Note: With a highly entertaining Western Conference finals between Dallas and Oklahoma City now in full swing, we asked Los Angeles Clippers forward Ryan Gomes, a six-year vet who has matched up with both Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant, to break down the action. He looks at Saturday's Game 3 win by the Mavericks.
I was really impressed with the Dallas Mavericks tonight. They came out the aggressors right from the start, the crowd noise clearly didn't affect them, and they really moved the ball well.
It's obvious the Mavs are a veteran team that really trusts each other. That's really how they've played all season and that's how they played tonight. Everyone was making plays, putting the ball on the floor and hitting cutters.
The Oklahoma City Thunder crowd is the loudest crowd in the NBA. The fans come out and are into it from the first basket. They're loud each and every play. When we played there, we had a little support because of Blake Griffin [who played for Oklahoma] but not much. They really get a lot of support from their crowd.
I think the Thunder came into this game, after winning Game 2, feeling like, "We're on our home court, this is where we're supposed to take it."
It's good to have that kind of confidence coming into the game, but the Mavs were ready for it, too. They're a veteran team. They value possessions; I think they were top five in the league as far as turnovers and tonight they only had 12.
The crowd is not going to be a factor for them because they're such a veteran team, and they have such a good point guard in Jason Kidd.
Dallas won because it really controlled the pace of this game. Right from the start, Oklahoma City didn't play its game. The Thunder weren't able to play the tempo they wanted. A lot of that is because of the Mavs' defense. They were aggressive. They changed up the looks they showed Kevin Durant. They'd have Shawn Marion on him a few possessions, then DeShawn Stevenson would guard him, then Kidd. If he'd get by his man, they'd send another help defender to try to make him give the ball up.
Durant is such a good scorer, you have to mix it up on him or he'll just stand there and size everyone up. The Mavs did a good job of making him have to think all the time about how he was going to score and not letting him get too comfortable.
A lot of the time, I noticed the Thunder were shooting with four or five seconds left on the shot clock. Those usually are pretty rushed shots. But they got to that point because of the way Dallas defended.
At one point in the second quarter, when the Mavs were up 18 or 20 points, the camera looked over at the Oklahoma City bench and Durant had his head down, like "Is this really happening?" I thought the Thunder looked a little stunned at that point.
They did come back and made it close at the end because of Westbrook's scoring, but he also had some turnovers at the end of the game that really hurt them. I also thought that Durant, partially because of the defense and Westbrook's scoring, was pretty unnoticeable the last six or seven minutes of the game.
I mean, Durant and Westbrook both played well. Westbrook had 30 and Durant had 24, even though he didn't shoot well.
But for them to win, they need that third guy to step up. In Game 2, James Harden got it going and was the playmaker coming of pick-and-rolls. But he never really got in a rhythm in this game.
Defensively, I think the Thunder was able to do what it wanted to do. They really seemed like they were trying to get the ball out of Dirk Nowitzki's hands, which was smart because he was so good in Games 1 and 2. But he's such a willing passer and they're so unselfish as a team, that it didn't work out.
If I were Scott Brooks, I'd do the same thing I tried to do tonight with Dirk, which is to see if someone else can beat us again.
Marion had 18 and Terry had 13, but J.J. Barea didn't hurt them as much and no one else did much. So in one way, if you're Oklahoma City you can look at it like, "We did what we had to do defensively. It was us tonight that had a problem. We had too many turnovers at the end and we didn't bring our aggressive mentality from the beginning."
If you're Dallas, you just try to play the way you've been playing. The Mavs really trust each other. Each night, it can be a different guy going off.
If the Thunder force Dirk to give the ball up, other guys have to step up and make shots. In Game 3, Stevenson did that. Oklahoma City was basically daring him to shoot in that first quarter. He did and he made them, and it opened things up for everyone else and got them going.
I also think Dallas coach Rick Carlisle and his coaching staff does a great job with misdirection type plays that get teams off their defensive schemes. I remember one play, Barea hit Tyson Chandler for a wide-open dunk because they were worried about Dirk and Jason Terry off the pindown with five seconds on the shot clock. It's plays like that, where your natural defensive instinct is to think the ball's going to Dirk or Jason, so you might overcompensate a little bit. They're really good at stuff like that. They have so many reads out of all their sets, it's hard to anticipate what they're going to do, even if you recognize the set.
If the Mavs keep moving the ball and shooting as well as they have, they have great chance. This next game is huge for both teams.
If the Mavs can win this next one and take a 3-1 lead going back home for Game 5, they've got to feel pretty good. Oklahoma City also knows how big it is, though. I think the Thunder will be ready for it. And I know their crowd will be ready for it.