The Dallas Mavericks will not die. A game after getting blown out by 38 points, the Mavericks shocked the Oklahoma City Thunder by taking Game 2 of their first-round playoff series, 85-84. The victory came thanks to a resurgent performance by Raymond Felton, as well as a shot by Steven Adams that would have won the game for the Thunder but came just after the buzzer.
Deron Williams started the game on fire, and the Mavericks jumped to a very unexpected 15-7 lead. Meanwhile, Dallas' defense slowed the Thunder -- Kevin Durant struggled early on 3-of-11 shooting (0-of-4 from three) and three turnovers through the first 15 minutes of the game, and he and the rest of the Thunder struggled to fall into their groove as they went into the half trailing 45-43.
It looked like the second half would be a different story with the Thunder scoring the first six points of the third, but the Mavericks just wouldn't let the game get away from them. The Thunder led 62-59 after three, and even after building up a seven-point lead in the fourth, they couldn't shake the pesky Dallas squad. The Mavs went on a 10-2 run to take a 79-78 lead with less than four minutes to play. The teams traded buckets and were tied at 81 before Felton hit a driving layup to give the Mavericks an 83-81 lead.
Durant missed two good looks on the next possession and Wesley Matthews grabbed a loose ball to give the Mavericks an 85-81 lead with a layup. Durant made a three and Felton missed two free throws, which set up the buzzer-beater from Adams that wasn't:
Here are three things we learned.
The Mavericks must continue to slow things down
After getting run out of the gym on Saturday, the Mavericks decided to turn Monday's game into a walk. And it worked -- they slowed the Thunder down and pushed them out of their comfort zone. The only time the Thunder looked like the team that won by 38 on Sunday was in transition. Since losing Chandler Parsons to injury in early April the Mavericks have changed their identity. When they can force a team like the Thunder into a slow, plodding pace, they can stick around. Amazingly for Dallas, the effort turned into a win.
The Thunder cannot close games
The Thunder led by seven with less than seven minutes to play in the game, but their offense went ice cold. It's a recurring trend for Oklahoma City. They only made two field goals in the final six minutes -- that's not the statistic of a team that's trying to win the NBA title. Kevin Durant was only 2-of-11 from deep and the Thunder were 7-of-32 as a team, so the poor shooting wasn't only a fourth-quarter problem. At this point, the Thunder need to worry more about defeating a Mavericks team that was left for dead than winning a championship.
This is going to be interesting
It wasn't only Durant who couldn't get going against Dallas, it was everybody. Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter were unstoppable in the Game 1 rout, but the Mavericks halted them on Monday. On top of that, the Mavericks got huge offensive bursts from Deron Williams (13 points) and Felton (21 points, 11 rebounds). Dirk Nowitzki wasn't lighting up the stat sheet, but the Mavericks showed that they can make things interesting. Even if the Mavericks hadn't won, they still showed that the Thunder aren't the scary team they're capable of being if they can't play their own style. This series is in a completely different spot than it was two days ago.