When you’re down 3-0, you throw in everything up to and including the kitchen sink. Rick Carlisle, a reliable pitcher of plumbing fixtures, began this one by starting both Jason Terry and Jason Kidd. It didn’t hurt that Kendrick Perkins exited, eight minutes in, with a hip strain. Three quarters down, and the Mavs were up thirteen.
What didn’t Carlisle allow for? James Harden having only the best playoff game he ever had, racking up 29 points. He powered the Thunder to a 28-10 run in the first nine minutes of the fourth. Dallas quit hitting from the field with 5:47 left; even the departure of Serge Ibaka with six fouls did not empower the Mavs, and Harden iced the deal with 10 seconds left, putting Oklahoma City up by five. Kevin Durant added one more free throw, and the Thunder get to celebrate dethroning Last Year’s Champs, 103-97.
As for Dirk, well, he was Dirk, logging a game-high 34 points. But in that fourth quarter, he was reduced to begging at the charity stripe: he had one field goal in those twelve minutes. Jason & Jason wangled 27 between them, but starting them both weakened the Dallas bench a bit — any time your bench is led by Ian Mahinmi, “weak” comes immediately to mind. The Maverick reserves scored 23 points, or six less than James Harden.
With the Beard taking care of offense, Durant turned his attention to defense, ending up with a double-double: 24 points, 11 rebounds. And Derek Fisher put together yet another line that belies that Old Man crap: five of six shooting for 12 points and a plus-21 for the night. Radio guy Matt Pinto pointed out that Oklahoma City has beaten Dallas in six straight games — last two of the season, plus four in the playoffs. As for Mavs owner Mark Cuban, I suspect he’s standing in front of an ATM right about now.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets and the Lakers fight it out, and one of them will be the next-round opponent of the Thunder. When we’ll know for sure, no one knows for sure.