pull up, then reaching in and ripping the ball away from Durant, and he attacked his shot, constantly contesting Durant's three-pointers and blocking his would-be game winner.  Marion challenged the young scoring champ and in the biggest moment of his career... Durant failed. 

This isn't to pile on Durant, who was clearly devastated, is a phenomenal player, and has the brightest future imaginable ahead of him. It's to maintain consistency. Were this LeBron James or Kobe Bryant or Derrick Rose, we would be obligated to point out the obvious: Durant failed at being the go-to player when his team needed him most.  It's one thing for your shot to be off, that's going to happen. All you can do is focus on the fact you got the best look possible and move on. But Durant didn't do that. He opted for off-balance fadeaways 3-pointers, including a 40-foot pull-up with three more seconds left on the clock. 

There's no Russell Westbrook to blame here. Kevin Durant wanted the ball, he got it. He didn't deliver.

Meanwhile, it was the veteran Marion, once again getting none of the credit, doing nearly all of the work, and shutting down the heir apparent. Nothing will be given Kevin Durant. If he wants to be the next NBA legend, he's going to have to take his legacy in his own hands. On Monday night, he fumbled it into the gutter along with the rest of the Thunder team.

Game 5 is Wednesday.
Posted on: May 24, 2011 1:59 am
Edited on: May 24, 2011 5:59 am

NBA Playoffs: It's Dirk Nowitzki's Universe

Dirk Nowitzki owns everything as Mavs drop Thunder in comeback win in Game 4 of Western Conference Finals. 

Posted by Matt Moore

I swear, there was one shot where he wasn't even trying to hit it. He pump-faked, got Collison in the air for the zillionth time, and threw up a sideways shot. He was aiming, but it wasn't a shot you think about hitting, beyond pure instinct. The ball went up and forward. It went straight through the net. It was unbelievable. If it was anyone else, I would think it was luck. But I know better. At this point, we all know better, we all know Dirk.

It was only a shred of Dirk Nowitzki's incredible performance in Game 4 against the Thunder as the Mavericks kicked in the doors of the Thunderground Resistance who were celebrating victory up 15 with five minutes to go, and walked out with a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference finals. Nowitzki scored 12 of the Mavericks' 17-2 run in the fourth quarter, and took over in the way that they write about in books. It was the kind of performance you tell your kids about. That's cliche, right? But that's just how legendary it was. There was so much of a narrative in this game for Nowitzki, in fact, that mirrors his career arc.

In the first half, the Thunder could not miss, hitting their first nine shots. It looked every part a blowout. But Nowitzki balanced the Mavericks, provided the consistent, calming effect you need to weather a storm against a young emotional team like the Thunder. Nowitzki had 22 in the first half ... on just seven shots. The model of efficiency, and it helped the Mavericks cut a nine point deficit at the half to just four. In the third quarter, the Thunder defense stepped up on Nowitzki. Instead of going to work and committing to his shot, Nowitzki tried to get his teammates opportunities, constantly passing out of the double. He was trying to be the team player, not trying to force things. Honestly, his defensive and rebounding work was subpar Monday night, and the Thunder constantly grabbed offensive rebounds and found open dunks underneath. But, still, the Mavericks hung around.

Then with five minutes to go, down 15, Dirk went to work. It's the kind of thing you hope for your hero, your legend, to do if you're a fan. No "grab the ball at half court and try and cross him over." No, Nowitzki went to the post. When Collison denied, Nowitzki reposted. And when he got him to the elbow, there was no "NICK COLLISON: DIRK STOPPER" film playing at the Cineplex. It was just the German Shake And Bake show. 

Down 10 with 3:14 to go, it was a top of the key, pump-fake-drive-and-pull-up from the left elbow, forcing Collison to go full-speed then put on the brakes. How does a 7-foot lanky 32-year-old get to his pull-up so fast? At the 1:30 mark? Nowitzki went to the same move. Top of the key pump-fake-and-go, except when Collison anticipated it and jumped to the elbow, Nowitzki pivoted to the middle, then kicked back on a fadeaway. It's an impossible shot. It's an incredible shot. It should not have gone in any sane world. Swish.

