OKLAHOMA CITY -- For two games in Dallas, the Thunder pretty much did whatever they wanted on offense.
Oklahoma City averaged 109 points in the first two games of this series. They shot 51.4 percent from the floor. They embarrassed a Dallas squad that prides itself on playing stingy defense, an attitude that had intensified while they held foes under 90 points per game in the first two rounds.
What happened in Game 3? The Dallas defense finally arrived in the West finals.
The Thunder shot only 36.5 percent in the Mavs’ 93-87 win. Oklahoma City had more turnovers (14) than assists (11) against a Dallas defense with renewed aggression.
“We came out very aggressive,” said Shawn Marion, who played a key role in superstar Kevin Durant’s 7-of-22 struggles. “We took them out of anything and everything they tried to do.”
It’s not as if coach Rick Carlisle made any major adjustments. The Mavs simply accepted their coach’s challenge to play harder, tougher and more intense after watching film of their many inexcusable mistakes over the last two days.
“If you just look across the board, our stance was better,” said backup center Brendan Haywood, who made some pointed comments about the Mavs’ poor perimeter defense at the morning shootaround. “There was no one just standing straight up on defense. Everybody was low and into their man.”
Big man Tyson Chandler said Friday that execution, not X’s and O’s, caused the Mavs’ defensive problems. That point was proven during Game 3.
“It’s the same exact game plan,” Chandler said, “so you see the difference.”