Raymond Felton was experiencing an unfamiliar feeling late in Monday’s Game 2 win: sickness.
With less than 10 seconds left and his team ahead by one point, 85-84, both the guard’s attempts bounced off the rim, culminating in a wild OKC fast break heading the other way.
The sequence might have been reminiscent of a similar situation earlier this season, in Boston, when Felton missed a pair at the line before he himself halted a haphazard Celtics fast break by stripping the ball to seal the game. One reason that play stands out is because Felton rarely missed with the game on the line — according to NBA.com, he shot 82.4 percent from the charity stripe in clutch situations this season.
In Game 2, his teammate Justin Anderson would reject Kevin Durant at the rim. Then Russell Westbrook would miss, and Steven Adams’ put-back attempt was a hair too late. Fortunately for Felton, this game will be defined by the plays he did make, not by the plays he didn’t. He scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds — just the second playoff double-double of his career — to lead the team in both categories as the Mavericks stunned the Thunder. The series is notched at 1-1 heading back home to Dallas for Thursday’s Game 3.
“I’m still sick, even though we got the win. I’m still sick,” Felton said after the game. “I don’t miss free throws like that when it comes down to the clutch. I’ll get in the gym and take 500 free throws if I need to before the next game. But it’s something that happens. I’m human. I’m not making no excuses. I shouldn’t miss the free throws, but hey, the Basketball Gods were on my side. We still got the win.”
Felton played 42 minutes in Game 2, the most he’s played in any game since Feb. 21, 2014, according to Basketball-Reference. Rick Carlisle was forced to squeeze every drop of floor time out of his 31-year-old guard due to the circumstances; J.J. Barea missed the game with a strained groin while Deron Williams played just 26 minutes as he battled through an abdominal strain. That meant essentially 42 minutes of dealing with Russell Westbrook, one of the game’s premier point guards. But Felton matched him tit for tat, outscoring him 21-19 while OKC’s All-Star narrowly outrebounded him 13-11. That’s yeoman’s work for a guy playing out of position on the game’s biggest stage.
“I’ve had many battles with Russell throughout the years. You just gotta be aggressive with him, stay up into his body, and just hope that he’s having an off night,” Felton said. “Those guys have the green light to shoot the ball. He’s a freak of nature, he’s extremely athletic for a point guard. He does a lot of good things. He’s a great player and he’s one of the best in the league.”
If anything, the grit Felton showed on both ends of the floor pretty well represents the way the Mavericks chose to respond after a colossally disappointing Game 1, which went to the Thunder, 108-70. Dallas responded with one of the more surprising bounce-back wins in playoff history, becoming just the fourth team ever to win a Game 2 after losing Game 1 by 35 or more, according to Basketball-Reference.
That sickness he was feeling after he missed that second free throw? It was nothing compared to how collectively ill the team felt after Saturday night’s contest.
“There was really nothing to say,” Felton said. “We all knew that that wasn’t acceptable. That’s not Dallas Mavericks basketball. That was just a disgrace to the city of Dallas, to the fans of Dallas, and to ourselves and our families. It was just an embarrassment on national television to get beat like that. We were coming in for a dog fight no matter what. Even if we didn’t come out with the win, we were gonna come out and give them a fight.”
If this is how he responds after a mistake or a poor showing, suffice it to say that no Mavericks fan will mind if he bottles that up and drinks it like water before tipoff. Depending on the extent of Barea’s injury, and factoring in Williams’ condition ahead of Thursday’s Game 3, Felton could see even more time at the 1-spot, which means more time on Westbrook and more time at the helm of the Mavs’ offense.
Should he find a way to maintain this level once again or even come anywhere close, he and his teammates might not have much to feel sick about.