The only way to describe the dominance the Dallas Mavericks showed over the OKC Thunder in the Western Conference Final was to say it was clinical. It was a surgical dismantling of an extremely young team by a team full of veteran players that want and know how to win.
The last two games of this series will be especially troubling for the Thunder as they had chances to win both of them, but their inexperience and lack of execution cost them late in the fourth quarter of games 4 and 5.
To the Mavs credit, they played the Thunder perfectly. They forced someone else, other than Durant to have to beat them and the Thunder played right into their hands. It’s inexperience. You can say Durant had a poor game, you can say that Westbrook shot too much, or that Harden didn’t have the ball enough to create for others, but we’re talking about a team that just doesn’t know how to win against the best yet. We’re also talking about a Thunder team that is full of 22 year olds. Give them time.
Moving forward, there are some issues that this young OKC team must address. The first question is whether they can win with Russell Westbrook as their point guard. The fourth quarter of game 5 showed that Scott Brooks has started to question it. Brooks substituted Maynor in at the point, and moved Westbrook to the shooting guard position.
The numbers don’t lie. Westbrook was 11-28 for 31 points. Durant was 8-20 for 23 points. Why is Westbrook consistently taking more shots than the NBA’s two time leading scorer? We’ve been over this. Hopefully, next year we’ll see Harden as a starter and Westbrook winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award. In game 5, Harden shot 7-11 for 23 points and 6 assists off the bench.
In the only game of the series that the Thunder were able to win, Russell Westbrook was on the bench for the entire fourth quarter.
But nothing was going to stop the Mavericks in game 5. It seemed like no matter how hard the Thunder played, no lead was safe.
Dirk Nowitzki has an assassins look in his eye like he has never had before. Nowitzki has always been a great offensive player, but the fire he’s playing with this postseason is unlike previous years.
With 100-96 victory in game 5, the Dallas Mavericks advance to the 2011 NBA Finals, where they’ll likely face the Miami Heat, who are up 3-1 on the Bulls, and will hope to close out that series tonight.
If that happens, we will see a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals and a chance at redemption for Dirk Nowitzki.
As for the Thunder, they’ll be back. They have a lot to learn about winning, but they have the youth, the talent and all the right pieces in place to be a championship contender for years to come.