Dirk Nowitzki made a jump shot with Serge Ibaka on him to put the Dallas Mavericks ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder 94-87 with 2:31 left in the game.
Kendrick Perkins would guard Nowitzki the rest of the way.
The Thunder went on a 7-0 run after that with Perkins forcing Nowitzki into a missed three-pointer and then two turnovers on three of the next four possessions.
Nowitzki struggled to start the game but came alive in the fourth quarter and began looking like the Finals MVP again.
Ibaka is a great defender in his own right but the matchup with Nowitzki favors Dallas. Ibaka is better as a help-side shot blocker and playing up tightly on Nowitzki isn’t an easy task.
Perkins’ value was realized tonight and it was huge.
The Thunder were struggling earlier in the quarter trying to go small and get offense using Kevin Durant at the four. Durant’s shot was not falling so there was no advantage for the Thunder and they were giving up better interior defense by going small.
I love Durant at the four on offense but this team is better when they have Perkins and Ibaka out there with the big three.
That showed tonight and especially with Ibaka giving something offensively as well the Thunder looked their best in the final minutes.
Ibaka covered Nowitzki for most of the game but I think it will benefit the Thunder to have Perkins cover him some more that way Ibaka can also be used as the help guy to block shots.
The one problem here is that Perkins could get in foul trouble early if he’s matched up with Nowitzki. It will be up to the entire team to play with the intensity on defense they did down the stretch to help Perkins with this assignment.