Posted May 20 2011 9:46AM - Updated May 20 2011 5:21PM
DALLAS -- James Harden, Eric Maynor and the rest of the Oklahoma City reserves didn't need to watch the film to know that they'd suffered a first-round knockout at the hands of their Mavericks counterparts in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
They had the memory of Jason Terry pumping his arms to a raucous American Airlines Center crowd. He outscored the Thunder subs by his lonesome (24 to 22) in Game 1 and J.J. Barea (21 points) almost outperformed the entire bench, as well.
After getting walloped 53-22 in bench scoring in Game 1, the Thunder bench returned the favor in a momentum-shifting and home court advantage-stealing Game 2 win Thursday night, outscoring the Mavericks' subs 50-29. It was a complete script flip for the Thunder, who head home for Saturday night's Game 3 with supreme confidence.
"We've got a bench, too," a Thunder player shouted in the crowded visitor's locker room after the Thunder's 106-100 win. "We play ball, too."
But it was more than just a scoring edge that the Thunder bench provided. Sure, they needed every point Harden (23 points), Maynor (13), Daequan Cook (8) and Nick Collison (6) provided. They just got so much more.
That group was on the floor along with Kevin Durant for basically the entire fourth quarter and helped pull off one of the more stunning wins in this postseason. Maynor played in place of second-team All-NBA point guard Russell Westbrook, and played extremely well from end to end. Harden was in attack mode all night and was particularly effective during crunch time, going at Terry repeatedly. And Collison worked like a madman against Dirk Nowitzki, giving up 16 points in the fourth but making the Mavericks' superstar work for every inch.
"I believe in all our guys," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "I believe in what they do."
It was a masterstroke, albeit a risky one, by Brooks. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson were the only other Mavericks to score in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Thunder shot 11-for-17 in the fourth quarter, 3-for-5 from beyond the 3-point line, with significant contributions from all five guys.
"We had it going pretty good," Collison said. "I don't think (Brooks) wanted to mess that up."
The Mavericks would have welcomed the normal routine, where the starters come back for the last six minutes or so, to try and close out the game.
"If you tell me they leave Westbrook out in the whole fourth quarter and we don't get stops to win, that would have been tough," Nowitzki said. "But you have to give Maynor credit. I thought their bench changed the game today, and they killed us there in the fourth. Harden made 23 points on nine shots. That's a killer. And Maynor was phenomenal, really attacking. I thought our bench was the better bench in Game 1, and their reserves really took that challenge and came out and swinging and really took it to us and we were never ready for their reserves today."
The Thunder Durant/B-Team unit did something the starters from the Trail Blazers and Lakers could not do. They helped defeat the Mavericks on their home floor the first time during this postseason and also forced the Mavericks into a 1-1 deadlock after two games.
And they did it by beating the Mavericks at their own game, using the bench as the knockout punch.
Harden, Maynor, Cook and Collison were a combined 9-for-11 from the floor and exhibited the sort of toughness in a hostile environment that few people outside of the Thunder locker room would have expected.
"We had a good rhythm going," said Cook, whose 3-pointer off a pass from Durant with 5:34 to play for a 98-92 lead served as the gut-punch to kick off the final stretch. "Once we got the lead up, coach felt a lot more confident. It just goes to show you the type of confidence he has in us. Usually coach goes with who is playing well."
And unlike in Game 1, it was the Thunder bench this time around and not the Mavericks' bench.
"They were unbelievable," said Durant, who messed up the reserves' shooting percentage in the fourth with his 2-for-6 performance. "I just tried to play off those guys. They really won the game for us ... we know if we want to go as far as we want to go, we're going to need our bench. That's a big part of this league. Dallas has a great bench, so we kind of ant to offset theirs and give them a battle with Barea and Terry and those guys coming off the bench. We know our bench has to be as good or even better. Tonight was a perfect case of that."
There's no need to watch the film.
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