Aaron Colen, Sports Editor, Aaron.Colen@chickashanews.com
OKLAHOMA CITY —
Winning close games is crucial to succeeding in the playoffs, and after two games, the Thunder has proved capable against the defending champion Mavericks.
The Thunder earned a 102-99 victory Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, withstanding a couple of late three-point attempts by Dallas guard Jason Terry that would have tied the game, had they gone in. James Harden made four free throws in the last 25 seconds to keep the Mavs at bay
Head coach Scott Brooks said he and his team aren't fooled by the fact that the Mavericks are the No. 7-seed.
"We're playing against one of the best teams," Brooks said. "Being the seventh seed has nothing to do with who they are."
Game two was increasingly physical, and it was evident at points throughout the contest that familiarity is breeding contempt between these two teams.
While both the coaches and players predictably down-played the testy nature of the game, the activity on the court spoke for itself.
The tone was set early when Nowitzki got into small altercations with Serge Ibaka and Perkins in the first quarter.
Both Perkins and Nowitzki were assigned technical fouls, and it was clear at that point what kind of game would be played.
Head coach Scott Brooks said he saw the incident live, but chalked it up to typical playoff basketball.
“It was a physical, intense, hard-fought playoff basketball game,” Brooks said. “I was proud of our guys, and how they battled from the start of the game and then finished it off.”
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle was less positive about the physicality of the game.
“We don’t like the cheap shots when they give them, and they don’t like it if we give them,” Carlisle said. “I love hard play and clean competitive playoff series. You throw the ball up, and may the best team win. But, the dirty bull**** has got to stop. We don’t want anyone getting hurt out there, either way.”
Carlisle wouldn’t elaborate any further on what plays he was talking about, when asked.
Durant struggles from field again
Oklahoma City has won the first two games of the series despite the shooting struggles of three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant.
Durant struggled from the field, shooting 5-for-17 but getting to the free throw line 16 times, converting 14 of them.
“As far as my shooting, I’ve missed some shots that, of course, I would love to make,” Durant said. “But I’ve got faith in myself, and faith in my hard work, and I’m always going to stay positive.”
Westbrook made a point to mention that Durant found other ways to contribute, despite not shooting a high percentage.
“He’s going to stay aggressive, and continue to keep us in games,” Westbrook said. “He does other things. He had ten rebounds tonight. Nobody’s mentioned that...everything is going to be alright.”