Game Notes: Mavs at Thunder
Dallas sacrifices for the W.
by Todd Spehr
- Steve Novak is sweating. Already. He’s running sprints up and down the sidelines, working on his off-the-dribble shot, basically giving attention to the parts of his game that, to be blunt, urgently need attention.
- Darrell Armstrong is working Novak out, and he legitimately hasn’t aged a bit. He could still be the 27-year-old who bombed in the 1996 dunk competition, just by looking at him. It’s somewhat appropriate that he works Novak out. There was a point in Armstrong’s career where he was in the position Novak is in now: Fork in the road, a career waiting but certainly not guaranteed, one that won’t be handed out but instead worked for. Armstrong lasted 14 seasons – hopefully Novak can stick around.
- Shawn Marion’s jumper has been analyzed sufficiently during his 12-year career, but for the record, his release point is somewhere between his chin and lower lip.
- 79 minutes before the tip, Dirk Nowitzki is warming up with Mavs assistant coach Brad Davis (who, it has to be pointed out, is sporting one of the finest Fu Manchu’s in recent memory). Every motion is broken down to mechanics: Nowitzki will lunge before shooting, take a low dribble before shooting – it’s as if you’re watching his game in slow motion.
- Nowitzki also has a jovial side that we need to know more about. He kids a ball boy who’s miming a Justin Timberlake song, he pokes fun at an assistant who has strayed from another Mavs player in order to talk to a lady on the sidelines, and he even impersonates the streetball movement with a variety of gyrations and exaggerated dribbles. He’s having a good time. He also makes a kid’s night by stopping by on his way to the locker room for a quick chat.
- Random tidbit tonight: Thunder head coach Scott Brooks and Mavs guard Jason Kidd were once teammates. Brooks joked prior that he was a better shooter than Kidd when they played together and held on to that as long as he could, that is, until he realized one day that only four people have ever made more threes than Kidd.
- The League’s top two scorers are squaring off tonight – Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki. Somewhere, Bob McAdoo is happy.
- Kidd has Thanksgiving greetings for all on press row, whether he knows them or not.
- Kidd exudes a little playfulness; you can tell he enjoys a match-up with a hot young player like Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is isolated in Kidd early and Kidd just smiles. Kidd goes under all screens, and is playing roughly 37 feet off of Westbrook, daring him to shoot.
- For those who don’t know who Kevin Cutler is, and I dare say there’s many, just know that he’s quite possibly the world’s largest referee. He runs about 6-9 and is wide. He whistles Shawn Marion for one of his three first quarter fouls, Marion whirls around, sees that it was Cutler who made the call, and decides to walk to the other side of the floor to debate the call with a referee who wasn’t involved. Not saying Marion’s scared, I’m just saying that… well, I don’t know what I’m saying.
- Jason Terry and Serge Ibaka find themselves checking into the game at the same time. Terry puts out his hands and greets Ibaka warmly; Ibaka is thoroughly perplexed by this.
- A fan rims out a half-court shot that would’ve paid $20,000.
- This is just an observation, but I’ve been coming to Thunder games since they moved here, and Kevin Durant’s legs are a lot thicker than they used to be. He used to be working with a couple of twigs but his base is really rounding out. Sure enough, he gets bumped off balance by Caron Butler but is able to steady himself quicker. Of course, it helps that you can make a one-legged fadeaway in the first place, but still.
End of first: OKC 27 Dallas 24. Durant 10 points, and Westbrook 7 assists and just one shot taken. Nowitzki has 6 points.
- The visiting scouts sitting courtside are earning their pay tonight: Rick Carlisle is covering his mouth on most play calls, and of course, don’t forget this is the self-described “Loud City.”
- The Thunder are so hard to stop when their defense leads to offense; they run in numbers and get layups and dunks, which gets the crowd crazy. It’s cyclical like that.
