Western Conference Finals: What Game 1 Tells Us About Mavs vs. Thunder Series

Luis De LeonContributor IIIMay 18, 2011

Western Conference Finals: What Game 1 Tells Us About Mavs vs. Thunder Series

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 17:  Nazr Mohammed #8 of the Oklahoma City Thunder goes up for a shot in front of Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks in the first half in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines C
    Pool/Getty Images

    The Dallas Mavericks strike first to take the early 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder, 121-112.

    There is a lot to be said of Game 1 and what it can mean for the rest of the series.

    But, one thing is certain; this is one heck of a series.

    Here are reactions to Game 1 and what it revealed about both teams.

The Veterans Benefitted from the Layoff

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 17:  Jason Kidd #2 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts with teammates Dirk Nowitzki #41 and Jason Terry #31 in the first half while taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs a
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Although OKC got off to an early lead in the first half, Dallas went on a 16-1 run in the second quarter and never looked back.

    Jason Kidd did his job by logging 11 assists. His only points came on a long range shot, but his offense was not needed.

    With Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and J.J. Barea shooting as well as they did in Game 1, Dallas was smart to keep feeding the ball to the hot hand.

    Dallas picked up where they left off after sweeping Los Angeles by taking care of business at home.

    Oklahoma City, on the other hand, might still be catching their breath after a hard-fought series against Memphis.

    They are a team with a lot of young legs, however, so that should not hinder them moving forward.

A Lot of Offensive Fire Power

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 17:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks shoots over Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second quarter in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on May 17,
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    When the final score is 121-112, both coaches will probably focus on improving their defense.

    Even so, both teams will have trouble guarding the superstars. This series may feature high-octane offense in all the games.

    Game 1 is highlighted by Dirk's 48 points, with half of those points coming off free throws.

    Jason Terry added 24 points and J.J. Barea had 21 points in 16 minutes. At one point Barea took over by scoring 10 straight points for the Mavs in the second half.

    Kevin Durant had 40 points for the Thunder and Russell Westbrook added 21, but efficiency was the difference between OKC and Dallas in Game 1.

    Which leads me to my next slide...

OKC Needs to Make Adjustments

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 17:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder moves the ball into Brendan Haywood #33 of the Dallas Mavericks as Shawn Marion #0 of the Mavericks is behind Durant in the second half in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Since the Thunder lost the game, it makes sense that they need to make adjustments. 

    Durant had 40 points on 10-18 shooting. But as Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy stated multiple times, he needs to do more of his damage closer to the rim.

    It is easier for Dallas to defend Durant and make him pass the ball when he is at the three-point line as it gives defenders more time to rotate.

    Without Durant's sharp shooting, this game would not have been as close. Then again, without Dirk's magnificent game, OKC could have stolen Game 1.

    Regardless, The Durantula is even more of a nightmare matchup if he gets the ball on the block.

    Westbrook was 3-15 from the field and had three assists but four turnovers.

    While it is nice to see he has confidence in his shot, he has to get his teammates more involved especially when he is struggling to shoot. Durant was obviously the hot hand but Westbrook kept putting up shots.

    He needs to make the right decisions.

    The good news for the Thunder is their dynamic duo remained aggressive, combining for 37 free throw attempts. The bad news is OKC needs to avoid fouling Dirk, who had 24 of Dallas' 36 free throw attempts.

    Finally, OKC must continue to chase shooters off the three-point line.

    They did a good job early in the game but did not keep it up as Dallas had good ball movement and ended up with nine baskets from downtown.

    Avoiding foul trouble and keeping shooters off the arc is necessary for OKC to come back strong in Game 2.

Dallas Needs to Make Adjustments

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 17:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder shoots over Tyson Chandler #6 of the Dallas Mavericks in the second half in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on May 1
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Yes, Dallas won. However, it would be foolish to think they do not need to make adjustments on the defensive end of the floor.

    Dirk's great game masked some of the things Dallas needs to work on if they want to go back to OKC with a 2-0 series lead.

    The zone was effective against Westbrook's dribble penetration. However, the same scheme did not work against Durant.

    As a gifted scorer, Dallas might have to live with Durant's damage the same way OKC has to live with Dirk.

    If the defensive plan is to let Durant score and shut everyone else down, then Dallas failed in Game 1. Durant and James Harden made plays that got their teammates involved.

    Remember all those easy dunks Serge Ibaka had?

