Think of the
Oklahoma City Arena as a 'roided Reunion. Basketball here is still fresh and, let's face it, there's nothing else to do. I was at Reunion in the '80s and Sacramento's ARCO Arena with the cowbells in the '00s, and this place is louder. Says Dirk Nowitzki, "It's the loudest I've ever been in. During a timeout I couldn't hear a word coach was saying."
9. That said, it's kinda strange to start a frenzied Game 3 of the NBA West Finals...with a prayer. And if you thought the invocation delivered by former Maverick and Thunder guard Kevin Ollie was weird, the ensuing National Anthem was sung by Hanson. Yes, "MmmBop" Hanson.
8. Russell Westbrook is as immature as he is immensely talented. With his team down 22 points in the third quarter he aggressively defended Dirk, prompting a turnover, but then negated the whole thing by picking up a technical foul...for taunting. Only a petulant 22-year-old would talk trash down by 22. He finished with 30 points, but 7 turnovers to 4 assists.
7. If you're at a game or get a chance to see OKC's player intros, check out backup guard Nate Robinson. He's got these dramatic, animated, exaggerated dance/handshakes with each and player -- even inactive former Kansas center Cole Aldrich, who looks plain goofy performing the splits in suit-and-tie. You just get the feeling the Thunder are having more fun in this series, but that the Mavericks -- thanks to the battle scars -- are more serious.
6. There were times when Nick Collison's physical defense made Dirk Nowitzki look awkward, unathletic and ineffective. The old Dirk -- think Golden State, circa '07 -- would've began passing and deferring. This Nowitzki kept pressing, and in the last minute made a Flamingo Fadeaway and two free throws for the Dirk Daggers. Said Dirk, "There was a time when on a night like that I would've folded it in. But I know I have to stay in attack mode no matter what."
5. This W belongs to Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler. The center was hyperactive, grabbing 15 rebounds and seemingly latching onto every loose ball. And Marion, who has frustrated us at times in the playoffs with his failed finesse finishes around the rim, scored 18 points and helped pressure Kevin Durant into 7-of-21 shooting.
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4. We can break this down from a lot of angles, but the truth is 99.99 percent of teams who miss their first 16 3-pointers are going to lose. The Thunder went 1 of 17, their only hit from Westbrook with 35 seconds remaining. Some of it was contested by Dallas defense, but some of them were just open looks that missed.
3. Admit it, when the Thunder cut a 23-point lead to 84-78 with three minutes left you were freakin' out. Thinking back to Portland. Maybe even Miami in '06. "Here we go again" crept into your mind. The collapse never came, however, thanks to the inexperienced Thunder. On three possessions with a chance to really shrink some Dallas sphincters, OKC produced a Westbrook missed 3-pointer six seconds into the shot clock, a Daequan Cook missed 3-pointer six seconds into the shot clock and a Westbrook turnover five seconds into the shot clock. A mature team would've probed for the best shot; the green, giddy Thunder tried to erase a six-point deficit in hurried, horrible possessions.
2. After torching the Mavs for 23 points in Game 2, James Harden managed only 7 in Game 3 on 2 of 9 shooting and one awfully fake flop after a Chandler almost elbow. With his full beard and evil intentions, I'm dubbing him James Bin Harden.
1. There was a time when a combined 10-of-33 shooting by Dirk and Jason Terry in a playoff game would have begat certain doom for Dallas. Maybe the Thunder aren't yet quite good enough or smart enough. Or maybe defense makes this a different Mavericks team.