There are comebacks and there are collapses. What happened to the Oklahoma City Thunder last night in game four of their series between the Dallas Mavericks was what you call a collapse, of the monumental variety to be precise.
After a disappointing game 3 loss in front of their fans, we knew game 4 was going to be the true test for the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the beginning, it looked like the team had embraced the challenge as they stormed out of the gate to an early lead. But Dallas hung around.
Throughout the game, though OKC played hard and spirited basket-ball, poor execution and turnovers allowed the Mavericks to stay within striking distance.
The game looked to finally be out of reach when the Thunder opened up a 15 point lead with less than five minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, but that was when the wheels fell off, and Dirk Nowitzki took over.
Dirk Nowitzki did his best impression of Larry Legend last night scoring 12 amazing points in the fourth quarter, including two clutch free-throws to cap a furious comeback by the Mavs to send the game into OT. In overtime, the veteran play of Jason Terry and Jason Kidd proved to be too much for the disheartened Thunder, and the Mavs took game four, 112-105.
It was the type of collapse that caused Fran Blinebury of NBA.com to coin the phrase, “Welcome to Choke-lahoma City”. And while I hate to harp on the same point over and over again, much of this loss stems from OKC’s inability to run effective offense during crunch-time. Why? Because their point guard is not a playmaker, he’s a scorer!
This was never more evident than when James Harden, who is the best playmaker on OKC fouled out. That was the exact moment when the wheels came off for the Thunder. Without Harden on the floor and Westbrook left with the responsibility of creating, the Thunder mustered 2 points. Meanwhile, the Mavericks went on a 17-2 run with Harden on the bench.
But the loss wasn’t Westbrook’s fault. Where was Durant? Durant was being shadowed by the Matrix Rebirth, a spry and energetic Shawn Marion, who looked like the all-star player of his days in Phoenix. Every-time Durant touched the ball, the Mavericks sent two defenders to him, refusing to let him beat them.
If the Thunder need to blame someone, they can blame Father Time. It’s always been thought that Father Time is undefeated against the aging players who just can’t do what they used to, but he also has a pretty good record against young cats who just don’t have the experience or the knowledge of how to win to be older veteran players.
In the preview of this Western Conference Finals, I made the assertion that experience usually wins over talent and that young cats don’t win rings. Game four showed you exactly why. In a game the Thunder absolutely needed to win, a game they had in the bag, somehow, their youth and inexperience found a way to lose.
With the Thunder down 3-1 in the series heading back to Dallas, it’s hard to see them beating Dallas three straight times, particularly with two of those games will be played in Dallas.
Anyone feeling lucky enough to bet that OKC forces a game 7?