Kevin Durant’s 7-of-33 shooting performance in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Game 2 loss to the Dallas Mavericks was the sort of night that stood out as an outlier as soon as the final buzzer sounded. While the are arguments to be made against Durant’s shot selection, he has firmly established himself as one of the most efficient scorers in NBA history. It stood to reason that he would not shoot so poorly again this series, if not for several years. Game 3 figured to go a lot better for KD and the Thunder.
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It certainly did. Durant opened the game 7-of-9 from the field and scored 20 of his game-high 34 points in the first half to help lead OKC to a commanding 131-102 blowout in Dallas. The Thunder took control early and weathered a few Mavericks runs to lead 58-48 half and made the final few minutes academic with 73 second-half points. The win does not only give OKC a 2-1 advantage in the series — it also reasserts that this matchup is very favorable for the West’s No. 3 seed.
Durant’s hot start immediately became the biggest story of the game, but it’s telling that his final shooting line (11-of-25 FG, 3-of-9 3FG, 9-of-11 FG) was somewhat inefficient relative to the rest of the team. OKC shot 57.7 percent from the field, made 15-of-27 three-point attempts, and went to the line 37 times for a complete offensive performance. Five players scored at least 16 points, including top reserves Enes Kanter (21 points on 6-of-7 FG and 8-of-10 FT) and Dion Waiters (19 points on 4-of-8 from deep). And Russell Westbrook was at the center of a lot of it, finishing with 26 points, 15 assists, and a team-high plus-29 in 34 minutes (and no rebounds, curiously, though not for lack of activity).
All those stats confirm what seemed clear from four regular season wins and Game 1’s blowout — that the Mavericks cannot come close to matching the Thunder’s athleticism and open-court playmaking over a lengthy period of time. If the game gets fast, they’ll suffer, or at least require something like Durant’s terrible Game 2 to be in it. Plus, that might not even be enough — remember that OKC was one late tip-in away from taking that one at the buzzer, too.
The Thunder are far from a model of consistency, so it’s possible that Saturday’s Game 4 will look more like Game 2 than Game 3. The issue for Dallas is that a more manageable style doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll come out ahead. We’ve seen enough of this matchup to know its general dynamics, and they point to big advantages for OKC now and in the future.
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