Rick Carlisle questions Thunder 'D'
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Just like in Game 1, Dirk Nowitzki knocked down every free throw he shot. The difference: The total was one-eighth as much.
Nowitzki, primarily defended by rugged Thunder reserve forward Nick Collison, shot only three free throws during an 18-point, 7-of-21 shooting, seven-turnover night. The Mavericks still managed to grind out a 93-87 win in Saturday's Game 3 to reclaim home-court advantage in the Western Conference finals.
Carlisle credited Collison's effort, calling him one of the "best post defenders really in basketball," but also said: "Now, I don't know in terms of legal limits. I believe the line may have been crossed at times, and if so, I mean, the league will see that."
Nowitzki scored 10 of his 18 points in the final 7:22, when he hit two midrange jumpers, a seven-footer and finally got a two-shot trip to the line on Collison's third personal foul with 23.3 seconds remaining. Nowitzki's other free throw was after Russell Westbrook's technical for shoving the Mavs' superstar after those two bumped repeatedly during a cross-matched Dallas possession midway through the third quarter.
Nowitzki, who set an NBA record (regular season and playoffs) for making 24 free throws without a miss while scoring 48 points in the Mavs' Game 1 win, noted that he opted for pull-ups down the stretch because of the struggles he had trying to go to the basket.
"I obviously didn't get a lot of whistles going to the basket," Nowitzki said, "so I had to go with the one or two dribbles and up."
Nowitzki also appeared to voice his displeasure to referee Bob Delaney after a fourth-quarter possession after missing a layup and getting a pull-up blocked by Kevin Durant.
Nowitzki's point total was the second-lowest of this postseason, behind only his 17-point, 7-of-11 performance in the semifinals sweep finale of the Lakers. He shot only 16 free throws in that four-game series, but has double-digit free throw games in six of the Mavs' 13 playoff games.
The 3-pointer is another stark contrast of the Games 1 and 3 shooting line of Nowitzki. He didn't put up any 3s during his 12-of-15 masterpiece in the series opener and was 1-of-6 from behind the arc in Oklahoma City.
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.