Mavs and Thunder – Epic Choke or Epic Comeback?

Last night, the Dallas Mavericks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder by a score of 112-105.  The Thunder routed the Mavericks for the first 43 minutes of the game, but as you can tell by the title, weren’t able to close it out.  The Mavericks went on a 17-2 run, closing out the tie game in the 4th quarter with a block on a silly shot by Kevin Durant.  It was a 5 minute period that saw Dirk making insane shot after insane shot after insane shot.  It also saw James Harden foul out with 4 and a half minutes left in the game, and it saw the Thunder turn the ball over and be unable to make a free throw at all.  Most analysts saw this as the Thunder being a “young team” and proof that they need “playoff experience” (side note: Before the Super Bowl, the Steelers were the team with the “playoff experience”, and that was supposed to be one of their advantages going into the game.  While I’m sure it helps more over a series than it does over one game, “playoff experience” doesn’t count for extra points on the scoreboard, and I find it incredibly annoying when analysts saw one team’s deciding factor will be their “playoff experience”.  Clay Matthews didn’t need “playoff experience” to knock the ball out of Rashard Mendenhall’s hands and create the deciding turnover for the Packers.  Ok I’m done, I promise.)

But before I tackle the debate that the title of this post creates, I’m going to make a couple notes.  First, Dirk Nowitzki is playing the best Basketball of his career.  Literally, almost every possession where he has the ball results in a bucket for Dallas.  Either he makes one of his ridiculous shots, even against great defense (Nick Collison was absolutely draped on Dirk, and he’d just take a step backward and throw it in with an awkward-looking but amazing shot) Dirk would score easily, and if they double covered him, Dirk would just toss the ball to one of Dallas’ great 3-point shooters.  This Dallas team reminds me a lot of the 2009 Magic team that made it to the NBA Finals, in that they have a great inside scoring option (Dwight Howard) who draws double teams, and a bunch of great perimeter shooters who can score 3’s consistently while all the pressure is on the inside option.  This Mavericks team is similar.  Dirk can score from anywhere, but especially inside, while Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and Peja Stojakovic can all score from outside.  This team just has their strategy figured out, and every defense that the Thunder have tried has resulted in the Mavs putting up a ton of points.

But does blowing a lead that big in such a way mean the Thunder epically choked, or the Mavs just made an amazing comeback?   Well I don’t think each result is mutually exclusive.  By this I mean that it’s a bit of both.  But if I were to lean one way, I’d say it was more of an amazing comeback.  Only because going on a 17-2 run in an NBA game isn’t exactly common, let alone in the 4th quarter, in the last 5 minutes, when you absolutely  had to.  Plus, the way Dirk was scoring those points was unbelievable.  The 3-pointer that Jason Kidd hit to close it out was also masterful.

Sure, this was a choke.  A really bad choke.  But not one of the worst chokes ever, not at all.  The worst choke ever will always be the 2004 Yankees, who were up 3-0 in the ALCS against the Red Sox before they famous won 4 in a row.  Compared to that?  This was just a choke.  Yes, the Thunder should probably feel pretty bad that they blew that lead.  But if nothing else, it’s a learning experience for Kevin Durant and Company.  I’m not going to pretend that they don’t trust each other already, because I’m not a psychoanalyst, and honestly, they’ve made it to the Western Conference Finals together, including a 7 game series against the Memphis Grizzlies.  But next season, they’ll be able to say “Hey.  We’ve got Kevin Durant, and as much as the media seems to (irrationally) hate him, Russel Westbrook.  Who’s pretty darn good.  With these two guys, and solid players like James Harden and Serge Ibaka, we can make a run!”

The only thing I’d say is that their Coach should be on the hot seat, and that a replacement should be nearby.  Because Scott Brooks hasn’t done a good job at all preparing his team for situations like last night, where all they needed was a couple good shots to hold off the steaming Mavericks.  Instead, they turned it over, missed free throws, and Kevin Durant had that silly shot where he tried to shoot over three Mavericks.  Lastly, I’d say one thing to Kevin Durant: Only Aaron Rodgers gets to wear the championship belt.

Think I’m being too kind to the Thunder?  Was it really that bad of a choke to you?  Tell me why with a comment!

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