For the second straight game, the Dallas Mavericks went toe-to-toe with the Oklahoma City Thunder and for the second straight time, they went home empty-handed. OKC grabbed a 2-0 series lead last night in a 102-99 victory, while the Mavs fell into a hole that’s going to be hard to climb out of even with the series shifting back to Dallas. But even with two crushing defeats that left the defending champs thunderstruck after giving the Thunder everything they could handle, don’t count them out just yet.
There were a lot of similarities between Games 1 and 2: Kevin Durant had another poor shooting night, the Mavericks hung around for the entire game before missing some key shots down the stretch, Oklahoma City pulled out a win in the game’s final minute, and physical play drew reactions from some star players. This time around however, it was Kendrick Perkins, not Serge Ibaka, who stepped up offensively for the Thunder with 13 points, all while guarding Dirk Nowitzki on the other end. Kevin Durant ended up with 26 points, but only because he took 17 shots from the field and 16 shots from the line. James Harden and Derek Fisher combined for 26 points to constitute the majority of the Thunder’s bench scoring. But the biggest game-changer of Game 2 was free throw shooting for the Thunder: OKC hit 37 of their 39 attempts at the line.
On the Dallas side of things, Dirk had a much better shooting night and finished with 31 points, but missed two crunch-time shots he’s normally known for making. Jason Terry, who missed two 3-point attempts to send the game to overtime, had a quiet game overall, but the Mavs’ role players stepped up and kept Dallas close throughout the night. Jason Kidd, Delonte West and Shawn Marion all finished in double figures and Ian Mahinmi added nine points as well. The Thunder should be a little on edge with the series heading into Dallas; even with home-court advantage, OKC has barely edged out this dangerous seventh-seed both times and the Mavericks are giving them everything they can handle. With the series shifting south and an angry Dallas team that believes it should have won both games on the menu, the Thunder need to buckle up and prepare for a hostile home crowd. In Nowitzki and company’s minds, a few bounces here and there are all that separate them from having a 2-0 lead. And watching Rick Carlisle’s postgame interviews tells me one thing: the defending champs aren’t going down without a fight.
With that being said. OKC’s 2-0 lead in the series makes it nearly impossible for Dallas to advance. They’ve fallen short twice now and eventually, losing games like this will take a mental toll. And given the pure statistical odds of the Mavs winning four of the next five against this talented and young team, things aren’t looking good. But taking into account how angry the Mavericks are right now, and factoring in Dirk Nowitzki’s postseason mentality, don’t be surprised if Dallas comes out with a little competitive fire in Game 3.