Last Thunder/Mavericks clash, Dirk Nowitzki played barely a quarter before retiring to the locker room with a sprained knee, but the Mavs won that one anyway. This time, Dallas was still Dirkless, and Caron Butler, poor fellow, is out for the season with a ripped tendon. Despite that, the Mavs jumped out to an early lead and were up 55-51 at the half, at which time Scott Brooks gave the Thunder a spelling lesson, emphasizing the letter D. OKC outscored Dallas 22-15 in the third quarter, and ran out to a double-digit lead in the fourth. Then in the last minute, DeShawn Stevenson rolled out two consecutive treys and nearly pulled off a steal on the next possession; Kevin Durant nailed two free throws, the Thunder got a stop, Rick Carlisle wandered out onto the court for some reason, Durant handed him the ball for no apparent reason, and Stevenson put up one more trey before the horn, making the final score 99-95.
All the Dallas starters posted double figures, except Jason Kidd, who didn’t score at all but did get ten rebounds. Shawn Marion, who’s been shooting over 50 percent most of the season, had an admirable 25 points; Tyson Chandler, ever ferocious, got 14 points and 18 boards. Were Nowitzki and Butler missed? No doubt; but there’s also no doubt that the Mavs know how to step up.
Telltale statistic: Oklahoma City pulled off 13 steals. (The Mavs had four.) This was a game of ball movement, first and foremost: 41 assists (OKC 23, Dallas 18), and only three blocked shots. Durant finished at 28, about his average; Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green returned to form, and Serge Ibaka had eight rebounds and hit six of six shots in 24 minutes — and accumulated, again, six fouls.
So the Mavs win this series 2-1, but I suspect we’re not done with these guys just yet. In the meantime, the Grizzlies will be in town Saturday; next week, it’s an odd back-to-back, at Houston on Wednesday, followed by a visit from the Magic on Thursday.