A Look at Game Three in the West
JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK
DALLAS, OKC BACK ON THE FLOOR FOR CRITICAL THIRD GAME
The twists and turns of playoff basketball can be very dramatic indeed.
In the Eastern Conference finals matching the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls, the top seeds from the windy city won easily in the series opener, only to lack energy and fall apart in the Game Two rematch. Now Miami has taken home court advantage away for the rest of the series.
In the Western Conference finals matching the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks, the well-rested favorites from the Metroplex showed tremendous versatility and a seemingly unstoppable star in a Game One victory. Then, on the verge of a 2-0 series lead, they were stunned to see the Oklahoma City BENCH outplay them in the fourth quarter and break serve in stunning fashion.
One minute it's Chicago and Dallas looking great. The next, both must now win road games to get back on service in terms of home court advantage. And, both must think about what adjustments they're going to make immediately so a potential trip to the league finals doesn't slip away from.
Chicago and Miami don't play again until Sunday Night. We'll preview that battle for you tomorrow right here in the NOTEBOOK. Dallas and Oklahoma City are back on the floor tonight. Let's crunch the numbers and see what might be in store for this pivotal Game Three meeting.
GAME THREE: Dallas at Oklahoma City
Series tied 1-1
Vegas Line: Oklahoma City by 3, total of 201
Oddsmakers are using four points for home court advantage in this series. Dallas was -5 or -5.5 at home. Now the Thunder are laying -3 (though it may be -2.5 in some places by the time you read this). You probably know OKC plays in one of the loudest arenas in the NBA. Reporters were saying they couldn't hear the referee's whistles at courtside of Game Seven of the Memphis series. It's possible that home court advantage is bigger for the Thunder as a result of the "sixth man" backing them up. The total has snuck up to 201 after a couple of Overs that landed in the 200's. Let's not forget that OKC/Memphis started out that same way before bogging down into a much slower, defensive style.
GAME TWO STATS
OKLAHOMA CITY 106, DALLAS 100
Shooting Percentage: Oklahoma City 56%, Dallas 44%
Three-Pointers: Oklahoma City 7/18, Dallas 9/27
Free Throws: Oklahoma City 21/26, Dallas 21/24
Rebounds: Oklahoma City 38, Dallas 37
Turnovers: Oklahoma City 14, Dallas 12
Vegas Line: Dallas by 5, total of 200
Notebook: These teams are evenly matched in a lot of ways. The rebound and turnover categories were very close in the first two games...with OKC barely winning rebounds, and Dallas barely winning turnovers. Both teams do a good job of drawing free throws, though OKC looks like they'll be earning a few more trips per game (maybe even more than a few at home). If you've been watching the series, you know there are matchup headaches either way...with both defenses trying to find creative ways to deal with Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant.
The differences as we see them are these:
- Dallas is more productive on three-pointers. Their edge has been diminished here compared to other series. But, you get the sense that they're going to be in the 8-10 range most games, while Oklahoma City has to shoot over their heads to get up to 7-8. That means we're likely to see at least one or two games where treys are the difference-maker. Remember that they were the difference maker for all four games against the Lakers.
- Dallas is much more about X's and O's and adjustments. Rich Carlisle has a team of smart veterans who understand the game very well. These guys put on a clinic offensively, and try to hide the defensive weaknesses of various players in an intelligent fashion. Oklahoma City goes by the feel of Scott Brooks on the sidelines, and the mood of Russell Westbrook on the floor. To the degree that brains will influence the series, that favors the Mavericks (though Durant is a very smart player for his age, and there's definitely player savvy on the OKC bench too).
- Dallas has more depth in terms of guys you can "count on" over the long term. We reserve the right to change that opinion! The Oklahoma City bench was fantastic in Game Two. Can they be counted on to produce at that level again? Particularly after Dallas has time to come up with some adjustments for the way the attack changes with a different point guard?
- Oklahoma City will generally have more athleticism on the floor at any given time. That's not to say Dallas lacks athletes. Oklahoma City just has more athleticism in its rotation in general. The concern for OKC is fatigue. They played a grinder against Memphis, and will go every other day in this series to its conclusion. If they can use their minutes intelligently, this should help negate issues about productive depth.
You get the feeling that Oklahoma City needs to win a quick series. The deeper we go, the more influence the brains, depth, and fresh legs of Dallas will matter. Stealing a win in Dallas was vital for the Thunder. Now they have to maintain their composure and intensity at home.
Can they do that? Or, will the OKC fall prey to the same thing that nailed young Chicago after a big playoff win? Chicago got overconfident. Lost a step or two. Suddenly, they handed a way a home game they couldn't afford to lose. Oklahoma City is in that position today. We're working very closely with our sources to judge their mindset, confidence, and the nuances of the Russell Westbrook drama that saw him benched in the fourth quarter because his backup was playing so well.
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Back tomorrow to talk about the Bulls and Heat. A very exciting and very profitable week of NBA Playoff action awaits. Then, it's on to the league Finals that will crown a brand new champion and make history for a superstar who hasn't yet won a title (Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, or Kevin Durant).
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