Czar’s Playoff Preview: Thunder vs. Mavericks Game 2

The Heat got one back in Chicago last night, and the Thunder are hoping to do the same tonight in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. Many thought the Mavs would come out rusty in Game 1 after such a long layover following their 4-game Lakers sweep. The Mavs took a quarter to play their way back into a rhythm and then proceeded to dispel those fears and demonstrate why they’re the No. 1 shooting team in the playoffs so far. Down 7 at the end of the first 12 minutes, the Mavs put up 35, 35 and 31 on the way to their seventh straight playoff win (121-112).

Although the NBA’s leading scorer Kevin Durant did his thing and put up 40, his impressive performance was overshadowed by future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki, who had a simply awesome game. Dirk erupted for 48 points and perfection at the line, draining 24 of 24 to set the NBA record for most consecutive free throws without a miss. Whatever you want to call him (The German Shepherd? The White Mamba? Ghost Face Drilla?), it’s clear that Dirk is on a mission to erase the Finals of 2006. Fortunately he doesn’t have to do it alone. Dallas also got two stellar performances off the bench from Jason Terry and J.J. Barea, who combined for 45 points. Terry (the only other player remaining from the 2006 roster) has had three tremendous games back-to-back. And the crafty, quick Barea put on another pick and roll clinic to come up with a career playoff high 21 points.

Though the Mavs played lights out, the Thunder kept coming back and Durant kept making tough shots to keep his team within striking distance in the fourth. KD needs to get more support from Westbrook and the other starters as well as the bench (who played very well in their seven-game series against the Memphis Grizzlies) if the Thunder are going to outscore this loaded Mavericks team. More importantly, the Thunder need to tighten up on defense and find an answer for Dirk because whatever they did in Game 1 wasn’t good enough. OKC gave up 121 points and allowed the Mavericks to shoot over 53% from the floor. It will be interesting to see what adjustments Coach Scott Brooks makes to their defensive schemes. We’ll probably see them double team Nowitzki more to try and get the ball out of his hands and force other guys like Jason Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson to take shots.

OKC will try to tie up the series and steal home court advantage when the Thunder and Mavericks get it on again at 9:00 PM ET on ESPN.

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