OKLAHOMA CITY -- Shawn Marion's teammates might not be nice to him the rest of the playoffs.
Not after the way a mad Matrix played during the Dallas Mavericks' 93-87 win in Saturday night's tiebreaking Game 3 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"We've got to have him pissed," Mavs big man Tyson Chandler said. "We've got to have him slashing all over the place and being aggressive. We don't want the happy Trix. I like the angry [Marion]. He can be pissed off at all of us if he gives us the results."
Marion's teammates and coaches mercilessly criticized him during film sessions the last couple of days. They wouldn't accept his lack of aggression in the first two games of this series, when Dallas had by far its worst defensive performances of the postseason.
The Matrix's response: He embraced the challenge. Unlike the last two games, Marion was the aggressor from the get-go.
Marion was the main man in the Mavs' defense of Kevin Durant, who made only 7 of 22 shots from the floor and went 0-of-8 from 3-point range during a horribly inefficient 24-point performance. He set the tone for Dallas' return to the in-your-grill defensive style it had during the first two rounds, when the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers failed to crack triple digits in any game.
Plus, Marion had his best offensive performance of these playoffs, scoring 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting to help offset off nights by Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry. Eight of his shot attempts, including seven buckets, came at the rim, evidence of his attacking mentality. By comparison, Marion was only 7-of-13 inside 5 feet in the first two games of the series, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
“Shawn Marion stepped up big,” shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson said. “He wasn’t kind of there the first two games and we talked about it. Him being the person he is, he came back strong. We need that from him.”
The last couple of days weren’t pleasant for the usually happy-go-lucky Marion. However, he acknowledged that the darkening of his mood benefited his game.
“That’s what it takes,” Marion said. “It is what it is. I’m a competitor.”
Added Chandler: “He took some criticism, and he’s man enough to get out there and accept it the way he did. He didn’t tuck his tail between his legs and go hide. He stood up like a man and went out there and gave us a great effort tonight.”
Maybe it helped that the Mavs called Marion’s number early in the game, as he scored eight points on 4-of-6 shooting while Dallas jumped out to a 27-12 lead in the first quarter.
It definitely helped that the officials didn’t call Marion’s number early in the game. He dealt with early foul trouble in the first two games but finished the first half of Game 3 with only one foul ... and the Mavs had a 16-point lead.
“Those first two fouls have been [expletive] me up in the first quarter,” Marion said. “I’m keeping it real. I can’t be the aggressor on either end of the court if I’m coming out after five minutes with two [expletive] fouls. What am I going to do? Now I’m tentative, trying not to pick up the third and can’t be the aggressor I want to be. Tonight, I was able to do that.”
Excuse Marion’s R-rated language, but the Mavs hope to keep him cussin’, fussin’ and fired up.