Playoffs Game 3 Recap
0 Number of lead changes in the game, meaning it was a wire-to-wire Thunder victory
11 Rebounds by Serge Ibaka, to give him a double-double with his 10 points and four blocked shots
11 Steals by the Thunder defense, including three each for Russell Westbrook and James Harden
12-for-28 Three-point shooting numbers for the Thunder, including 5-for-10 by Daequan Cook and Derek Fisher combined
16-8 Turnover advantage for the Thunder, which scored 10 points off the Mavericks' 16 turnovers
18 Assists on the night for the Thunder, including four each for Russell Westbrook and James Harden, and six by Kevin Durant
25-16 The margin by which the Thunder out-scored the Mavericks in the third quarter
31 Points on the night for Kevin Durant on 11-for-15 shooting and 4-for-6 shooting from the three-point line
GAME IN REVIEW
By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
In a hostile environment, the Thunder didn't take a hesitant step throughout 48 minutes of basketball, using focus, intensity and execution to play as hard as possible on every possession. As a result, the Thunder used that commitment to defeat the defending champion Dallas Mavericks 95-79 to take a 3-0 lead in its first round NBA Playoff series. Whether it was rotating on the defensive end and closing out to force misses on contested jumpers or moving the basketball on the offensive end, the Thunder made the right basketball play, starting with a quick 6-0 run to start the game.
was important that we did that to start the game," Brooks said "It's something that we always talk about, just playing tough basketball, being mentally tough… They have a good team, but we just wanted to focus on being solid, keeping it simple, hitting singles and not homeruns and I thought we did that tonight."
The most obvious way the Thunder took control of this game was on the defensive end, where it held the Mavericks to a difficult 34.2 percent shooting night. Whether it was Serge Ibaka swatting a shot into the sixth row or James Harden and Russell Westbrook making steals that led to fast break opportunities, the Thunder's defense was harassing and suffocating.
In addition, plays were made that wouldn't show up in the stat sheet, like when Durant showed out on Jason Terry to prevent an easy catch-and-shoot opportunity, then flew back into the lane to deflect a potential backdoor pass. That type of swarming defense was consistent from the athletic, long Thunder team all night.
"We knew this was a very important game for us, this was an opportunity to go up 3-0," Durant said. "We just wanted to come out and leave everything out on the floor. We scrambled all night, did a great job of helping each other out and forced them into some tough shots… I just wanted to make a good play for us on the defensive end and kind of shut them down a little bit and get my team ignited. We were able to cruise on from there."
While the defense took care of business in slowing down the Mavericks, the Thunder offense took a methodical approach. With a beautiful 18 assists paired with only eight turnovers on the night, two less than the fewest the Thunder had in a game all season. Westbrook drove and dished to open shooters like Daequan Cook who knocked in three three-pointers, and Durant led the team with six assists, hitting Ibaka and Derek Fisher for jumpers or drives. In all respects, the Thunder protected, shared and distributed the ball extremely well.
"I think this might have been one of the best games of the year, especially on the road with the tough type of game it is," Westbrook said. "Everybody did a great job of making the extra pass. Coach (Brooks) emphasized that to us watching film this morning and yesterday, making the extra pass, and we did that tonight."
As Thunder players noted over the past three days, their approach to Game Three was to treat it like Game One. By holding serve and winning two games at Chesapeake Energy Arena is what the Thunder was supposed to do, and it was up to Brooks' squad to take up the true task of winning on Dallas' floor. Once the final buzzer sounded tonight, the Thunder moved on to focusing on Game Four, which will be Saturday night at American Airlines Center.
"Our job is to come in and play the same way," Westbrook said. "Also, what the series is for us is just 1-0. We did our job at home, now you come here and take care of your business, and that's what we'll try to do."
Westbrook declared that the Thunder's mindset is solely focused on coming out and winning its next game. As a result players like Durant realize that being one game away from clinching the series means exactly that- that they must win their next game. With that said, Brooks and his coaching staff along with the entire roster of Thunder players will practice on Friday, look at film and dissect what it can do to be even more effective in Game Four.
"We know that we haven't done anything yet," Durant said. "We played two close-out games last season and we know how tough those were. We have to come out with a sense of urgency knowing that these guys will bring it, especially in their building. We have to be prepared for it and our coaches will do a great job tomorrow in practice, so we just have to come ready."
