Oklahoma City 95, at Dallas 79 (Dallas leads 3-0)
Offensive Ratings: Oklahoma City 108.2, Dallas 87.1
This is why the Dallas Mavericks needed to steal one of the two close games they played on the road to start this series. The Oklahoma City Thunder was always perfectly capable of ripping off a dominant performance like they did in Thursday's Game 3, and it now means the Mavericks will need a miracle to rally in this series.
Kevin Durant came out determined to prove his poor shooting from the field in the first two games was nothing more than a fluke. In the first quarter alone, Durant knocked down as many three-pointers as he had in the series to date, scoring 15 points. Oklahoma City worked to get Durant somewhat better shots, but mostly this was about the league's best pure scorer getting going after a brief dry spell--during which, it should be noted, he still put up 51 combined points.
Dallas weathered Durant's early storm and was down just six after the first, but never managed to consistently put enough points on the board. With Kendrick Perkins doing the same thing to Dirk Nowitzki most of the night that he'd done at the end of Game 1--and the Mavericks unable or unwilling to counter with the pick-and-pop game that had been successful late in Game 2--Dallas found its offensive options limited.
This Mavericks offense, as fitful as it is, bears little resemblance to the machine that rolled through foes in the postseason a year ago. Dallas no longer scares opponents from beyond the arc, and the ball doesn't whip around the court, finding the open man, as it once did. Even when Rick Carlisle went smaller and quicker, the Mavericks had a tough time generating good looks. They scored 31 points in the second and third quarters combined.
Behind by 11 with 3:34 left in the third quarter, Dallas still had time to rally. And then it didn't. The Mavericks failed to score the rest of the period, Daequan Cook made a pair of threes, Derek Fisher scored seven points and suddenly Oklahoma City led by 25 and the game--and most likely the series--was effectively over.
Dallas seems too prideful to end the season ingloriously like the Los Angeles Lakers did as defending champions a year ago at the American Airlines Center, but it's tough to see where the Mavericks go from here. Carlisle ought to give extended minutes to Ian Mahinmi, the most effective of his four options (including Nowitzki in a smaller lineup) at center. Dallas was +2 with Mahinmi in the middle, which looks impressive in the context of the final outcome
Still, it might not make a difference. Despite how close the first two games were, the Mavericks now look outclassed. If the Thunder plays like it did Thursday, Dallas simply lacks the talent to keep up in its current state.
Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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