- Kidd throws a bullet to Chandler for the layup. Kidd is not breakneck like he once was, but he’s thoughtful and calculated, and his game lends itself now to gradual aging: Run the offense, push on occasion, and spot up for the open looks.
- Nowitzki, similarly, operates within the confines of something that allows him to operate at a high level as he ages. He’s living right now off switches and post-ups, and doesn’t force anything.
- Tyson Chandler is feisty tonight. Not only is he rebounding at a high rate, but he shoved Jeff Green out of the way on one possession, then was called for a technical on the next when he got into it with Ibaka. Durant put out that flame during the next timeout, sharing a smile with Chandler.
Half: OKC 56, Dallas 55. Durant 15 points, Green 14, and Westbrook with 9 assists and just 2 shots taken. Butler has 15 points, and Nowitzki has 12.
- Nowitzki rakes his arms through the defender and draws a two-shot foul, much to the amusement of Durant, who has been tabbed as someone who resurrected the move. Durant walks over to Scott Foster, who has a little bite himself, to discuss it.
- Speaking of Foster, he and Carlisle have been involved in an unconvincing argument all night, neither of their hearts really in it. Just banter, basically.
- DeShawn Stevenson is now matched with Durant. Then Butler. Then Marion.
- Green fouls Nowitzki and then bites his jersey. He wasn’t T’d up and thus a suitable reaction was born.
- Westbrook gets his first field goal halfway through the third. He’s more aggressive now. Conversely, Kidd’s jumper is off – he’s missed 6 in a row.
- Durant hits another one-legged floater, and OKC is up 11. But Kidd fires off two assists, and Chandler is rebounding everything; Dallas claws back.
End of third: OKC 81, Dallas 75. Durant has 26 points on just 13 field-goal attempts Nowitzki has 17 points, while Chandler has 14 points and 14 boards..
- Marion walks by press row, and on his left tricep is the word “Loyalty”; on his right, “Courage.” He’s guarding Durant in the fourth, so he’ll need the right arm.
- Nowitzki draws James Harden on a switch and hits a shot over him. Nowitzki then laughs. Later, he baits Harden into a foul and pokes his tongue out.
- Scott Brooks stands up to referee Kevin Cutler, barking at him, and if anyone remembers Brooks as a player this will come as no surprise.
- A sign titled “Dirkey Season,” with a picture of Durant shooting at a turkey with Nowitzki’s head on it, wins something during a timeout.
- Dallas rips off a 9-0 run, including a Nowitzki four-point play, to go up 93-90.
- When a shot clock violation call is missed, Jason Terry walks over to the scorer’s table during a stop in the action to pick up the TV monitor with two hands. The call isn’t reversed.
- Kidd finally hits a long two, then hits a three, this after missing eight straight shots. Then Marion, the unsung hero of the fourth, tips one in for a 100-93 lead. The crowd is deflated.
- Durant has been somewhat nullified in the fourth, thanks for Marion. He misses five shots in a row.
Final: Dallas 111, OKC 103. Nowitzki finished with 32, as did Durant. Kidd had 12 assists, and Marion was huge on both ends in the fourth.
- Rick Carlisle is pinned to the wall in the hallway by the media, and talks about how this team is as closed-knit as he’s coached. Carlisle played on the ’86 Celtics, so he knows a close-knit team when he sees it.
- Sure enough, as the reporters enter the locker room Nowitzki yells at the top of his voice that everyone you get over to Tyson Chandler to talk about his night. The media obliges. He’s knee-deep (both legs) in ice but Chandler is happy to talk about his night.
- Marion is also happy to talk – happy to be appreciated, really. He talks about his defense on Durant, and is asked about this Dallas team. “We all like each other, that helps.” There you go.
- The last word comes from Kidd, who is dressing quietly in the corner but is polite with the media. He talks about how Dallas is made up of guys who have all had their own individual success (he’s right: Nowitzki, Butler, Marion, Chandler, Terry and himself) but who are now focused on sacrificing. It certainly looked that way tonight.