After two close games in Oklahoma City that easily could have gone Dallas’ way, the Thunder made a big statement in their 95-79 blowout of the Mavericks on the road in Game 3. Kevin Durant and company left no doubt that this series is over, putting Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs behind early and never letting up for the rest of the night.
So far, the series has been a close, hard-fought battle that translated into two wins for the Thunder because they had home-court advantage and played better down the stretch. Despite finishing with respectable numbers in scoring, Kevin Durant struggled with his shot in the first two games and Dirk Nowitzki was slightly more effective despite stellar defense from Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. But in Game 3, everything went Oklahoma City’s way, as Durant had a proficient shooting night (11-for-15, 31 points) and the increasingly unforgiving defensive combo of Ibaka and Perkins absolutely shut Dirk down, holding him to 6-of-15 shooting and 17 points. Up until Game 3, Russell Westbrook had been carrying the Thunder offensively, James Harden’s contribution off the bench was essential and OKC’s backline needed to play good defense and contribute on the other end as well. But in Game 3, Durant finally found his shot and silenced the defending champs’ home crowd early, while Ibaka and Perkins roughed Dirk up and frustrated him by making him work for every touch.
Jason Terry’s lackluster performance didn’t help things for Dallas. Terry only put up 11 points, but what’s even worse is that mediocre performance still qualified him as one of only three Mavericks in double figures (Jason Kidd was the third with 12 points). The Mavs have Terry, Vince Carter and Ian Mahinmi coming off the bench along with Shawn Marion and Delonte West in the starting lineup. Because of how strong the Thunder’s staring lineup is, Dallas needs to somehow find an advantage in their depth (which is tough to ask considering that subpar lineup, but they still needed to find a way to do it). But even when OKC’s bench juggernaut James Harden struggled and only put up 10 points, they still had Daequan Cook coming in and hitting three 3′s while Derek Fisher tacked on 10 points of his own. You combine that with Kevin Durant finally shooting well, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka doing their thing and some great team defense on Dirk and it’s no wonder the Mavericks got blown out in a pivotal Game 3.
The Thunder are an extremely dangerous team when their jump shots are falling. I still have doubts about how effective they can be when those jump shots aren’t falling because they tend to keep shooting them anyway instead of driving to the basket, but for now, OKC looks primed for the first round sweep. Rick Carlisle might be able to rally his team to one home victory, but it’s too much to ask of these veterans who have been lackadaisical all year in their title defense to make this series competitive. Now that Kevin Durant seems to have found his shot again, it’s only a matter of time (I give it the 48 minutes it takes to play Game 4) until the Thunder advance and the reigning champs are done.