Viewers who tuned in for a competitive first-round Game 1 between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks were likely disappointed by the contest on display. In fact, the Thunder had seized control before ESPN's broadcast even switched over from the end of the Atlanta Hawks' late-running win over the Boston Celtics. And it only got worse for the Mavericks from there.
[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
The third-seeded Thunder opened Game 1 on a 15-2 run, led by 26 at the half, and entered the fourth quarter with an absurd 42-point advantage on their way to a laughably one-sided 108-70 blowout at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Mavericks managed just 51 points through the first three periods and shot 29.8 percent from the field over 48 minutes for one of the franchise's worst offensive showings in postseason history. Meanwhile, the Thunder relished their return to the playoffs after a one-year layoff and showed that their four-game sweep of the Mavericks during the regular season might not have been a fluke.
It's hard to know if the lopsided contest owed more to the Mavs' struggles or the Thunder's success, but let's start with the former. The first-half numbers were appalling — Dallas scored 33 points (as many as OKC had in the second quarter) on 26.2 percent shooting from the field, including an 0-of-8 mark from three-point range, and 11-of-17 from the line. Those numbers look even worse when you factor in that Dirk Nowitzki scored 14 points on 5-of-10 FG and 4-of-4 FT. The Mavericks missed virtually everything — open looks, contested looks, in-between looks, short looks, long looks, brunette looks, blonde looks, etc. To make matters worse, all those misses allowed the Thunder to push the ball in transition, essentially conceding the tempo battle that looked most likely to decide this series.
The Thunder did not take advantage of every offensive opportunity, but they converted enough of them to keep control and look like the far more locked-in team. OKC shot only 7-of-19 from three-point range, but stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook got to the basket regularly and created shots for their teammates. Durant was especially impressive, putting up 18 points, five rebounds, and three assists in the first half.
Perhaps most impressively, the Thunder ensured that the Mavericks would not sniff a comeback with a dominant third quarter. Dallas started the second half decently and got the margin down to 26, but OKC closed the quarter on a 21-9 run to turn the fourth-quarter into 12 minutes of garbage time. Westbrook was especially strong to finish with 24 points and 11 assists (and a team-high plus-39 in 30 minutes). When Durant checked out for good, he and Westbrook had out-scored their opponents by themselves:
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook basically were better than the Mavericks by themselves pic.twitter.com/MDadQojwQ6
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 17, 2016
The Mavericks will have few, if any, positives to take from this result. On top of all the struggles, starting guard J.J. Barea was ruled out at halftime with a reaggravation of the strained right groin that made him questionable for Game 1. The Mavericks are already dealing with injuries to Chandler Parsons (out since March 18) and David Lee (out for Game 1 and perhaps Game 2) and can ill afford to stretch the rotation any more.
The best news for Dallas is that it can't get worse. For that matter, teams that lose a playoff game by at least 35 points and gone on to win the series. Which isn't to say the odds are in their favor:
Bad news for the Mavs. Teams that lose by 35 points or more in a playoff game are 5-41 in winning those series.
— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) April 17, 2016
As we noted in our series preview, the Mavericks' best hope in this series is to control tempo and keep it close enough to hope that the Thunder see a recurrence of the crunch-time failures that plagued them throughout this season. Nothing went according to plan in Game 1, and Dallas now has a lot to prove in order to win a game, let alone make it a competitive series.
- - - - - - -