Quantcast 2011 NBA western Conference Finals: Oklahoma City vs Dallas

 

Western Conference Final Game 3 - Dallas 93, Oklahoma City 87 - Mavericks lead series, 2-1

 

The Dallas Mavericks had ridden star Dirk Nowitzki to a 9-3 postseason record coming into their Game 3 contest in Oklahoma City. On Saturday night the Mavericks proved they are more than a one-man show, however, as Dallas received contributions from nearly every key player in defeating the homestanding Thunder to regain home-court advantage. Nowitzki struggled from the field all night, missing 10 of his first 14 shots, but the all-star found his rhythm down the stretch to seal the win. Prior to Nowitzki’s closing act, his fellow Mavericks carried the load.

Early in the first half it didn’t look as if the Mavericks would need a finale from Dirk at all. The Mavericks blitzed the Thunder in the opening minutes, effectively taking the raucous Oklahoma City crowd out of the contest for the better part of three quarters. With the Thunder paying so much attention to Nowitzki, throwing wave after wave of double-teams his way, the underrated passing big man was able to find the open player again and again. Back-to-back three-pointers from Peja Stojakovic and Jason Kidd pushed the Dallas lead to 21-8 with just 3:01 left in the first frame. The run didn’t stop there. Jose Barea’s ability to penetrate also caused the Thunder troubles. With 10:07 left in the first half Dallas had amassed a 35-12 lead.

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The lead hovered from 15 to 20 points for most of the third period. Kevin Durant and company began to chip away for Oklahoma City in the fourth quarter, eventually getting within six points at 80-74 on two James Harden free throws with 5:35 remaining. It seemed the game was there for the taking. Yet, Durant and Westbrook simply couldn’t get over the edge. Turnovers, poor shot selection, and Nowitzki were to blame.

Westbrook continues to press in key moments, showing his lack of maturity. The talented point guard had seven turnovers on the evening, giving him 15 turnovers in the first three games of the series. Durant struggled to find his shooting stroke for the second straight game. Dating back to Game 2, the two-time scoring champ has now missed 13 straight shots beyond the arc. Oklahoma City had 18 more free-throw makes on Saturday and held Nowitzki to 7-of-21 shooting, but was undone by 36 percent shooting from the field, including an NBA playoff record 1-of-17 display from the 3-point line. No team has registered a lower shooting percentage on that amount of long-distance shots.

Still, as amazing as it may seem, the Thunder had a chance to win Game 3. It was Nowtizki’s clutch shooting in the final minutes that put this contest on ice, as the Mavericks grasped the momentum of the series again. Nowitzki had been settling for contested threes for most of the second half, but in the final few minutes, he worked his way to the elbows and the free-throw line to beat defender Nick Collison with angled 15-foot jumpers.


 

Seven Mavericks scored at least eight points. It is this balance that makes Dallas such a deadly club. More often than not Dirk will be Dirk, but on the nights when he is struggling, the Mavericks have the depth to fill the void.

They definitely proved as much precisely when they needed to. Oklahoma City won’t go away quietly in this series, but the long and short of it is that if Dirk plays two great games at home, Dallas will march on to the NBA Finals. Momentum was waiting to be seized in this pivot point of the Red River basketball rivalry. Dallas took command, and now the Mavericks have to be considered the favorite in this best-of-seven showdown.

 

 

By: Zach Bloxham
ProBasketball-fans.com Staff Writer


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