No Need to Panic

The Dallas area was finally brought down to earth tonight as the Mavs fell 106-100 to the Thunder. Knowing the media of the Dallas area, panic will ensue over the Mavericks losing their first home game of this year's playoffs. All of the what if's will start to come out. The scenario that now that the series goes to OKC the Mavericks will go on to lose game 3, then game 4 will be a must win to avoid going down 3-1 to very scrappy Oklahoma City Thunder team.
Let's relax for a little bit here. The Mavericks lost a game by 6 in a game where their bench was outscored by 21 points. May I remind you that this is the same Maverick bench that matched the entire Laker team in game 4 of that series? Jason Terry's hot streak finally came to an end as he ended the game with just 8 points. The bench was led tonight by J.J. Barea who was the spark plug to the Maverick team, and to the fans inside of the American Airlines center. The Mavericks are a team with mostly jump shooters who need someone to create in order make space for them to find their shot. Terry couldn't get space, neither could Peja, and Kidd never goes down the lane to shoot as he is always looking for a pass. The bench didn't have a great game tonight, but I have faith that they will bounce back in game 3. Not because I'm from Dallas and am rooting for the Mavericks, but because this team has a much different attitude than Mavericks teams in the past. The acquisition of Tyson Chandler added a very positive feel to the locker room, and Coach Rick Carlisle is very calm and has been in these situations before. Also, to put things into perspective, the Mavericks haven't lost in over a month. The NBA playoffs are supposed to be one of the most grueling post seasons in all of sports. To win 7 games in a row in the NBA playoffs is unprecedented.
Game 1 Dirk had 48 points and the Mavs pulled out a win by 9 121-112. Overshadowed by that performance was Durant's 40 and Westbrook's 20. The Mavericks were also helped in game 1 with 20+ point performances by J.J. Barea and Jason Terry. Both teams shot pretty evenly even though Nowitzki was in a different world scoring 48 points on just 15 shot attempts. The difference in game 2 was that James Harden scored 23 points off the bench for the Thunder. The entire Maverick bench only had 29 points during game 2. This will not happen consistently. Harden is a great player, but is really the only real perimeter threat the Thunder has if you take away Kevin Durant. Rick Carlisle preaches defense for this year's Maverick team, and compared to last year it has improved tremendously. Just to compare, the Mavericks used to be a team that played as much defense as the New York Knicks do now. The past two games are the only two times this post season Dallas has allowed over 100 points in a game. The defense will have to improve, especially the match-up zone in order to stop Harden's perimeter shooting. Also, Terry and Barea only combined for 16 points tonight. Barea played a great game tonight where he showcased with shot going 50% from the 3-point line. He has proven to be a serious threat to defenses trying to guard him and needs to be in order to open Nowitzki, and to create space for the 3-point shot. Terry's hot streak couldn't continue forever and the thing that affected it the most would be the Oklahoma City defense. Credit has to be given where credit is due and the Thunder played great defense tonight.
What are the most prominent ingredients for the Mavericks to try to avenge the 2006 NBA finals? Terry and Marion need to score in double digits to help out Nowitzki. It has been discussed at length that Dirk is in need of a secondary superstar in order to win a championship. This isn't necessarily true. If Dirk were to get a solid 15 points from Marion and Terry with 10 from Barea and Peja, they will be just fine. And, this isn't much to ask for. Marion has not had a very good series so far, but even in a poor performance he managed 9 points. Marion needs to be in in clutch situations for his offensive inside presence. Marion offers a threat to drive the lane and throw up his awkward runner that seems to go in more times than it should. Marion needs to be in in clutch time though, because Stevenson is a liability on offense. He cannot consistently hit the outside shot and fails to spread the defense to open the floor for any teammates. Although great defensively, Stevenson needs to play sparsely throughout the game and Marion needs to be in in the stretch, because he is a very good defender that offers some sort of threat on offense. Oh and if these key role players can put forth the output of 15 points by Marion and Terry and 10 from Barea and Peja, the Mavs would have had an extra 14 points, a very doable 14 points may I add, and the Mavericks, theoretically, would have won this game 8.
These two teams are more evenly matched then people realize. Don't forget that Kevin Durant has already led the league in scoring twice, and Russell Westbrook is arguably one of the most athletic players in the NBA is not the most athletic. James Harden is a very efficient role player, but often times won't almost single-handedly outscore the entire Maverick bench. This game should help maverick fans realize that not every series can be a sweep. Sweeping the Lakers was such a big story, because you just don't see it often. The Mavericks will be fine, because they have an attitude to not back down and to go out and take games instead of having them given to them. The Thunder played some of the best defense Dirk has faced in months, and he still managed 29 points. He missed his first free-throw of the series tonight in the 4th quarter right after one of the announcers commented on his flawless free-throw shooting. Terry had an off night, and will surely bounce back Saturday night in Oklahoma City. This team is different so there is no need to panic at this time. They have faced adversity and responded well in the past. Also, the Mavericks had more road wins than any other team in the league this regular season. Also, the last time the Mavericks lost in the playoffs, they went on to with the next 7 games. If anything, this loss is exactly what the Mavericks needed to regain that fire and desire to get back to the NBA Finals and avenge 2006. There is no need to panic Mavs fans; this series isn't over by any means.



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