NBA

Despite Mavs’ Head Games, OKC Rides Talent to Second Round

Despite Mavs’ Head Games, OKC Rides Talent to Second Round

We all know it, so let’s just put it out there: the Dallas Mavericks were overmatched. Still, though, they managed to make it an interesting series. There was dancing, attempted interruptions of said dancing, superstars, all-stars, and definitely some superstar-level head games.

The simple fact is that there was a massive talent gap. Perhaps Dirk, Deron Williams, Raymond Felton, Zaza Pachulia, Devin Harris, and David Lee could’ve put up a better fight if this series were five years ago. In 2016, this roster was lucky to be as highly seeded as they were.

OKC’s ‘superstars’ (emphasis Mark Cuban’s) had a pretty good, if inconsistent series. Durant averaged 26 points on 37/27/84 percent shooting. Not ideal for the usually efficient Durant. Even his rebounding and assist totals lag behind his regular season numbers. More on this later, but it’s pretty obvious Durant will have to play better against the Spurs.

Russell Westbrook, on the other hand, was transcendent. He averaged 26 points on 46/38/76 splits. His real impression on the series, though, was his tenacious rebounding and his dime dropping, averaging seven boards and 11 assists a game. Game score (a formula created by John Hollinger to measure a player’s individual impact on the game) show’s Russell’s series average at 23.4 For reference, the next closest three were Enes Kanter, Kevin Durant, and Dirk Nowitzki, at 13.8, 13.6, and 13.5 respectively.

Speaking of Enes Kanter, the Turkish big man highly impressed over the five games he played. He was incredibly efficient, posting an effective field goal percentage of 72%. Enes averaged 15 points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes of play. This is a very encouraging sign for the talented young big.

Two other Thunder big men also played very well: Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams. Serge shot an impressive 64% percent from the field and 61% from three. There’s no doubt the Thunder could use his production against the Spurs. Adams averaged 9 points and 7.5 rebounds, but his impact could not be measured by a box score. He was simply everywhere, laying out for loose balls (scary for a 7’ 250 pound man), banging for boards down low, and agitating Mavericks players at every turn. He was an irritant and an X-factor—a feature many championship teams have had.

There’s no doubt that the Thunder will need their stars to be transcendent against the Spurs. San Antonio’s rotation (which is legitimately 14 players deep) will almost definitely outmatch the Thunder’s inconsistent bench offerings. KD and Russell know what they need to do. One final thought: might the Thunder’s crunch time woes rear their ugly heads yet again? We will find out starting Saturday night in San Antonio.

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