Quantcast 2011 NBA western Conference Finals: Oklahoma City vs Dallas


Western Conference Finals Game 2 - Oklahoma City 106, Dallas 100 - Series tied, 1-1


Every game in a seven-act series is a different story. Every contest is a unique flavor unto itself. Each outing gives someone, or some unit on a team, a chance to shine. Thursday night in Dallas was no different.

After a spectacular Game 1 performance went seemingly unnoticed, upstaged by an even grander personal rendition from Dirk Nowitzki, two-time defending scoring champ Kevin Durant wasn’t about to let such a scenario happen again. The gifted shooter from the University of Texas came back to his home state and carried his team for the better part of three quarters. Then his teammates finished the job, as the underdogs gained a road split and set up an extended battle in professional basketball’s version of the Red River Rivalry.

Durant sparked a tremendous first half push which saw the Oklahoma City Thunder overcome a double-digit deficit against the Dallas Mavericks. When it mattered most down the stretch, Durant was aided by some unlikely heroes, too. The Oklahoma City bench played the entire final stanza, and was instrumental in knotting up this West finals series at a game apiece.

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The final quarter wasn’t the bench’s first appearance for Oklahoma City. With the Thunder trailing 28-17 with 2:02 to go in the first quarter, the reserves, with their captain in tow, fought back into the contest. Following a mammoth Durant dunk over seven-footer Brendan Haywood with 1:15 to go, the Thunder finally captured the necessary energy they needed to keep pace with the Mavs. By the time the run had ended with a three-pointer from Oklahoma City sparkplug Daequan Cook, the Thunder had turned an 11-point deficit into a five-point advantage.

It was a back-and-forth contest the rest of the way. When Oklahoma City needed a lift, head coach Scott Brooks wasn’t afraid to go with his gut. With 28 seconds left in the third quarter Brooks substituted reserve Eric Maynor for All-NBA point guard Russell Westbrook. The explosive but emotionally volatile Westbrook has come under fire for his me-first attitude during the postseason. Surprisingly, though, Brooks was willing to keep him on the bench in crunch time; Maynor never left the floor again after his insertion into the crucible of second-half competition. Maynor’s 20 minutes of turnover- free ball were a key component of the Thunder attack.

So was James Harden. The former No. 3 draft pick gave Oklahoma City a tremendous spark, creating off the dribble and knocking down key jump shots. Harden and company turned a 91-90 lead with 6:58 remaining into a 102-92 lead just over three minutes later, capped by a terrific Harden fadeaway in the face of Dallas guard Jason Terry.


Dallas wasn’t going to go quietly, however. The Mavericks scored the next six points, four of those coming from Nowitzki, to trim the lead to 102-98. After two Nick Collison free throws put the Thunder up six with 47 seconds to go, everyone knew where the ball was going on the ensuing possession. Sure enough, Nowitzki found a way to get to the line, this time on a three-point attempt. Dating back to Game 2 of the previous series, Nowitzki had connected on an astounding 39 straight free throws, including 24 in Game 1 alone. His second of three attempts in the final seconds on Thursday, however, broke his streak and severely wounded any chance of a Maverick comeback.

Nowitzki finished with 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Oklahoma City limited his ability to get to the line and made Dirk’s teammates attempt to provide the difference, which they couldn’t. With Jason Terry unable to get going offensively and the Mavericks shooting just 43 percent on the night, it simply wasn’t meant to be for the home team.

Score one for the unexpected as the Thunder bench overcame a poor Game 1 performance in which it was outscored by the Mavs’ bench to the tune of 53-22. In Game 2, Oklahoma City’s bench outshined Dallas, 50-29. Harden had 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists in 32 minutes of play. Durant led all Oklahoma City scorers with 24 points. The Thunder shot a scorching 55 percent on the evening. With the series looking like it is destined for a protracted battle, we may have many more opportunities to see new stories told. Game 1 saw a truly historic performance from one of the game’s great players. In Game 2, it was the unlikeliest of units who put its stamp on the Western Conference finals. This begs the question: What will Game 3 and beyond hold?

By: Zach Bloxham
ProBasketball-fans.com Staff Writer

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