The Dallas Mavericks not only responded to a disappointing effort and outcome to start the series, but actually found a way to completely turn the momentum with an impressive 85-84 Game 2 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder as the teams now head back to Dallas for Games 3 and 4.
The Mavericks appeared to play with much more purpose and it was obvious they were not ready to simply roll over and allow themselves to be run off the court once again. From the opening tip, Dallas stepped up and met the challenge as a collective unit as Dirk Nowitzki – their only player to score in double figures in Game 1 – was joined by Raymond Felton and Deron Williams (11 points in the first quarter) as the trio managed to accomplish the feat in the first half of Game 2 alone. More than simply making baskets, Dallas came with precisely the type of intensity in response to a lackluster series opening effort head coach Rick Carlisle and staff could have asked for.
Russell Westbrook paced the action for the Thunder in the first half, but Kevin Durant wasn’t able to overcome a rough shooting night (7-33 from the field) and was also forced into seven turnovers by an admirable defensive effort from Dallas. Durant was able to get things going for a brief period in the third quarter, helping the Thunder erase a slight halftime deficit and even momentarily recapturing control of the game, but the Mavericks had an answer for every run the Thunder made and received huge contributions down the stretch from Felton (21 points, 11 rebounds), Devin Harris (eight points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals) and reserve center Salah Mejri (12 points and three timely blocks).
If the Thunder want to reverse the tide once again as they head out on the road, they’ll need more from the reserve players. Enes Kanter (six points, eight rebounds in Game 2) will continue to play a pivotal role in that second unit and Oklahoma City could certainly use a few nights of Dion Waiters and Anthony Morrow (7-24 from the field combined through the first two games) finding their strides offensively.
Already without small forward Chandler Parsons and guard J.J. Barea, the Mavericks can ill-afford to lose another key contributor and have to hope the three days of rest will be enough for Deron Williams as he was noticeably slowed by a sports hernia throughout his 26 minutes of action on Monday night.
Game 3 is Thursday at 7 p.m. EST and this series could get very interesting if the Mavericks are able to duplicate that defensive effort and collective offensive output.
Prediction: Durant and the Thunder find a way to steal momentum back and take Game 3.
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