    It may not have felt like a big deal in the moment, but his quiet 17 points allowed OKC to stay in the game when the Mavs had the momentum.

    Dallas needs to tighten up on defense and stop the ball.

OKC Won the Rebounding Battle

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 17:  Nick Collison #4 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Jason Terry #31 of the Dallas Mavericks battle for a loose ball in the first half in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Dallas shot 53 percent from the field, which limits the opportunities for OKC to grab defensive rebounds.

    Even so, the Thunder grabbed more boards overall.

    Both teams were even in defensive rebounds, but OKC grabbed three more offensive rebounds. Nick Collison alone had five offensive boards.

    The Maverick bigs have to box out.

    The Thunder have to avoid foul trouble, but they can hang their hats on their rebounding.

    If they keep crashing the boards, they will be in good shape moving forward.

Dallas' Bench Was Spectacular

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 08:  Guard Jason Terry #31 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts after a three-point shot with Jose Juan Barea against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 8, 2011 at Americ
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Once again, the bench came up big for Dallas.

    Barea and Terry combined for 45 of the bench's 53 points.

    For the Thunder, James Harden led the way with 12 of the bench's 22 points.

    Dallas has one of the deepest benches in the NBA, and a depth advantage over the Thunder.

    OKC's bench cannot outscore Dallas' bench (at least not on the road) but the point differential between both cannot be 30 if the Thunder want to even the series.

Nate Robinson Won't Be a Factor in Dallas

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    MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 13:  Serge Ibaka #9, Kendrick Perkins #5 and Nate Robinson #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder react after a basket and a foul against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at FedExFo
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    This guy is key to narrowing the gap between both benches.

    Trailing by double digits most of the second half, Scott Brooks decided to put Nate Robinson in the game to provide an offensive spark.

    The little guy has not seen much playing time in this year's playoffs and it showed.

    In his five minutes, Nate was 0-5 from the field. Most of his shots were way off.

    Look for Nate to get more minutes as the series continues because he is capable of providing instant offense and being a pest on defense, as he proved with the Boston Celtics.

    Robinson, like many role players, is at his best feeding off of the home crowd's energy. He did not have that kind of swagger on the road in Dallas.

    Had he provided that spark in Game 1, the Thunder might have stolen the game from Dallas.

Dirk Is... Well, He's Dirk

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 17:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks shoots a free throw late in the fourth quarter while taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Everyone knows Dirk Nowitzki is not happy about what happened in 2006. There is a chance Dallas could redeem itself this year against the same team that came back from a 2-0 deficit to win the NBA title.

    Before we get ahead of ourselves, the Conference Finals just started. Thinking about a 2006 rematch is disrespectful to all OKC and Chicago fans out there.

    However, it is easy to notice the man is on a mission.

    In Game 1, Dirk set a playoff record by making all 24 of his free throws. Paul Pierce set the previous mark with 21 in 2003.

    As stated in a previous slide, Dirk finished with 48 points on 12-15 shooting. His efficiency was remarkable.

    After averaging 4 blocks a game in the playoffs, Ibaka had trouble guarding Dirk. So did Kendrick Perkins, Collison, Durant and Thabo Sefolosha. Dirk rose up and made his off-balance shots look easy.

    Not only that, but whenever the Thunder double teamed, he made the right decision by finding the open man.

    Nowitzki needs to produce every game to keep up with the NBA's top scorer in Durant. Neither superstar can afford to have an off night as it may be the difference between winning and losing games.

Both Teams Still Have a Shot of Winning This Series

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 17:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives on Jose Juan Barea #11 of the Dallas Mavericks in the second quarter in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on Ma
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Despite all the momentum Dallas had and how good they looked at times, something was not quite right.

    Without looking at the scoreboard, it seemed like the Mavs were running away with Game 1, especially since Dirk was unstoppable and his performance overshadowed every other aspect of the game.

    It was a good win for Dallas, but not a convincing win.

    Despite the inability to guard Dirk, Westbrook's mediocre game and limited bench production, OKC hung around the entire game.

    Turnovers, assists, and rebounds were virtually even for both teams. Dirk's points were offset by Durant's points. Westbrook's points were offset by Terry's points. This will likely continue throughout the series.

    The biggest question is whether either team can lock the other down on defense.

    Even if both teams consistently run up the scoreboard, the team avoiding foul trouble and the team with a bigger boost from its bench will ultimately come out on top.

    Dallas is now up 1-0, but there is still a lot of good basketball to be played in this series.