High IQ Effort Required Against Mavs – OU Medicine Game Day Report: OKC vs. DAL
- Tip-off: 2:30 p.m. CT
- Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
- Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
While at the University of Florida, Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan and one of his assistants were recruiting a player in Germany when they started to hear rumblings about a kid from Heidelberg, Germany named Dirk Nowitzki. Donovan and his assistant, through shaky translation and German maps, attempted to make their way to find Nowitzki, but didn’t have any luck.
Prodigies manage to uncover themselves, and now two decades later Nowitzki will be once again leading his one and only NBA franchise, the Dallas Mavericks, into Oklahoma City for another showdown with the Thunder. While the Mavericks don’t have much on the line in Sunday afternoon’s battle, it’s yet another opportunity for Thunder fans to watch their squad go up against one of the best in NBA history, a player who revolutionized the game.
“(Nowitzki) was probably the first guy in the NBA that kind of changed the whole stretch four mentality,” said Donovan. “When he came in there was probably not a lot of answers of how to guard him because the game has evolved. He’s probably had a huge impact on so many big men being able to stretch the floor, the skill level.”
For the Thunder, there’s plenty to take away that was both encouraging and constructive moving forward off of the home loss on Friday to the Denver Nuggets. While the Thunder hustled on each possession and tried to generate the right shots on offense, the Nuggets seemed to always have an answer with three-pointers or midrange jumpers. In fact, on shots outside of the paint, Denver went 25-of-50 shooting.
“Our contestedness was pretty good in the game. There were some possessions, obviously when you look back, that you have control over that you could say that we could have done a better job,” Donovan said. “The effort, the things that we were trying to do gameplan-wise, guys really tried to execute, there were a lot of good, positive things in the game that we did.
“We’re not discouraged,” added forward Abdel Nader. “We’re playing well, we just gotta put it all together… We gotta continue playing the right way on both ends, having each other’ back is a big thing. There’s just certain things we have to clean up – the way we finish games, the way we start games.”
As for Dallas, many of the same principles will apply for the Thunder that were necessary on Friday – pressuring ball-handlers, being aware of cutters, getting back in transition and contesting at the three-point line, where the Mavericks average the fourth-most attempts in the entire league. Dallas also averages the fourth-most free throw attempts per game, while doing a great job of not fouling on the other end. The Thunder will have to be disciplined for the full 48 minutes against a Mavericks team that, helmed by the high-IQ Nowitzki, won’t beat itself.
“A different system and style but still from a principles standpoint, a really good movement team, passing team, skill team. They have guys that can put it down, drive it, get fouled,” Donovan began before listing Dallas’ other strengths. “Offensive rebounds, physical team with the way they run offense so we’ll have to be moving around a lot.”