NBA Playoffs 2011: 5 Adjustments OKC Thunder Must Make Against Dallas Mavericks
Well, Game 1 is in the books and Dirk Nowitzki had a night for the ages.
The German machine finished the night with 48 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 blocks all while hitting 24-24 free throws in what was one of the more epic playoff performances in recent history.
While they started off strong in the 1st quarter, the Thunder seemingly had no answer for Dirk as they tried several different match-ups on the 7 footer. They started off with Serge Ibaka who got abused nearly every time Nowitzki touched the ball, then switched off between Nick Collison, Kevin Durant and Thabo Sefolosha.
It is very clear that some changes will have to be made in Game 2 to ensure that OKC does not head back up I-35 down 0-2.
Here are 5 adjustments the OKC Thunder must make against the Dallas Mavericks.
Double-Team Dirk Nowitzki
What else can be said about the performance that Dirk Nowitzki put on Tuesday night?
The German showed why he is one of the best shooter's of his era and one of the toughest players to guard of all time. Whether it is falling away, attacking the basket or draining wide open 3's, Dirk just never seems to miss. He put on a straight clinic against the young guns from OKC that opened their eyes to their greatest challenge yet so far these playoffs.
Game 1 made it evident that no one on this Thunder team can guard Dirk 1-1. It simply isn't possible. He is too big and has too many moves to be held in check. This leads to an obvious solution: double-team him!
If one cannot stop him alone, it is obvious that two players can get the job done. Sure, this will leave a man or two open, but no players are as deadly as Nowitzki when it comes to the offensive end of the floor. Force him to dish it out to Kidd or Stevenson who have no where near as good an offensive game.
Get Russell Westbrook to Play Like Game 7, Not Game 1
Yes, yes. By now we have all heard about the erratic play of "superstar" point guard Russell Westbrook. The young guard can go from having a lights out, nearly perfect game to seemingly forgetting that he runs the point.
Just look at the transformation from Game 7 to Game 1 of this series: Westbrook went from having a triple double last game with 14 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds to a lackluster 3-15 shooting night with 20 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds.
In order for the Thunder to win this series, they need Westbrook to realize that he is the point guard and not the shooting guard. It would be okay if he were taking half of the shots that he takes if he actually made most of those. Unfortunately, his jump shot is just not at that level yet. Besides, there is no need to shoot that much when the league's leading scorer is standing idol.
Thunder Need to Get More Touchy, Less Physical
You know the saying "like night and day?" That pretty much describes the different styles that the Memphis Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks play. Both teams have a very different approach to the game, which made it a tough transition for the Thunder.
After battling down-low for a tough seven game series against a young, athletic equivalent to themselves, the Thunder simply were not prepared for the touchy, "jump shot galore" type game that the Mavericks put on night in and night out.
Scott Brooks will have the guys watch more film of this game and get them prepared for Thursday's shooting fest.
Instead of pounding the ball down-low to Z-Bo and Gasol all game, the Mavs like to drive and dish out to their sharpshooters, which they have plenty of. Stojakovic, Nowitzki, Barea, Kidd and Terry can all make the 3-point shot on a regular basis and the Thunder need to realize this. Excluding double-teaming Dirk, Thunder players need to stick with their men and not get lazy.
Contain the Little Man: J.J. Barea
J.J. Barea went for his second career 20 point playoff performance on Tuesday night, helping what was an offensive onslaught by the Dallas Mavericks.
The 6-foot, 175 lbs PG out of Northeastern has had quite the playoffs so far, backing up future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd. Despite his size, Barea is able to drive the lane with relative ease and dish out to Nowitzki and Terry for open jumpers. He also has good accuracy from long range which makes him that much more dangerous.
The Thunder will have to contain him next game to have any shot at leaving town tied 1-1.
Stay out of Foul Trouble
Because of foul trouble, the Thunder were forced to put Durant on Nowitzki early in the third. Ibaka already had four fouls and simply couldn't handle Dirk, and the same can be said for Collison. Durant ended up getting two quick ones that put him out of rhythm as well.
The Thunder need to do their best to stay out of foul trouble next game in order to keep a solid rhythm and not let Dallas get to the line early.
All in all, this wasn't a terrible loss for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite an offensive outpouring by the Mavericks, the most the Thunder ever trailed by was 16 and even got the deficit down to five in the 4th quarter.
One must remember that the Thunder are still a very young team and still have a lot of learning to do. They are going up against a group of championship hungry veterans who see these playoffs as one of their last real hopes to gain a title.
If RW can get his shot falling and the Thunder can hold Nowitzki to half his point total from tonight, the Thunder have a serious chance to go out and steal game 2 in Dallas.