You can say a player puts a team on his back, but with the Mavericks facing an insurmountable deficit, the Mavericks' franchise player was there. The man who has led them to so many wins, and yet been so often overlooked in his career, came up ... no, did not come up ... took over the game and put the Mavericks one home game away of winning the Western Conference.

It was supposed to be the Lakers' three-peat. It was supposed to be the rise of the young Thunder. Instead it's Nowitzki's universe. And we're all just watching Dirk work.
Posted on: May 23, 2011 7:41 pm

LiveChat: Thunder-Mavericks WCF Game 4

Join us at 9 p.m. EST for a livechat for the Thunder and Mavericks Game 4. Here's a brief list of things we bet won't come up at all. 

Fun starts at 9 p.m. EST.
Posted on: May 23, 2011 9:22 am
Edited on: May 23, 2011 11:42 am

Playoff Fix: Do the Thunder have the horses?

The Western Conference Finals have become about offense. Do the Thunder have enough to overcome the Mavs and even the series?

Posted by Matt Moore

One Big Thing: The Eastern Conference Finals are a slugfest. The Western Conference Finals are a trackmeet. In Game 3, the Thunder tried to get into a war of attrition with a team running circles on them. The result was either going to be Oklahoma City landing body blows which completely disable Dallas or OKC getting run over like the Mavericks were a stampede. Moo. The Thunder like to pride themselves on being a great defensive unit, only,  the thing is, they're not. They were 13th in defensive efficiency in the regular season, and have the worst defensive efficiency of the four Conference Finalists, just worse than Dallas. The Thunder can't actually stop anyone, which causes a much bigger problem against the best offense in the playoffs (Dallas) than it did against, say, Memphis. 

The Thunder were one-for-seven-hundred-thousand (that's just a guesstimate, it could have been more) behind the arc in Game 3 and couldn't get anything to fall. The reality is that were it not for the Thunder's uncanny ability to draw foul after foul with their relentless drives to the basket, Game 3 would have been much more out of hand than it was. The big thing for the Thunder has to be getting their offense on track. You can't bring a knife to a gunfight. The Thunder can't bring a bottle rocket to a heavy artillery battle. The offense has to come unplugged.

The X-Factor: Jose Juan Barea is just killing the Thunder in tiny ways. Barea's biggest contribution comes on his probe dribble, looping under the basket and testing the defense. It creates a collapsing effect by the Thunder defense which leaves shooters open on the perimeter. With the kind of perimeter passers the Mavs have, that means open looks for great shooters, and buckets on buckets. Even in the pick and roll, Barea is hurting Oklahoma City. In Game 3,the Mavs put James Harden on Barea to body him, but Barea is so fast he's able to get too much separation on the pick and roll. Throw in the fact Barea's jumper is falling consistently and you have a huge problem for the Thunder. They can survive Jason Terry, especially with Terry struggling in the series. Can't survive lil' Jub Jub Barea also having a huge series. 

The Adjustment: The Mavericks have managed to go through three games of this series without using the zone they've tested out in the past. The aggressive strength of the Dallas wing defenders has helped them get a leg up in the series. With the Mavericks looking for the knock-out punch in Game 4, now might be the time to use it for Rick Carlisle. If he can keep the Thunder out of the paint, forcing them to be a jump-shooting team, there's a better than 50-50 chance the Thunder won't be able to get the offense they need to even the series. It's a risk, but not a greater one than allowing James Harden and Russell Westbrook an unimpeded path to the rim and free throw line on every possession. The Thunder's confidence is shaken, now may be the time for a defensive tweak to put them on the ropes. 

The Sticking Point: For all the ways the Mavericks have run away with parts of this series, it's been close and the series is still just 2-1 with a chance for OKC to pull even Monday night. The Thunder have been right there down the stretch and just haven't been able to get the stops. That's key. Late comebacks are going to be diffifcult in this series due to the high octane offense on both sides and poor defense as mentioned above. Teams can hold the lead because the opponent can't get stops. Which means it's critical for the Thunder to come out and correct the problems with energy and execution in the first quarter of Game 3. The Thunder have to get off to a hot start and develop their own lead, forcing the Mavericks to play from behind. Do that, and they can grind their way to a win at the free throw line. Get discombobulated again and OKC is going to be staring up from a pretty deep hole going back to Dallas for a possible close-out game for the Mavericks.
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