Last night the Dallas Mavericks took care of business, winning Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals by a score of 121-112 over the Oklahoma City Thunder. So much for the concerns and predictions that the Mavs would be rusty, perhaps even leading to a Game 1 loss. If anyone was the posterboy for the positive effects of eight days off, it was Dirk Nowitzki.
Dirty had what may have been his best game in a Mavericks uniform (although I still think Game 5 against the Nuggets in 2006 was better). Nowitzki only missed three shots all night, going 12-for-15 from the field and an NBA record 24-for-24 from the foul line. No one has ever done that in the regular or post-season. Nowitzki finished the game with 48 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Dirk dunked, banked, and swished the Mavs to the win.
It didn’t matter who the Thunder put on the big German, no one could stop him. Once he got the ball in his hands, there was no stopping the former MVP. Lost in the greatness of Nowitzki’s performance, the Mavs bench had another outstanding performance. Jason Terry continued to hit big shots from all over the court, going 8-for-16 from the field, including 4-for-8 from downtown. Add in a perfect 4-for-4 from the line and Terry finished with 24 points and 2 assists.
Not to be outdone, J.J. Barea’s contribution was equally as important. Barea continues to add energy and offense off the bench. It looks like the Lakers are not the only ones who are unable to contain Barea as he drove to the basket time and again, finishing with 21 points, 3 boards, and 1 assist. Peja Stoyakovic had a rather quiet night, adding a three-pointer as his only contribution.
Jason Kidd, while only hit one three-pointer, contributed by dishing out 11 assists, playing outstanding defense, as evidenced by his three steals. Kidd was a key factor in the Mavs ability to contain and frustrate Russell Westbrook. Westbrook ended up with 20 points, 14 of which came from the charity stripe. Westbrook took a lot of bad shots and looked lost at times. If he does not get going, the Mavs’ chances of winning this series increase exponentially.
Also lost in the shooting prowess of Nowitzki was the tremendous night of Kevin Durant. Durant had 40 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists as he single-handedly kept the Thunder in this game. The Mavs, at one point in the fourth quarter, had a 16 point lead. But the Thunder refused to give up. This team has a lot of grit. They simply refuse to roll over or give up.
This series is going to competitive every night. Both teams look determined to win. Both teams have prolific scorers. The difference may once again be in the play of their respective benches. Dirk and Durant are going to get their points. The Mavs are counting on Shawn Marion to at least hit double-digits, like he did last night scoring 11 points. Jason Kidd is also going to need to hit a few more jumpers.
But the Mavs have the three-headed monster coming off the bench in Peja, Barea, and Terry. The Thunder have James Harden. Not exactly a fair fight. If the Mavs bench continues to score like it has so far this postseason, I don’t see the Thunder having a chance. The Mavs won a big game last night, keeping home-court advantage and putting even more pressure on the young OKC team.
If history is any indication, the Mavs are sitting pretty as Game 1 winners have won 78.6% of all best-of-seven series in NBA history. But the Thunder will put up a fight. I think the Mavs win it in 6 games.