“Durantula” And Who Else?
The Oklahoma City Thunder don’t want to get into high scoring games with the Dallas Mavericks every game in this series because they just can’t hang; Dallas is too deep and is loaded with scorers. By comparison the Thunder really only have three options; Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden who were the only three players to average double figures during the season. In the playoffs Serge Ibaka is averaging 10.2 ppg but as a defensive specialist in the middle he is a fourth scoring option but only out of necessity. After that it gets thin in a hurry as Nick Collison is the fifth leading scorer averaging 5.8 ppg. And that’s pretty much it.
Durant (29.8 ppg) and Nowitzki (28.5 ppg) are the two highest scoring players in the 2011 playoffs so far, so they essentially negate each other, as they did in game one (40 vs. 48) which spells trouble immediately for the Thunder. Which is why Russell Westbrook’s 3 of 15 shooting performance in game one sealed the deal for Dallas; if Westbrook even makes half of his shots (which he hasn’t so far in the playoffs, shooting an Allen Iverson-esque 39% from the field) the Thunder are right back in the game.
James Harden came through and put up roughly his average (12 points on 5 of 9 shooting), Ibaka was the recipient of some nice ball movement that translated into some easy dunks but other than that, the Thunder need someone else to step up and produce. Which if you watched the series versus the Grizzlies, you would have to think would be Eric Maynor who lost six minutes (though it felt like more) to Nate Robinson in game one.
At the very least they have to play better defense and play it with some intensity. On average during the season, OKC give up 101 points per game which is almost what Nate Robinson gave up to JJ Barea alone. Obviously I’m joking, he didn’t score 100 points on his own, but it sure felt like it during that pivotal stretch in fourth quarter where Barea lit up Robinson like Jordan used to do to Craig Ehlo.
Along the lines of playing better defense, they cannot give up open three pointers to anyone in the Mavericks lineup. In the words of Will Ferrell’s character “Mugatu” in Zoolander, Dallas is “so hot right now” from downtown it’s almost of video game proportions.
In game one they were just 9 of 23 from deep which is nearly 40% and constitutes an off night as of late. For the playoffs from beyond the arc, Dirk is shooting 60% (12 of 20), Jason Terry 50% (26 of 52), Peja Stojakovic 43% (25 of 58) and Jason Kidd 35% (23 of 65). They are hitting them consistently, game after game, so the Thunder must guard every open look and assume if they don’t get there in time, it’s going in.
So who is going to step up and score for the Thunder? And on defense, if they have to start doubling Dirk to contain him that means plenty of open three’s for everyone else; to double or not to double, that is the question, Hamlet. I mean Scott Brooks.
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