There isn’t too much love going around between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks. For the first time since winning their NBA title, the Mavs won the regular season series, culminated by a great scoring duel between Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant, which the German won in overtime 1289-119.
Yes, Kevin Durant keeps on his incredible scoring streak alive, adding 43 points to his incredible body of work, with 15-of-27 from the field including five 3-pointers. Dirk Nowitzki lost the individual battle with “only” 32 points, but his shooting in overtime and exposing Durant’s and the Thunder’s defensive problems at the moment were probably enough to make up for the 11 point deficit in the individual battle.
And that’s one thing sometimes you feel the Thunder forget. Kevin Durant can shoot over anyone, from anywhere. He relies on his ability to be almost unblockable, but the problem is that his team relies on it, too much, maybe as well. And when you have the jealous point guard type like Russell Westbrook playing at your side, it only causes a bit too much selfishness in the closing moments of games instead of trying to change things up and play like a team.
The Mavs aren’t exactly the Suns or the Spurs in terms of ball movement, but they have a point guard who looks for the pass first, and players who think in the same way. Calderon finished with 22 points and 8 assists, including knocking down six 3-pointers. He didn’t turn the ball over once. Russell Westbrook? The stat sheet is filled: 23 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists but also 8 turnovers, in another wild game from the point guard who refuses to change his ways.
The Thunder didn’t show up with a gameplan to overtime. Or maybe they did, and it was the same thing Scott Brooks tells them every time. I mean I think he tells them, I’m not sure, but we haven’t seen one ounce of creativity or thinking from the Thunder in close games except give the ball to Durant and hope something comes out of it. Hardly any screens for off the ball players. Pop up elbow jumpers, screen and pop plays. That’s it.
Maybe Durant is the next greatest scorer of all-time in the NBA. He seems to have the full arsenal in terms of scoring, although he can do a bit better when it comes to post ups. Dirk Nowitzki taught him a thing or two about that with some big shots in the fourth quarter and overtime. But Durant is young, and there’s plenty of time to add more onto what might be the greatest offensive weapon the league has ever seen.
But these luxuries have made Brooks into a lazy coach in terms of offensive thinking. It has turned the Thunder into a lazy team when it comes to thinking on the court. Because if their only answer to the Mavs opening a lead is either giving Kevin Durant the ball to shoot over players or let Russell Westbrook run and then pull up for a bad three or mid-range jumper, someone isn’t doing his job. It might be good enough to win 55-60 games a season; Durant and Westbrook are that good. But for more than that?
The defense might be the key for this. Without Perkins and Sefolosha, we haven’t seen any new schemes, only inferior players in the same system. That’s another area in which Durant has room for improvement. Who leaves Dirk Nowitzki wide open in overtime? Someone who doesn’t think too hard when he’s playing defense. Kevin Durant is going to be the MVP, but it doesn’t mean he is a perfect player.