Man, that was a hell of a game. For all money, midway through the 4th quarter, I thought the Thunder were home free. But the Mavs showed, once again, that they’re made of stern stuff and charged back to pull it out 112-105 in OT.

I’ll start off here with the votes.

3 Points – Dirk Nowitzki. Another top class game from Dirk Diggler – 40 points along with 5 rebounds and 3 assists, and he once again made the shots that mattered. Two game-tying free throws, 12 points in the second half of the final quarter and he also made the last pass to Jason Kidd for the game winner.

At this point in the playoffs, no one’s playing better basketball than Dirk Nowitzki. This is a serious problem, not only for OKC but also for the teams in the East because when Dirk is on, as has been said ad nauseum all playoffs, he’s pretty much unguardable. When you combine this with the defensive steel shown not only by Tyson Chandler in the paint but guys like Shawn Marion on the perimeter (troubled Durant all series) the Mavs are looking pretty good.

2 Points – Jason Kidd. My dad recently showed me one of his more prized posessions – a Jason Kidd rookie card. While I pointed out that it’s a little pathetic that he was still collecting basketball cards when he was in his mid-thirties, it also shows just how long Kidd’s been around. The guy just keeps on keeping on, his sheer smarts and skill making up for his diminished athleticism. Every now and then he can pull out a throwback game like tonight. While his stats (17 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds) aren’t earth-shattering, three of those points came from hitting the game-winner after Russell Westbrook (the anti-Kidd in every possible way) bit on a pump fake.

1 Point – Jason Terry. The Jet once again provided a spark off the bench with 20 points. A lot of people underestimate the value of Terry to this Mavs team. When he’s on, he can be very hard to stop – combined with Puerto Rican guy and you got a hell of an offensive punch from the bench. The Thunder have struggled to cover the bench scoring of the Mavs all series.

The question has to be asked – did the Mavs win this one, or did the Thunder blow it? I personally think it’s a bit from column A and a bit from column B, but more to the side of the Thunder screwing up. There is no reason to lose a playoff game – hell, even let it get close to OT – but they did.

Part of the blame has to go on Scotty Brooks, who’s been over his head as a coach all series and most of the playoffs. He has the talent as a coach and the motivational ability, but he’s gotta develop some offensive sets beyond “give Russell the ball and hope he doesn’t screw this up” or “get the ball to Durant and let him do what Kevin Durant do.”

Obviously, Westbrook also has to shoulder some of the blame – once again, there is no reason for him to be taking 22 shots in a playoff game when he has Kevin Durant on his team. Brooks needs to send him to John Stockton Fantasy Camp this off-season and get him to learn to make better decisions with the ball.

And finally, the microscope has to be placed on Durant. Let’s not forget that this year was supposed to be his big moment. He was going to average 30 a game, win the MVP and carry the team on his back. Instead his scoring average slipped sideways, the rest of his game didn’t improve much either (he’s still just an average defender and he doesn’t drive and dish nearly enough) and Derrick Rose overtook him in the “Young, Likeable Superstar” stakes.

Most worrying for the Thunder going forward? All playoffs, he’s struggled in the clutch. His blocked 3-pointer today was one thing, but that takes his record of game winning/tying shots this season to 2 from 14.

As it stands I don’t think OKC can win this series. My personal belief is that the Mavs will go home to Dallas on a high and close this one out on Thursday, and we’re getting a repeat of the 2006 Finals.


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