Let’s be honest. The Mavs absolutely stole a game on the road against the Thunder due to Kevin Durant’s poor shooting night. Now, let me be clear: that’s not the only reason the Mavs won this game. Raymond Felton’s incredible “out of the shadows” double-double performance definitely pushed the Mavs down the stretch, and Dirk’s 17 is always a plus. Wes Matthews’ pitiful shooting night is something I will take when he is guarding Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook for nearly all of his minutes.
But here’s the thing: Kevin Durant isn’t used to having bad nights. He is a former MVP and still in the upper echelon of scorers in the NBA. I think it is safe to assume that he will come out the gates looking to score the ball enough to not only make up for the previous blunder, but to single handily outscore the Mavericks (figuratively, but hopefully not literally).
So it is not news either that Russell Westbrook is an Olympic gymnast playing basketball with the mindset of a caged animal. Scoring the ball by use of force is goal A for Westbrook, and it usually works out. While he has shot a clip of 45% on average for the season, he can alienate his teammates with shots he takes. It’s been the great tradeoff that the Thunder have had to accept with Westbrook. He is an alpha dog who wants to win, and he wants the win to come on his shoulders.
Enough talk about the Thunder, here’s where the Mavs come in to this equation. With Kevin Durant on fire to desperately score as many points possible, Westbrook’s ball hog tendencies, and a coaching strategy that denies Kevin Durant even the opportunity to get the ball, the Mavs may be able to mentally outplay the Thunder by expanding the “alpha dog” gap.
Here’s a visual.
With this simple formula, yeah “so simple”, the Mavs stand a good chance at beating the Thunder. Why? There is a divide between the Oklahoma City Thunder at times when Durant and Westbrook are on the court at times. Durant feels like Westbrook takes away shots from him and the team, whether he will admit it or not. It’s a bit of a stretch but by literally forcing Westbrook or whoever else is on the court to score besides Durant, this could be a huge mental advantage for the Mavericks.
I understand that by face guarding Kevin Durant with Justin Anderson or Wesley Matthews isn’t ideal, and neither is playing 4 on 4 in the half court, but I think this could be the strategy to turn to at times to get the win in Game three. Also, does anyone really believe Billy Donovan could even coach around this strategy?