DALLAS — Oulasting the No. 3-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder for an 85-84 win in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series Monday night on the road, the Dallas Mavericks return home with plenty of confidence as the scene now shifts to American Airlines Center on Thursday.
Refusing to give up after falling to a 108-70 defeat last Saturday night in Game 1, the Mavericks (1-1) responded with a gritty performance in the second showdown to even the series. In the process, the Mavs became the first team to win Game 2 after losing the previous outing by 35 or more points since the Boston Celtics did so against the Orlando Magic in 1995. And with a chance to build momentum during two games on their home hardwood, the underdog Mavericks will attempt to take a 2-1 series lead with a win Thursday night.
”We let them know we’re here to fight,” 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said following the Game 2 win. “Obviously, with their talent, with their team and with their roster, they’re still the heavy favorites. But we let them know this is not going to be an easy walkover. That’s basically it. You know, they’re going to come out firing on Thursday from all cylinders. We’ve got to be ready for a quick start again, but our home will be rocking. The AAC will be great, our fans will be ready, and it’s two great games hopefully at home. What you try to do if you steal one is always hold the next game. You focus on Thursday’s game, watch some film, get healthy hopefully and look at what we can do better.”
While the Mavs will try to make corrections in time for Game 3, they’ll also attempt to duplicate their defensive success against former MVP Kevin Durant during Monday’s win.
Durant led three Thunder scorers in double figures with 21 points while adding nine rebounds, but he finished the game hitting just 7 of 33 from the field. The defensive intensity on Durant allowed the Mavericks to outshoot the Thunder (1-1) for the game, 42.7 percent to 33.7 percent, overcoming a 54-45 rebounding disadvantage while scoring 17 points off Oklahoma City’s 15 turnovers. And after Durant tied Michael Jordan for the most misses in a postseason game since 1997, the Dallas defense will again attempt to contain the league’s No. 3 scorer this season.
“I thought he missed some shots he normally makes, but I also thought we made a tremendous team effort to make it hard on him,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said while addressing the defensive success on Durant in Game 2. “We’re going to have to continue to do that, ’cause he’s not going to keep missing.”
With Durant expected to come out aggressively in Game 3, the Mavericks will certainly have their hands full. Meanwhile, the injury-riddled Mavs could continue to play short-handed after gutting out a win without a few of their top contributors.
Already playing minus versatile small forward Chandler Parsons following his season-ending right knee arthroscopic surgery, the Mavericks took Game 2 without veteran guard J.J. Barea (right groin strain) and big man David Lee (right plantar fascia injury) in the lineup. Meanwhile, three-time All-Star Deron Williams continued to play through a left abdominal strain, but he was limited in the second half of Monday’s victory. Nowitzki also suffered a bone bruise in his right knee during the win. That said, Carlisle admits that his team will have to dig deep in order to take control of the series while overcoming the piling injuries.
“We know from a manpower standpoint we’re at a pretty big disadvantage with our injuries, and we know we’re not going to outrun or outjump or out-skill these guys,” Carlisle confessed. “We’ve got to play a working man’s grinding and highly-intelligent game to hang with them, and (Monday night) we found a way to hang in there and gave ourselves a chance at the end. We made a couple of big plays and got out of there alive, but they’re a great team. If you look at Durant, (Russell) Westbrook and (Serge) Ibaka, those guys are stars. Durant and Westbrook are superstars, and it’s a tough group to hang with. But we’ve got to do it with grit and guts.”
Note: The sixth-seeded Mavericks will now return to their home floor on Thursday, hosting the No. 3-seeded Thunder in Game 3. The series is tied at 1-1. Game 3 will air nationally on TNT. It will also air locally on TXA 21, 103.3 FM ESPN and in Spanish on 1540 AM ESPN Deportes at 6 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
The Mavericks’ first-round playoff schedule is as follows:
Game 3 – Thursday, April 21
Oklahoma City at Dallas at 6 p.m. CT on TNT/TXA 21
Game 4 – Saturday, April 23
Oklahoma City at Dallas at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN/TXA 21
*Game 5 — Monday, April 25
Dallas at Oklahoma City 7 p.m. CT on TNT/TXA 21
*Game 6 — Thursday, April 28
Oklahoma City at Dallas TBD on TBD/TXA21
*Game 7 — Saturday, April 30
Dallas at Oklahoma City TBD on TNT/TXA21
All games, except those televised on ABC, are available to be televised locally.
Injury updates presented by Baylor Emergency Medical Centers:
J.J. Barea (right groin strain) — day-to-day
David Lee (right plantar fascia injury) — day-to-day
Deron Williams (left abdominal strain) — day-to-day
Dirk Nowitzki (right knee bone bruise) — day-to-day
Chandler Parsons (right knee surgery) — out for the remainder of the season
Jeremy Evans (right shoulder surgery) — out for the remainder of the season