The Thunder turned this game in the third quarter when it turned a 50-45 lead with 11:10 remaining in the quarter into a 66-50 advantage with 5:54 left in the quarter. That 16-5 burst gave the Thunder a 16-point margin, and the Mavericks never got within single digits again. Russell Westbrook responded to a Jason Kidd layup with a jumper after Thabo Sefolosha blocked a Kidd shot, then Serge Ibaka hit a 12-foot jump shot off a Kevin Durant assist. Westbrook and Durant then traded pull up jumpers to stretch the lead to 60-48. After that, Westbrook and Sefolosha hit back-to-back three-pointers, both assisted by Durant to make it a 16-point advantage. During the run, the Thunder blocked two shots, made seven rebounds and assisted four shots, all while forcing the Mavericks into nine misses out of ten shot attempts.
Plays the box score won't show, first half
Serge Ibaka makes a nice tip in of a Kevin Durant shot to start off the game then Russell Westbrook makes a steal and is fouled on the fast break… Great closeout by Kendrick Perkins on a Dirk Nowitzki shot, leading to a Westbrook to Durant three-pointer… Perkins challenges another shot, forcing a missed layup… Thabo Sefolosha drives the lane and hits Durant for another three-pointer, then Perkins boces out strongly… Sefolosha fouls to prevent a sure dunk then Ibaka swats a shot down low… Durant pulls it back smartly when Dallas goes zone leading to a Westbrook jumper, then Ibaka sets a perfect screen to free up Durant for a jumper… Beautiful pass from Durant to Ibaka for an alley-oop… Great block by Perkins to save a bucket, then Collison makes an offensive rebound and Perkins follows it up with a tip-in… Nice box out by Harden on Nowitzki, then he takes the ball all the way down court to draw a foul… Smart play by Westbrook to dump one off to Ibaka in the midst of a Mavericks run, then Harden gets to the rim and draws a foul… Great defense by Daequan Cook and Ibaka to force a 24-second shot clock violation… James Harden slides through the lane with grace and hits a layup… Great hustle by Ibaka to make a steal after a Dallas defensive rebound, then Ibaka sends a sure layup six rows deep… Ibaka stays active and tips one in, then Cook makes a steal… Strong box out by Perkins, then a nifty lefty layup by Durant… Durant smartly calls for a screen to free himself up for an 18-footer, then Perkins makes a big foul to force two free throw attempts instead of allow an easy layup… Harden makes a steal and runs it out for a dunk, then Durant makes a tough rebound that leads to a wide open Derek Fisher three-pointer… Incredible defense by Durant who helped over on a Terry cut then got back in time to make a steal… Great execution out of a timeout to free up Durant for a jumper off a Perkins screen… Sefolosha plays tough defense to force a missed shot.
Plays the box score won't show, second half
Nice block and save by Sefolosha, then Westbrook gets the shooter's roll on a mid-range jumper… Westbrook snags a defensive board and runs it up the floor, leading to a Durant-to-Ibaka jumper… Ibaka with a strong block, then Westbrook knocks down a jumper from the same spot on the floor… Durant with a slick shake-and-bake for a jumper, then the Thunder rotates well on defense to force a miss… Quick hands by Sefolosha to disrupt a Terry drive by knocking the ball away from behind… Tough rebounding by Perkins and Ibaka, then a hard, clean, smart foul by Westbrook to prevent an easy layup… Durant sets up Westbrook for a wide-open three pointer, followed by an Ibaka block and a Durant to Sefolosha three pointer… Nice overplay and doubling by the Thunder on Terry and Nowitzki, then good rebounding by Durant… Ibaka impacts two different drives with his length… Westbrook uses his instincts and drives to the bucket for a layup… Strong drive to the bucket by Harden to hit a layup, then Fisher steps in to force a missed layup on the other end… Westbrook hustles back on defense to make a steal, then Collison reels in an offensive board… Durant makes a nice steal and pushes head to Fisher to draw a foul… Nice box out by Cook and Harden to get a defensive board, then Harden kicks to Cook for a corner three-pointer… Harden drives and kicks to Fisher, who pump fakes and hits a bank shot, then Harden makes a steal and Fisher smartly pulls it back for the last shot of the quarter… Durant uses his length to snag a ball away from Jason Kidd, who kicks it to Fisher for a three-pointer… Harden dives into the lane and dishes to Cook for a corner three, then Fisher pump fakes and takes it to the rim for a layup… Fisher hits Collison, who kicks it to Cook for another three-pointer... Pretty drive and dish from Westbrook to Durant for a dunk, then Westbrook uses his length and quickness to make a steal and draw a foul… Massive stuff by Durant on a Nowitzki drive, then Harden and Ibaka fight for a board… Ibaka with a big swat, then Durant steps up and nails a three-pointer… Strong box out from Nazr Mohammed to pull in a defensive board, then Cole Aldrich hustles and tracks down a loose ball.