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NBA Playoffs: Efficient Westbrook, Thunder need to show up

May 23, 2011, 4:10 PM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Six Getty Images

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are putting up numbers against the Dallas Mavericks: Durant is averaging 29.3 point per game (up from his league-leading 27.7 during the regular season), while Westbrook is at 22.7 per game.

But they are not efficient about it. Durant is shooting 44 percent and is 2-of-18 from three. Westbrook is shooting just 36 percent. Bad decisions, poor off the ball movement, just not enough execution as a team.

On the other end, throughout these playoffs the Dallas Mavericks have been very efficient. Take away Dirk Nowizki — which the Thunder did a pretty good job of in Game 3 with some physical play — and someone else steps up. Or, accurately, several somebody elses. They do what it takes to win.

The Thunder are going to have to find that in them Monday night in Game 4 or they will head back to Dallas on the verge of elimination.

That efficiency has to start on the defensive end — for all the complaining about the Thunder offense, they are giving up 114.1 points per 100 possessions this series to Dallas. During the regular season the Thunder only gave up 104 points per 100 possessions, Dallas scored 107.6.

The problems are particularly noticeable in the fourth quarter and at the end of games when Dallas is getting good looks. Part of it is nobody has a good answer for Dirk Nowitzki. But part of it is J.J. Barea’s curving cuts through the Thunder defense that forces them to collapse and leads to open shooters. Part of it is the Thunder not creating turnovers, not getting some easy baskets in transition The Thunder have to execute better at the end of games, because you know Dallas will.

The Thunder need to get more offense and that should mean less Kendrick Perkins. He’s still a good defender, but this is a bad matchup for him. He would have been great against the Lakers front line, but more-mobile Dallas has proved a problem. You think you can help off Tyson Chandler, but the man knows how to roll to the basket and finish lobs.

The Thunder have better play and plenty of fight in them — remember they had to go three overtimes in their last Game 4 to even up that series on the road, and they went on to win in 7.

But they won that Game 4 despite bad decisions and some inefficient shooting. They will have to play better Thursday, Dallas will not give them that luxury.

  1. jjared1101 - May 23, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    It will be really hard for Dallas to come out and have the same sort of start that they had in game 3. If Dallas doesn’t come out of the gates and OKC is getting the same foul treatment they got last game, they should win this game. 36 to 18 in ft’s wont’ cut it for Dallas. They may have to resort to some Harden-esk flopping to get some calls. I kid OKC… I kid…. but seriously. Maybe Dallas’ best flopper (Barea) needs to get more minutes or something.

  2. delius1967 - May 23, 2011 at 6:00 PM

    I don’t know that the Thunder can be more efficient. They have gotten where they are on youth and energy, but the flipside of those qualities is less disciplined play. The ill-advised three pointers at the end of Game 3 are a case in point: instead of being patient and working one step at a time to catch up, they were going for the momentum-turning quick score. Sometimes that works, more often it does not.

    Watching Durant play is like watching a colt, all long legs, incredible energy, and you see the potential for a thoroughbred; but you also see skittishness and the occaisional stumble.

  3. philiplewis1 - May 23, 2011 at 6:47 PM

    The key to this series is the officiating. If they take away the Maverick skill level with the non-calls evident in Game 3, then Dallas has a tough time. If they call the game properly per the rule book, Dallas will get to the line more often and will win. I never ceased to be amazed that a grazing of the elbow in the middle of a shot is a foul but horse collaring someone around the neck on a rebound or literally throwing someone to the floor is not. Can we at least be consistent no matter what level of roughness is allowed. I would personally prefer the roughness be removed and we see real basketball, not a playground version. As any player will tell you, you “adjust to the officiating”. If they call it, the players will stop doing it.

  4. Bryce - May 23, 2011 at 7:33 PM

    Go Thunder!

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