No excuses: OKC bench throttles Mavs

DALLAS -- Just outside the Mavericks' locker room, Jason Terry bent over a weight bench, pressed his hands into his thighs and shook his head as he studied the final box score: Oklahoma City 106, Dallas Mavericks 100.

The score that mattered most to him looked worse: OKC 50, Dallas 29. In a near-reversal from Game 1 when Terry and J.J. Barea combined for 45 of 53 bench points -- the decisive edge in the Dirk Nowitzki-Kevin Durant shootout -- Game 2 was won by the Thunder’s reserve guards who took charge.

“They surprised us because their shots were going in,” said Terry, whose eight points on nine shot attempts were his lowest scoring output of the playoffs. “But other than that, they made some tough ones. Give them credit.”

Eric Maynor and James Harden, with five years of experience between them, drilled Dallas for 36 points on 11-of-18 shooting (4-of-8 from 3-point range -- all by Harden and three in the second half), nine rebounds, five assists and no turnovers. How impressive were the Thunder reserves, including Nick Collison and his physical defense on Nowitzki, as a whole? Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks couldn’t take them out.

Russell Westbrook, who had 18 points on a decent shooting night, turned cheerleader in the fourth quarter. Durant was the lone starter to play more than 37 seconds in the Thunder’s 29-point final period beatdown of the Mavs, who lost for the first time on their home floor in these playoffs and find themselves 1-1 in a series for the first time.

Durant was the least effective of the five, with four points on 2-of-6 shooting. Harden destroyed Terry for 10 of his 23 points, one shy of Durant’s team-high 24. Harden hit two 3-pointers in the quarter and dropped a killer 17-foot jumper in isolation against Terry for a 102-92 lead with 3:15 to go.

It’s the first time the Mavs’ bench has been outscored in the playoffs since the Blazers’ Brandon Roy went nuts in the unforgettable Game 4 collapse in Portland. The Thunder's five reserves finished Game 2 a plus-58. The Mavs' five were minus-21.

“I didn’t think Durant made the difference in the second half,” Nowitzki said. “It was Maynor and Harden and their bench.”

Harden, and his all-NBA beard, drained a 3 with 7.5 seconds left in the third quarter and converted a four-point play when Terry got whistled on an iffy foul as Harden released the shot. It gave OKC a 77-76 lead heading into the final 12 minutes.

"I have no idea," Terry said when asked if he thought he fouled Harden. "But, they called it."

What left Terry in total disbelief was the small Thunder lineup in the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-9 Durant played power forward with the 6-foot-10 Collison at center but battled Nowitzki -- and with five fouls for the final 3:45. Those two were surrounded by the 6-foot-3 Manor, 6-foot-5 Harden and 6-foot-5 Daequan Cook.

“We’ve got to punish that lineup,” Terry said. “It’s good it happened like this. We’ll make our adjustments and bounce back.”

Terry, who was 0-of-4 from the floor and scoreless in 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, had little help from his benchmates. Peja Stojakovic had flashes, but finished with eight points in 19 minutes. J.J. Barea knocked down three 3-pointers and had 11 points, but he wasn't able to penetrate at will like he did in Game 1 for 21 points.

But Terry shouldered the responsibility for the lack of scoring punch.

“Nine [shot] attempts,” Terry said. “I don’t call that a very aggressive game on my part.”

Center Brendan Haywood, who played so well defensively in the previous two series, was a liability in Game 2. He picked up three fouls in his first two minutes on the floor and forced Tyson Chandler, whose double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds ended in a rare loss, to play 20 minutes in the first half and a season-high 39 overall.

“We can’t allow their bench to have that kind of impact on us,” Chandler said.

Terry, who boldly proclaimed that he planned to outperform the entire Thunder bench and then backed it up in Game 1, has never backed down from his claim that the team with the most impactful bench stands the greatest chance to win.

So far, Terry is 2-for-2, even if his team is not.

“It’s obvious, it’s really obvious, it’s evident that whichever bench is going to be able to make an impact on the game is going to have a better chance at winning,” Terry said. “Tonight, give their bench a lot of credit.”