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Three Adjustments Thunder Need to Make to Beat Mavericks in Game 2

Led by an all-time great playoff performance from Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks slaughtered the Thunder 121-112 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals Tuesday.

Dirk dropped 48 points on 12-of-15 shooting and broke an NBA playoff record for made free throws in a game without a miss by going 22-of-22 from the line.

Kevin Durant tried his best to retaliate, scoring 40 points, but his teammates weren’t up to the task. The Thunder’s performance wasn’t as respectable as the single-digit final deficit suggests; they were outplayed in every aspect of the game.

Any time your opponent shoots 53% from the field and outscores your bench 53-22, you’re in major trouble.

So what does OKC have to do to bounce back and even the series 1-1?

Here are three key adjustments the Thunder can make to win Game 2:

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How Would Dirk Nowitzki’s Legacy Change if Dallas Mavericks Won the Title?

What if during the summer of LeBron, a regular season featuring Derrick Rose as MVP, and a streak of Finals between the Lakers and Celtics, it was the Dallas Mavericks who sneaked in and won the NBA Championship? Discarded as a bunch of losers and postseason chokers, could the sports world handle the Mavericks winning a title?

Dallas has been written off by most people and they’ve deserved it. Since blowing a 2-0 series lead to the Miami Heat in the ’06 Finals, the Mavericks have only won one playoff series while losing in the first round on three occasions. The glaring blemish on their list of postseason failures was a first-round series loss to the Golden State Warriors in the ’07 playoffs, the same year they had the best record in the NBA and Dirk won MVP.

Nobody I know of gave the Mavericks a shot to win it all this year. They tied the Lakers for the second-best record in the West (57-25), and had the fourth-best record in the NBA, but that was typical Dallas — good in the regular season, an easy out in the postseason. They were hardly considered a threat to do damage. But then something funny happened.

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Dirk Nowitzki: We’re Better with Mark Cuban Keeping Quiet

Where in the world is Mark Cuban?  The outspoken owner’s Dallas Mavericks just swept the defending NBA Champion L.A. Lakers.  Dirk Nowitzki and company can no longer be labeled perennial playoff chokers, and while the Mavs have been tearing up the postseason there has been no name-calling or trash talk about other teams from Cuban.  If you ask Dirk, Dallas is better off that way.

“It should be about the players and not the owner,” Nowitzki told the Star-Telegram via Pro Basketball Talk. “We played a great series. We fought hard and battled. That was fun. I haven’t seen Mark since then, and that’s probably a good thing.”

Marky Mark has been known to make comments that result in fines from the league.  He loves to stir up trouble on Twitter, but lately we have seen nothing more than the occasional “Lets go Mavs!” or a thank you to an opposing team executive.

“He is still fired up,” Nowitzki said. “He is still such a huge fan. He is still in it with his heart. He is positive. Sometimes he yells. He picks his spots better. He is not as hands-on as he once was. He is still hands-on for an owner but not as hands-on as he used to be.”

Maybe the fact that Cuban has toned it down has helped take some pressure off the Mavs.  Perhaps this is a better Dallas team than we have seen in past years and their success in conjunction with their owner resting his jaw is a coincidence.  In any event, I’m sure Cuban, Nowitzki, and the entire Dallas area would agree that whatever the Mavs are doing is working.

Dallas Mavericks Overcome Dumbest Ending to a First Half to Beat Lakers

The Dallas Mavericks were lucky to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of their playoff series Monday night, and not just because Shawn Marion was playing with a cut above his eye. The Mavs had one of the worst endings to a first half of basketball I’ve ever seen. Honestly, the fouls committed by Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki to end the half were two of the dumbest you’ll ever see.

Terry was trying to play aggressive defense on Lamar Odom who was getting ready for a half-court heave with less than a second left. He ended up fouling Odom and giving him three free throws. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Dirk got whistled for a technical after he threw an elbow at Ron Artest on Odom’s third free throw. I understand fighting for position, but let’s be real — there was less than a second left — what was going to happen?

The Dallas Mavericks literally gave away four points to the Lakers to end the half and ended up down 53-44 instead of 49-44. Luckily they won the game otherwise you could point to those four points as the biggest culprit. Honestly, the Mavs may want to open up a loan company if they keep giving away points for free like that. That was truly embarrassing and the team won’t be able to get away with those mental mistakes the rest of the series.

You can see a replay of both stupid fouls at the :50 mark in this video:

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Dirk Nowitzki Knee Injury Magnifies His Importance to Dallas Mavericks

Though Dirk Nowitzki has won an MVP award and gone to nine straight All-Star games, you won’t find his name in the conversation for best player in the NBA. LeBron, Kobe, Dwight, Dwyane, Durant — everyone talks about those guys, but Dirk seems to play without too many people noticing. Matter of conjecture, Dirk’s steadiness and reliability has made his constantly stellar play go under-appreciated.

It’s a sad commentary on our society and media that a player needs to get hurt for many of us to see his value, but that’s happened with Dirk. Nowitzki has missed the last nine games for the Mavericks since spraining his knee early in the team’s December 27th win over the Thunder. They lost three in a row after he first got hurt, beat the Cavs and Blazers in back-to-back games, and now they’ve lost four in a row.

You could argue that the Mavs have had a poor record since losing Dirk to injury because of a tough schedule, but that would be inaccurate. Four of the eight teams to whom they’ve lost have losing records. Two of the team’s losses have come against the team with the NBA’s best record — the Spurs — while another came against the Magic. Even though both teams are good, the Mavs beat each one earlier in the year when Dirk was in the lineup.

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Dirk Gets Teeth Stuck in His Elbow Following Collision with Carl Landry

The Mavericks saw their five-game winning streak come to an end at home on Friday night. Even though they were playing a tough team in the Rockets, you figure they still should have won the game. That is until you realize they played most of the contest without star Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk left the game in the second quarter after colliding with Carl Landry on a drive to the hoop. The injuries were a lot worse than how bad the play actually looked. Landry had three teeth knocked out of his mouth, a few of which wound up embedded in Dirk’s skin.

Dirk wound up going to the locker room for X-rays and to have his elbow stitched up. Landry was taken to the hospital ostensibly to have some dental work done. Let’s just hope this collision doesn’t derail either player considering Landry was having a career year and Nowitzki was having one of his best years as well.

Give Andrei Kirilenko an Oscar for This Flop Against Dirk Nowitzki

It’s kind of hard for me to believe that a Dallas team that’s 17-12 and playing good ball would lose by almost double digits against Utah. Consider that Paul Millsap, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur are all hurt, leaving the Jazz with a starting five of Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Ronnie Brewer, Kosta Koufos, and C.J. Miles, I really start to wonder. You could certainly do worse for a starting five, but that’s definitely not the Jazz’s best lineup. But when you see Dirk Nowitzki getting called for an offensive foul on a play like this and then you see that he later got ejected for a love tap on Matt Harpring, you figure something may have been up with the refs. Check out this brilliant acting job by Andrei Kirilenko that got the call:

I’m telling you, I hardly think about this despite the Tim Donaghy stuff, but a nine point loss for Dallas, a 10 free throw disparity, and Dirk Nowitzki getting ejected doesn’t sound right to me. If I didn’t know any better I’d say the refs had some action on this game.