By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
As the Thunder get set to play their first playoff game in two years superstar Kevin Durant had some advice for his teammates and coaches today after shootaround about what to expect from the Mavericks and veteran coach Rick Carlisle.
“You never know with Coach Carlisle he’ll throw anything in the game.”
One thing KD expects to see for sure is a slow down game on offense and some zone on defense.
“Yeah they’re gonna slow it down on us but we’ve played that game before, we know that game,” he said. And he and the Thunder have seen the zone before too.
“I’m sure they’ll throw some zone in there to try and mess us up a bit, especially if we’ve got it rollin on the offensive end, but we gotta be prepared for anything and I think our coaching staff has done a great job of preparing us.”
The Mavs went almost exclusively with the zone on January 13th in OKlahoma City when Carlisle rested his starters on the second night of a back-to-back. Durant shredded it that night, scoring 29 points on 9-for-14 shooting including 4-for-8 from beyond the arc.
What’s Durant thinking when he sees the Mavs go zone?
“Just be aggressive and if I get a wide open three just make ‘em second guess on the next possession if they wanna play it again.”
Dion Waiters had a good night from deep in that same game but Waiters has feasted on the Mavericks perimeter defense every time the teams have played, hitting 54.5 percent of his threes, the best percentage on long balls against Dallas for any Thunder player.
“I just play good against them I guess,” Waiters said in searching for an answer as to why his 3-point percentage is so good against the Mavs.
“I really don’t know what the keys may be,” he finally said.
Waiters was a 35.8 percent shooter from beyond the arc in the regular season, 54.5 percent shooting against Dallas is his best against any team.
The Thunder won all four regular season games against Dallas but their last game against them was February 24th, a few days before the Mavs went from an up-tempo offense to the slow-down game.
That change brought the Mavs out of a 7-13 slump that had them out of playoff position and led to a 7-2 finish that brought them all the way up to 6th in the West.
The Thunder have been spending a lot of time in the film room going over what they’re doing differently.
“In the half court there’s a lot of movement, a lot of ball movement, player movement, so we gotta be locked in for 24 seconds on each possession,” Durant warned.
Though OKC won all four games, two of them came down to the last couple of possessions, the Thunder winning 117-114 on November 22nd at The Peake and 109-106 in Dallas on January 22nd.
As we all know by now, fourth quarters and especially crunch time in fourth quarters, has not been a strong suit for the Thunder after the All-Star Break.
The Thunder were outscored by an average of 10.3 points per game in fourth quarters after the break, only the Suns were worse (-13.0) and the Thunder were 3-12 (only the 76ers, 1-12, were worse) in games that were within five points during the last five minutes
OKC finished the regular season averaging 109.9 points per 100 possessions while giving up 103.0. But in the fourth quarters of game after the All-Star break those numbers went the other direction with the Thunder scoring just 101.9 points per 100 possessions and giving up a whopping 112.2.
In the playoffs most games will come down to what happens in the final minutes of the final quarter so how well the Thunder can close out games should go a long way toward determining how well they can close out the season.
- Durant shot 49.5 percent on mid-range jumpers in the regular season, the best among players who attempted at least 200 shots.
Russell Westbrook recorded assists on 17.8 percent of his passes, the most in the NBA, while also leading all guards in rebounding percentage (12.3).
The Thunder led the NBA by grabbing 31.1 percent of available rebounds per game and then took full advantage by averaging 15.8 second chance points per game to also lead the NBA.
Just 27.1 percent of the Mavericks shots this season came from within the restricted area ranking 30th in the NBA.
26.1 percent of Dallas shot attempts were above the break 3-pointers (3rd most).
Dallas allowed 16.0 fast break points per game, fourth most in the NBA and the most among playoff teams.
Tipoff tonight is scheduled for 8:30 but could slide as late as 8:45 if the earlier game this evening on ESPN goes long. You can also see tonight’s game on Fox Sports Oklahoma. As usual InsideThunder.com will have a full crew at the game. You can follow me on Twitter @RandyRenner for updates from the arena beginning at about 5 o’clock and we’ll have a full postgame video postgame report with reaction from the lockerroom.