Home > Uncategorized > Thunder Lose Game 4 To Mavericks. That’s As Kindly As I Can Put It

Thunder Lose Game 4 To Mavericks. That’s As Kindly As I Can Put It

I don't think Kevin Durant has anything in his ubiquitous backpack that can make the Thunder's season last past one more game

Fourth quarter, 4:48 to play: Thunder 99, Mavericks 84.

Final in overtime: Mavericks 112, Thunder 105.

We’re often poised with the same question in games with such drastic turnarounds — is this a fantastic comeback or a massive choke?

You have to give it up to Dirk Nowitzki for scoring 14 points in those final 10 minutes, a large percentage of them coming off of tough shots. They weren’t even good shots or smart shots; just crazy skill overcoming solid opposition. That was a memorable, all-time legendary fourth quarter by the German. To quote Gus Johnson: “Larry Bird! Maybe!”

You have to give it up to Dallas’ defense. which forced the Thunder to look elsewhere than Kevin Durant for scoring. Durant went 0-for-6 with zero — count ’em, ZERO — points after hitting a 3 that appeared to be final nail in Dallas’ coffin with 5:05 left in regulation. After that, he faced bracketed coverage as soon as he touched the ball, and OKC’s offense stagnated.

But don’t bury the lede, although I think I already have at 150 words in.

This was a choke, a gag, a collapse, a breakdown that pretty much ended the Thunder’s season. Nowitzki’s individual performance can’t ignored, obviously. But a win for Dallas wouldn’t have been possible without Oklahoma City’s assistance.

Another win for the confident Mavs in Game 5 at home seems academic right now. I don’t see how anyone can expect a demoralized, embarrassed and rather playoff-green Thunder team to respond with authority in enemy territory less than 48 hours after this. Durant looked like he had been told right before the postgame press conference that he has cancer.

The downfall began with James Harden’s fifth foul with 4:48 to play. It was a mindless bump foul drawn by Shawn Marion along the out-of-bounds line in front of Dallas’ bench. Thirteen-point game.

Harden picked up his disqualifying sixth foul 15 seconds later. People have pointed to that moment as when the game began to unravel for the Thunder. That may be so, but don’t overstate the importance of Harden’s absence. He hasn’t been much of an offensive factor in three of the four games in this series. Yes, the Thunder lost those three games, but tonight was a little different as Oklahoma City received contributions from more than just two or three players.

Serge Ibaka averaged 9.9 points this season and 10.7 in this series. He put in 19 points tonight.

Thabo Sefolosha, whose defense has been sacrificed at times when the Thunder trailed because he is a black hole on offense, scored 12 points.

Nick Collison also scored 12 points and was critical on the glass once again.

The secondary options picked up the slack where it was needed. Those three combined to shoot 19-for-32 from the field. Durant and Russell Westbrook were 16-for-44 with 15 turnovers combined. When those two were needed late in the fourth quarter, they couldn’t stop the Thunder’s fall.

After those Marion free throws, Dirk shockingly missed one of two from the line. Westbrook then turned in the bad-basketball trifecta: Bad shot, turnover and a foul leading to two more points. Ten-point game.

It was starting to slip for the Thunder, yet they were still in a position where if they could get one basket and one stop, the game was theirs. Unfortunately for them, the next two minutes became the Dirk Nowitzki Variety Show. The Thunder threw everything at him. If Gary Payton stood on Shawn Kemp’s shoulders in front of him, it wouldn’t have matter. Nowitzki couldn’t miss. Nowitzki wouldn’t miss. The highlight of his four consecutive baskets was a 14-foot jumper along the baseline, shot with one hand while leaning to the right, completely off balance and fouled, but that wasn’t called.

Just prior to that ridiculous make, Westbrook clanked two free throws. He had made 83.3 percent of his free throws in this series up to that point. He was an 84.2 percent shooter from the stripe during the regular season. But those two misses epitomized choke. You could feel it creeping up Oklahoma City’s collective neck.

A blown opportunity and Dirk’s circus act cut the Thunder’s lead to five, 101-96.

Westbrook missed a jumper. Nowitzki hit again. Three-point game.

The Mavs picked up a steal the next time down the court, but Sefolosha blocked Jason Terry’s layup and somehow saved the ball from going out of bounds. However, any momentum gained there was sucked away once again when Westbrook took and missed another questionable shot. He compounded that by fouling Marion, who made one free throw. Two-point game, 38 seconds left.

The Mavericks did everything they could to force the ball out of Durant’s hands and to his credit, he found Sefolosha on the other side of the floor for a good look at 3.

The Mavericks will dare Sefolosha to beat them from deep all day. He did not. Oklahoma City was 2-for-13 from deep and are 3-for-30 through the past two games of this series.

Dallas got the ball back for a last shot, which actually turned out to not be a shot at all. Instead, Collison fouled Dirk around the waist, and of course he was going to make those two free throws to tie the game. In Game 1, he set an NBA playoff record by making 24 consecutive free throws. The dude had a streak of 74 free throws made during the season.

He couldn’t miss. He wouldn’t miss. Tie game. Comeback complete.

But the collapse had a little more work to do.

The Thunder’s last possession started with 6.4 seconds left in regulation. And hey, the Thunder got the ball in Durant’s hands. That would be positive. But the execution was nothing short of atrocious.

Westbrook got the ball near halfcourt and did nothing to force the action. He just seemed to mosey into the frontcourt, waste precious time, and could do nothing but basically hand the ball to Durant more than 30 feet away from the basket. His prayer was blocked by Marion, a gutsy move considering a foul would have bailed out Oklahoma City, and Durant wouldn’t have made the shot anyway. To keep with the theme, he may have missed both free throws if given the chance, too.

Overtime. Two more free throws from Dirk represented the first points of the extra five minutes, extending the Mavs’ run to 19-2.

The game stayed close all the way through until Jason Kidd’s 3-pointer with less than a minute to go in the OT. But the fate of this game had been already decided in the fourth. Oklahoma City wasn’t going to fight back to claim victory from what they had just experienced. And I don’t think they will have much fight in them on Wednesday night in Dallas.

As time ran out and Dallas closed in on a defining triumph, the Oklahoma City fans showed some awesome spirit by chanting the city’s and the team’s three initials. “O-K-C! O-K-C! O-K-C!” It was a great display of support to a team they may not see again this season. In fact, those fans probably know they won’t, not after the Thunder watched as their heart was ripped out and then helped with the dissection.

A fantastic comeback or a massive choke? No question.

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