Late in the first of what was expected to be among many playoff games for the Oklahoma City Thunder, they found themselves down seven points.
The defending champion Dallas Mavericks led 94-87 with two and a half minutes remaining in the final quarter. After that point, the Thunder held the Mavs to just four free throws, and forced two turnovers.
A fierce Serge Ibaka dunk while getting fouled gave the Thunder a one-point lead. Dirk Nowitzki took back the lead with two free throws with nine seconds left.
The Thunder set up Kevin Durant with isolation on Shawn Marion. Durant drove to the basket, pulled up from 15-feet out and released what would be the final shot of the game.
The ball arced towards the rim; it hit the back of the iron and bounced for what seemed like forever. Eventually, to the fans delight, the ball dropped through the net, giving the Thunder the 99-98 lead.
The Mavericks failed to get a shot off as the buzzer sounded.
After as close of a game as it gets, the Thunder took a 1-0 series lead. The first round continues on Monday for Game 2 in Oklahoma City.
Kevin Durant- B+ 25pts/6reb/4ast/4blk
The reigning scoring champ came up in the clutch for the Thunder like he has all season. Durant did not shoot all that well throughout most of the game, but when it mattered he hit the shot that mattered most. Shooting just 10-27 from the floor did not deter KD from taking shots late in the game. It’s unlikely he continues to shoot poorly in the series, which will help the Thunder avoid close games late.
Russell Westbrook- A 28pts/4reb/5ast/3stl
As expected, Russell Westbrook played really well in this matchup. The Mavericks don’t have the defense at the guard position to contain Westbrook, and it showed. He was able to shoot over 50% while navigating through the Dallas guards. On another note, Westbrook did turn the ball over five times, but that can be expected when he handles the ball as much as he does. Look for Westbrook to continue to play well throughout the series.
James Harden- A- 19pts/6reb/3ast/1stl
It looked like the Mavericks didn’t know how to defend James Harden. Unfortunately the same can be said for Harden guarding Jason Terry. The battle of 6th men turned out to be pretty even. Terry scored 20 to Harden’s 19, both very efficiently (Harden had 7 FGAs, Terry 10). One of the reasons James has been so good this season was because he got to the line often. This game was no different as he attempted 10 free throws, making 9 of them.
Serge Ibaka- B 22pts/6reb/1ast/1stl/5blks
Quite the unusual game for Ibaka. On defense he did manage to block five shots, but was pretty poor in guarding Dirk. He still struggles outside of the paint, and may not be put on him for a majority of the series. Oddly enough, Ibaka was pretty dominant on offense. He scored 22 points on 9-12 shooting, including a 3-pointer to end the first half. Also he showed flashes of post moves that we really haven’t seen all season, which was a nice surprise. A performance like this, offensively at least, is what the Thunder need to win this series.
Kendrick Perkins- A 0pts/8reb/1stl/1blk
Looking at that statline you wouldn’t think Perkins played well. That was definitely not the case in Game 1. I actually love that he didn’t score, it’s not what the Thunder want or need him to do. He played BEAUTIFUL defense on Dirk down the stretch, one of the biggest reasons OKC won the game. Hopefully Perk is guarding him whenever he is in the game, because if he can shut down Dirk for the most part, the Thunder won’t have a hard time winning.
Rest of the Thunder- C
Only five members of the team scored, all starters except for Perkins, adding Harden. Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison, Derek Fisher, and Daequan Cook all played fewer than 20 minutes and had little offensive impact. Thabo spent put in some solid defensive minutes on JET and Delonte West while Collison did the same with Nowitzki. Nazr Mohammaed, Royal Ivey, Lazar Hayward, and Cole Aldrich didn’t see the floor.