Oklahoma City's superstars take over to eliminate Dallas

By Suave Francisco

 

Monday night ended the five-game saga between the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder after OKC defeated the Mavericks 118-104. Although Dallas gave a valiant effort, in the end, they couldn't compete with OKC's talent. 

Like seemingly every game seemed to start off during this series, there was drama. Tonight being because of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, stating that there's only one superstar on this Thunder team, and Kevin is the one. He said that Russell is just an all-star, not a superstar. I'm not sure why Dallas constantly tried to get in Russell's head all series. If they knew anything about Russell, they'd know he feeds off that stuff and in fact, plays better after criticism, and that's exactly what happened in game 5. Russell finished this game with 36 points on 23 shots, 12 rebounds, and 9 assists. Oklahoma City's other superstar definitely had a nice game too, scoring 33 points and pulling down 7 rebounds. 

He had 36 and he was great in every quarter. We went to some switching to start the game just to try to keep him out of the paint, then he rose up and hit three or four jump shots in a row, and that kind of got them going. I thought we did a good job of withstanding the early charge. We hung in and got it within two, but other than game 2, we didn’t have a lead in any other game in the series. They were a better team and again I really wish we would have had our full contingent of guys, I think it would have been a much closer series, but again I just love the way our guys fought throughout the whole thing.
— Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle on Russell Westbrook's fourth quarter.

This game didn't start out great for this Thunder team defensively. Russell got off to a quick start (9 points in the first five minutes), but the team allowed Dallas to shoot 52.6 percent from the field. The only reason the Thunder were up at the end of the first quarter was because they shot an even better 59.1 percent. It didn't get any better either, with Dallas only trailing by seven points at the half and maintaining their shooting percentage for the most part. Actually, midway through the second quarter, Dallas shot 63 percent from the field as they cut the lead to five points, with all the momentum. It wasn't until Durant hit a couple of big shots that the momentum started to change up.

 Thunder forward Steven Adams (12) winning the opening tipoff. Photo: Torrey Purvey/ InsideThunder.com

Thunder forward Steven Adams (12) winning the opening tipoff. Photo: Torrey Purvey/ InsideThunder.com

Subsequently, the Thunder were just too much for the Mavericks in the second half. Dallas actually played a very competitive game, but like stated earlier, Oklahoma City just had talent on their side. Steven Adams also helped seal this victory with 15 points and 10 rebounds, with half of those being offensive rebounds that contributed to the team's 17-second chance points. 

Other than game two, Dallas never led in this series. Yes, that means OKC went to Dallas and never trailed for two games as well. The only thing that looked unfamiliar for this team is that their biggest lead was only 15 points in game 5 due to a slight defensive let-down, which is something to pay attention to moving forward. 

 

This team has to stay consistent throughout a series, both defensively, and offensively going into the next series against the San Antonio Spurs. A Spurs team that only lost one game at home all season and that was to the NBA's greatest regular season team in history, the Golden State Warriors. Billy Donovan and company will have to find a gameplan that can take down the Spurs, which they've done this season, but not in San Antonio, and not when the Spurs were at full strength. Even though the Thunder did almost defeat the Spurs in the last game of the season, when they played all their players and OKC rested their key players, only playing their bench.

I like our mindset. I like how we were in shootaround, practices. After that game two, we didn’t feel sorry for ourselves. We came in the next day and got to work. We were able to win three straight. I just like our mindset. Mentally we have to be prepared. This is a solid team that we’re playing so we have to be solid and disciplined and I like how we started the series.
— Thunder forward Kevin Durant on where the team is collectively headed to the second round.

Looking back, it just seems like Oklahoma City plays this San Antonio team very well, every time. The athleticism of this Thunder team will propel them past the Spurs, into the Western Conference finals. Only time will make that a fact, though.  

The Westen Conference semi-finals versus the Spurs will start on Saturday, with the first two games being in San Antonio due to home-court advantage being on the Spurs side.