Thunder Insider: OKC takes Dallas to brink of elimination
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Saturday, May 05, 2012
5/05/12 at 6:01 AM
HAISTEN’S THREE STORYLINES
1. Another elimination game
For the fifth time since relocating from Seattle to Oklahoma City, the Thunder franchise is involved in a playoff elimination game. In a best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series, OKC has a three-games-to-none lead over the Dallas Mavericks. Game 4 is set for Saturday in Dallas. A review of OKC's previous elimination games:
Lakers 95, Thunder 94
May 1, 2010 - Oklahoma City
First round, Game 6
OKC was vanquished when Los Angeles forward Pau Gasol converted on a last-second tip-in. The Thunder shot just 37 percent from the field. Kevin Durant was 5-of-23.
Thunder 100, Nuggets 97
April 27, 2011 - Oklahoma City
First round, Game 5
Durant scored 16 of OKC's final 20 points. His 41-point performance, along with a huge discrepancy in free throws, buried Denver.
Thunder 105, Grizzlies 90
May 15, 2011 - Oklahoma City
Second round, Game 7
Durant scored 39 points and Russell Westbrook recorded a triple-double as the Thunder survived a grueling series with Memphis.
Mavericks 100, Thunder 96
May 25, 2011 - Dallas
Western Conference finals, Game 5
With 4:37 left to play, the Thunder had a six-point lead. Dallas answered with a 14-4 run, surging to the NBA Finals and, ultimately, the NBA championship.
2. Winning formula: ball security + defense
During Thursday's Game 3 victory - 95-79 at Dallas' American Airlines Center - Oklahoma City was very good at each end of the court. During the first two games of the series, the Thunder committed a combined total of 30 turnovers. During Game 3, OKC committed only eight turnovers while getting 11 steals and blocking seven shots.
3. Nowitzki neutralized
Dirk Nowitzki's brilliance carried the Mavs past Oklahoma City in last year's Western Conference finals. Through three games of this week's first-round rematch, however, the Dallas forward has been relatively quiet. After scoring 25 points in Game 1 and 31 in Game 2, he needed 15 shot attempts to reach the 17-point mark. While he hasn't been completely stifled, Nowitzki hasn't been allowed to dominate games as he did a year ago. During a 17-minute span that began in the second quarter and extended into the fourth, Nowitzki did not have a field goal. Credit the defense of OKC's Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison.
THREE IN THE KEY
For having converted on the final-second shot to win Game 1 and following with a 31-point night in Game 3, OKC's Kevin Durant commands attention. During this series, however, Russell Westbrook has been the Thunder's most consistent offensive weapon. While Durant was only 15-of-44 from the field in Games 1 and 2, Westbrook was good in all three contests. For the series, the fourth-year point guard is averaging 25.7 points on 49 percent shooting from the field and 11-of-13 shooting at the foul line. In 109 minutes of playing time, Westbrook has committed only 10 turnovers.
Dallas nears the finish line
The seventh-seeded Mavericks have been dealt a daunting challenge. No team has ever rallied to win a best-of-seven series after trailing 3-0. If the second-seeded Thunder does win the first series, Dallas becomes only the fifth defending champion in 65 years to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
If necessary, Game 5 is set for 7 p.m. Monday at Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Energy Arena. The game is televised both by Fox Sports Oklahoma and TNT.
Series statistical averages
7.7||3: pt made||7.3|
20||3: pt attempts||22.3|
38.3||3: pt percent||32.8|
Thunder lead 3-0
Thunder vs. Mavericks
6:30 p.m. Saturday, at Dallas
*7 p.m. Monday, at OKC
*TBA Thursday, at Dallas
*May 12, TBA, at OKC
*if necessary; Radio: all games on KYAL-97.1
Kevin Durant blocks a shot by Dirk Nowitzki as James Harden watches in the second half of Game 3 Thursday night in Dallas. TONY GUTIERREZ/Associated Press