The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Dallas Mavericks 106-100 Thursday night to even up the series at one game apiece.
The Mavericks built an 11 point lead late in the first quarter and then Durant happened.
Tyson Chandler subbed out of the game after a productive first quarter and Brendan Haywood checked in at the 1:19 mark. Kevin Durant drove to the basket, elevated and threw down a nasty facial on...Brendan Haywood. Four seconds after checking into the game. Oohs and awws filtered through the crowd and OKC rode that momentum on it's way to erasing the 11 point deficit in four minutes.
The OKC bench was monstrous. I said earlier that this was the first decent bench the Mavericks had faced in the playoffs and they were more than decent in game two. James Harden exploded off the bench for 23 points on 6/9 shooting. He hit four threes, including a four point play at the end of the third quarter, and got to the line eight times. He can hit shots and if the Mavericks fail to do a better job of closing him out, he'll do the same thing in game three. In an interesting development, Eric Maynor played the entire fourth quarter in place of Westbrook. After a bench spat with Scott Brooks, Westbrook appeared to be benched for the game. Unlike Westbrook, who is more two guard than point guard, Maynor is a pure point guard. He was able to keep the OKC offense under control-until the last two minutes- and James Harden was the beneficiary scoring nine of his 23 points in the fourth. Maynor also put in 13 points for good measure and Nick Collison and Daquan Cook went a combined 5/5 for 14 points. Add it all up and that's 50 bench points given up by the Mavericks compared to their 29 points. The main culprit was Jason Terry who went 3/9 for eight points. But it seemed like the second unit lacked the aggression and tenacity it's come out with in previous playoff games. Complacency? Maybe. Whatever it is, that needs to change in Oklahoma City.
Coming off a nose injury, Shawn Marion had a dreadful night. Marion went 4/13 and scored nine points. For a guy who lives in the lane and rarely shoots a jumpshot those numbers are unacceptable. Deshawn Stevenson also got some much more playing time than expected. He was able to bother Durant at times but really struggled offensively going 1/6 for five points. And Jason Kidd went 4/10 from the field for 13 points and seven assists. Poor shooting performance but he played excellent defense. Kidd had five steals and contributed to the continued frustration of Westbrook and even locked up on Durant effectively at times
Even though the Thunder managed a split and have stolen homecourt advantage for the moment, I see no reason to panic from a Mavericks perspective. Tyson Chandler exerted his dominance in this series posting his second double/double of the playoffs by scoring 15 points along with 13 rebounds, six of the offensive variety. Dirk Nowitzki was still able to do anything he wanted against the Thunder and that's not going to change. Of course, Durant will be there to match him but Dirk's gotten the better of him through two games. And despite the bench play of the Thunder and the contributions of Durant and Westbrook, the Mavericks still had a chance to win the game in the final minute with no help besides Chandler and Nowitzki.
They will have to play a lot better to win in Oklahoma City, especially on the defensive end, but they're capable of it and I have no doubt we'll see a very different Mavericks team in game three.
Game three is Saturday night at eight.