This was an unusual playoff game, for many reasons.
3 votes – Tyson Chandler. This was an unusual playoff game because not a single player really had it going. Durant sputtered through 46 minutes and again had one of those games where he takes a lot of threes and makes none of them (he’s 0-13 over his last two games from long range). His partner in crime Westbrook got to the line a lot and exploited Puerto Rican Guy, but by Westbrook’s standards he was sub-par and didn’t really impact the game anywhere else (4 assists, 2 rebounds). And Dirk had his ugliest game of his entire postseason with 18 point on 7-21 shooting to go with 7 turnovers. The Thunder killed the Mavs on the board, yet they lost. The Mavs sent the Thunder to the line 36-times, twice as many as their own 18, yet they still won. Unusual.
So the star of the game wasn’t really a star at all. It was just the guy who worked hardest all night and did the little things. 15 rebounds (including 6 offensive) and a +11 differential (the highest of the Mavs starters) tells the story. This is the type of game the Mavs would have lost last year. This is the type of game a Tyson Chandler can make a difference. In the playoffs sometimes you’ve got to win ugly. The Mavs certainly did that tonight, thanks to this man.
2 votes – Jason Kidd. A stat-stuffing effort from J-Kidd in this one. 13 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and 4 steals and a lot of veteran plays where his craftiness made up for his extreme age. This is why Jason Kidd is still so valuable and much further from being washed up than you think. He has an on-court awareness perhaps only second in NBA history to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and arguably better because of his defensive awareness. No matter what happens on a basketball court, however fleeting or inconsequential a play may seem, there is one truth that always remains: Jason Kidd is thinking about it.
1 vote – Russell Westbrook. Gets a vote for almost getting the Thunder back in this game after a huge 2-minute burst midway through the fourth quarter. The Thunder were down 13 before Westbrook’s run cut it to 8. His three with 30 seconds left cut the lead to 5. He never gave up. It was a much more controlled and deliberate Russell Westbrook that we saw tonight, which was absolutely essential after the ribbing he’s copped the last few days (only partially fairly in my opinion). A gutsy response from Russel but not enough to get his team the W.