Now that you’ve heard Royce Young’s thoughts on tonight’s Mavericks-Thunder game, let’s take a look at the game from a Mavericks’ bloggers’ perspective. Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game talked to me about what the Mavs have to do to end the series tonight and shedding old labels.
1. What do the Mavericks have to do to end the series at home tomorrow?
Continue to throw heavy defensive pressure at Kevin Durant, encourage Russell Westbrook to settle for jumpers, and make the Thunder role players win the damn thing. Durant will score, but if the Mavs are again able to bother him defensively by throwing multiple defenders his way, they should feel very confident in the fate of the series depending on Serge Ibaka’s jumper.
2. Is there any chance the Mavs can become victim to being too overconfident and risk letting the Thunder extend the series or do they have the veteran savvy to take care of business?
Doubtful. Dallas knows what’s at stake, and while confident, this bunch isn’t prone to hubris. They may let their guard down from time to time, but these are vets who understand the necessary value of closing out a series. The Thunder are able to draw motivation from a powerful place in facing their possible elimination from the playoffs, but the Mavs are ready and committed to finishing this series as soon as possible.
3. In your opinion, do the Thunder have any one player that can defend Dirk Nowitzki enough to limit him, or do the Thunder have to continue throwing the kitchen sink at Dirk?
Nick Collison seems to be the best individual option, but as with any great offensive player, you can’t give Dirk one consistent defensive look. Nowitzki is too versatile, potent, and intelligent to be stifled by one defender; he’ll find a way to score eventually, and the more time that Oklahoma City is committed to guard Nowitzki with Collison in essentially one-on-one situations, the closer that match-up gets to reaching its breaking point. Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, and Kendrick Perkins have been pretty poor options, but the Thunder need to try something to keep Nowitzki thinking.
4. Have you been surprised that the Mavs have been able to limit Russell Westbrook and at times even Kevin Durant?
I’ve been far more surprised with the defense on Durant than on Westbrook. Dallas had a ton of success in the regular season by playing off of Westbrook when he has the ball and going under screens; the best way to defend Westbrook is to turn his own vices against him. Open mid-range jumpers can be incredibly tempting, and Westbrook, despite his best intentions, manages to fall into the trap relatively consistently. With the combination of that allure and Tyson Chandler waiting at the rim to deter drives, Westbrook was — and is — put in a bit of a bind.
Durant, on the other hand, is a much tougher guard. Shawn Marion doesn’t quite have the speed to keep up with him, and DeShawn Stevenson and Jason Kidd don’t have enough height or length. KD is an insanely tough assignment for any defender, but I figured the Dallas’ perimeter D would get torched on a nightly basis, which has been true, to an extent. Still, being able to keep Durant to reasonable point totals and low shooting percentages is more than I thought possible for this group of perimeter defenders, particularly as they were preoccupied with containing Westbrook’s penetration. The Mavs have done an incredible job.
5. For some reason, regardless of what Jason Kidd and the Mavs have done, the popular opinion has been that Jason Kidd is always labeled as a poor shooter, and the Mavs have always been labeled as soft. Have both labels been shed this series?
Both labels were shed long ago. If you tuned into this series thinking that Dallas was a soft team or that Jason Kidd didn’t have a jumper, you’ve probably haven’t been watching much of the Mavs over the past few seasons. I realize that both of those are certainly elements of the prevalent Maverick narrative, but they come from a position of ignorance; “softness,” is a creation born of lazy analysts who have no interest in searching for legitimate explanation, and Kidd’s shooting improvement can be traced through his increased percentages.
Thanks to Rob and Royce and be sure to come back to Crossover Chronicles tomorrow morning for our thoughts on game five.