Thunder Try to Even Up Series with Mavericks in Game 4

2011 NBA Playoffs, Western Conference Finals, Game #4
#3 Dallas Mavericks at #4 Oklahoma City Thunder (DAL leads series 2-1) Best of Seven Series format, 2-2-1-1-1
Oklahoma City Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Monday, May 23, 2011, 9:05 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Thunder -4
Current Line: Thunder -3 1/2
Opening Total: 197
Current Total: 195 1/2
Money Line: Thunder -175 / Mavericks +155

Russell Westbrook and the Thunder try to rebound from a poor shooting night in game 3 as they try to tie up the series 2-2 against Dallas in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder are 3 1/2 point favorites at home in game 4.

The first two games in this series were offensive shootouts with both teams scoring over 100 points each in both games. However, once the series shifted to Oklahoma City, the shots just weren’t falling. The Mavericks silenced the loud and raucous Thunder crowd by jumping out to a 27-12 lead at the end of the first. Despite shooting 36.5% from the field for the game, including an atrocious 1 for 17 from 3-point range, the Thunder were able to claw their way back to only lose by 6 points, 93-87. Whether it was bad offense by the Thunder, good defense by the Mavericks, or a combination of both, the Thunder were left shaking their heads after giving home court back to the Mavericks. The normally polite, soft-spoken Kevin Durant was a little testy to the media during Sunday’s practice refusing to say anything but “I just want to play basketball!” Guard Russell Westbrook said the Thunder needed to use the loss as fuel for game 4. “You lose a home game, you have to be angry,” All-Star Westbrook said Sunday. “You’ve got to take care of home court.”

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said his team didn’t play with the defensive intensity they needed to at home. They played their best defensive game of the series by far Saturday night, so maybe the home loss in game 2 was the spark they needed. The Mavericks gave up only 88 points a game in the first two rounds of the playoffs to the Blazers and Lakers, but gave up 109 points a game in the first two games against the Thunder.

Carlisle also hinted that Oklahoma City’s defense on Dirk Nowitzki was stretching the rules Saturday night. He backed off that claim on Sunday, though. Carlisle said he didn’t want to get into “what’s legal or not legal” but that Dallas must put Nowitzki in a better position to be successful against Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka. Nowitzki scored 48 in game 1, 29 in game 2, and was held to 18 points on 7 for 21 shooting. He also attempted only 3 free throws all game after attempting a total of 34 in the first two games. Dirk added 4 rebounds and an assist in the win Saturday night. Small forward Shawn Marion also had 18 points on 9 for 13 shooting, with no free throw or 3-point attempts. Marion also added 4 rebounds, an assist, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. Jason Kidd added 13 points on 4 for 10 shooting, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals. Jason Terry was 3 for 12 off the bench for 13 points, and added a rebound, 6 assists, and 2 steals. No other Maverick scored more than 8 points but center Tyson Chandler did have 15 rebounds. The Mavs shot 43.9% from the field including 7 for 21 from 3 point range. They made 14 out of 18 free throws. Dallas had 37 rebounds, 21 assists, and 12 turnovers. Dallas only had 5 fast break points and 42 points in the paint.

If you are looking for a reason Oklahoma City lost game 3 Saturday night besides the terrible shooting night, look no further than the assist to turnover ratio. The Thunder had only 11 assists for the whole game and 14 turnovers. The Thunder found themselves down 35-12 in the second quarter and were never able to dig themselves out of that hole. They did show a lot of heart by cutting it down to 6 points by the end of the game, but you don’t get points for moral victories in the NBA playoffs.

In game 3, Westbrook and Durant were the only ones who did anything on offense for the Thunder. Westbrook scored 30 points on 8 for 20 shooting, including 1 for 2 from 3-point range, and he made 13 out of 14 foul shots. Westbrook also added 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 7 turnovers. Durant struggled as well with 24 points on 7 for 22 shooting, including 0 for 8 from beyond the arc, and 10 for 11 from the free throw line. Durant also had 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. No other thunder player scored more than 9 points, but Serge Ibaka added 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. Collison had 9 points, 6 rebounds, an assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. The normally reliable James Harden only scored 7 points in game 3 off the bench for teh Thunder. Oklahoma City pulled down 45 rebounds, and made 32 out of 36 free throw attempts.

Neither team has any significant injuries right now. Dallas is 8-5 straight up versus Oklahoma City in the last 3 years, but the Thunder are 8-5 ATS in those meetings. The over is 7-6 in those games. OKC is 24-14 ATS revenging a loss this season. The Thunder are 101-81 ATS in all games the last 2 seasons, including, 59-44 versus teams with winning records, and 19-9 off an upset loss. Dallas is 56-37 ATS in all games this season, including 19-10 as an underdog, 31-16 on the road, 12-1 in playoff games, and 36-17 against teams with winning records.

Oklahoma City can take heart in the fact that no matter how good Dallas plays defense, the Thunder will never have as bad a shooting night as they did Saturday night. They only lost by 6 points, to a team that is one of the best road teams in the NBA. I think OKC rebounds tonight with a close win, making this series a best of 3.

Our NBA handicappers are red hot in the playoffs. Don’t miss out on any more winners from now until the Finals end next month.

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