Hungry Thunder Sweep Mavericks, Punch First Ticket To 2nd Round





HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – A 13-point deficit in a hostile environment, with a close-out opportunity fading away with every empty possession, would have worried most teams heading into the fourth quarter.

But not the Oklahoma City Thunder. And certainly not James Harden, the Thunder’s mercurial sixth man who came to the rescue and delivered the Thunder’s 103-97 series-clinching Game 4 win over the Dallas Mavericks Saturday night at American Airlines Center with a staggering 29-point performance that included virtuoso work in the crucial minutes of the fourth quarter.

The Thunder not only swept the defending champs out of the playoffs for the second straight year (the Mavericks got the Lakers in the Western Conference semis a year ago), they also became the first team in this postseason to punch their ticket to the second round, where they await the winner of the Lakers-Nuggets series.

Perhaps even more important in their own locker room, however, is that they vanquished the team that ended their dream run in the conference finals last year by schooling the young upstarts in the art of closing out playoff games.

“We learned a lot [from that series],” said Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, whose lockdown defense on Mavericks sixth man Jason Terry helped turn the series in his team’s favor. “We learned that we had to come back this season with a lot more toughness.”

And they did!

It’s far too early to crown the Thunder as anything but the first team to move on to the next round. But they showed resilience, some toughness and some maturity that many people wondered if they possessed after seeing the Mavericks take them apart in that five-game series last year.

“They’re a great young team,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “They have a certain look in their eye right now, not only that they belong but that this could be their time. I’m sure the addition of [Derek] Fisher has something to do with that. But they came at us like a buzzsaw in the fourth quarter … they’re going to be tough to beat.”

How tough remains to be seen. There are obviously better and more challenging teams for the Thunder to deal with than the 7th seeded Mavericks, who not only lost the likes of KIA Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson in free agency, but also had to deal with the season-long drama that came with the trade for Lamar Odom that blew up in the face of the franchise.

Their deficiencies came back to haunt them in this series, complete with the Thunder eager and able to exploit each and every one of them when an opportunity presented itself.

Harden’s ability to do whatever he wanted to do against the Mavericks’ defense late, showed that their collective age and lack of athleticism was a signal that the aged crew was on the way out at the hands of a crew that appears primed for bigger and better things.

As a group, the Thunder work like a team that has only one goal in mind. And that goal is a Larry O’Brien trophy. How else to explain stars the caliber of Westbrook and three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant deferring to the probable Sixth Man of the Year at crunch time the way they did?

“His pick and roll game is unreal,” Durant said of Harden, who nearly outscored the Mavericks (16-15) on his own. “It’s fun to watch and fun to be a part of.”

Harden scored, he facilitated, he defended and he dragged the Thunder back from that double-digit deficit and

Harden said last year’s run that was ended by the Mavericks is what inspired him and his teammate to come back and play the way they have all season, and particularly in this series.

“It showed us how good we are,” Harden said, “what we’re capable of and what we can do now.”

Those narrow escapes in Games 1 and 2 in Oklahoma City reminded him that you can’t afford to mess around against a quality opponent and expect positive results.

“They’re winners over there,” Harden said. “You can’t keep giving them opportunities to win games.”

The Thunder proved to the basketball world that they are quick learners. They learned their lessons from last year and even from last week.

They also showed the rest of the West and the league just how good they are and how unbelievably they will be for anyone to deal with now that they have cleared the first hurdle of this postseason.


51 Comments

  1. Excellent site. Plenty of helpful info here. I’m sending it to several pals ans additionally sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you on your sweat!

  2. Alexander says:

    First of all,i will like to congratulate james Harden for his recently receiced award and also kelvin Durant for winning the NBA top scoreer for the 3rd time,well i am proud to be an OKC fan,but i love you guys kelvin durant you are my MVP regardless of what they say you deserve that that honour,james harden you are my boy love those bears,ressell westbrook i adore you,you are one of a kind keep up the great work.Derek Fisher you are an epitome of a good professional,you are my leader.i long to see you guys on monday let us do it again regardless of who our opponent is,WE SHALL OVERCOME.ONE LOVE

  3. Sparhawk says:

    Mark Cuban made a business decision, yes getting rid of chandler was stupid. But they might gain daron williams which isnt a bad aquisition. Dwight will soon follow if they get Daron. OKCs big 3 is unstopable if they catch fire, as most big 3 are. Difference is they are the highest scoring big 2 and big 3 in the league. I think harding is better than westbrook, kid takes to many boneheaded shots. I cringe every time I see westbrook take a stupid shot because I know he will keep shooting.

  4. DONNA says:

    celtics-celtics-celtics-celtics-celtics-celtics-celtics-celtics-celtics-celtics-celtics-celtics-…get what i’m saying

  5. OKC BOY says:

    THUNDER ALL THE WAY. THEY HAVE THE TALENT , SOME EXPERIENCE AND THE FIGHT TO GO ALL THE WAY. I LOVE THE WAY HARDEN ATTACK THE RIM WHEN HIS JUMPER IS NOT ON.
    OKC AND MIAMI WILL MAKE A GREAT MATCH UP.

  6. BFoulds says:

    Thunder doesn’t strike, lightning strikes.

  7. Guest. says:

    When Thunder strikes*

  8. AAA says:

    It is very simple:

    When a Thunder strikes like OKC did this season, it sweeps everything in its way be it a rebellion (Mavericks), the Heat (Miami), fame (LA), pride (C’s), Bulls (Chicago), or anything else.

    Thunder is coming this year and I am afraid for the C’s cuz Celtics is my team.

    AAA

  9. Nt says:

    Heat-OKC Final. OKC in 7…

  10. srff says:

    okc heat, i wrote a paper about that at my college, columbia and got a perfect score, with Okc winning a game 7 after a KD 3 – pointer and after LeBrick, or mr, I only play for 3 quarters blows a wide open layup with noone within ten feet

  11. ROB says:

    as good a team as spurs are, i think they will struggle next round against either clippers or grizz, making way for thunder in the west conf. finals. east is as good as done with d.rose out. heat shouldnt go more than 5 games against anyone until the final. gonna be a big final heat vs thunder…id say one of the most athletic and talented matchups in recent history

  12. OKC2DaFinals says:

    OKC is ready and have their eyes on the prize. And D-Fish isn’t letting them let go of that beautiful sight. OKC is the perfect team right now with a perfect blend of bigs, scorers, shooters, PGs & benchmen! It would take a real determined & hard-working team to stop them.
    I am a true Vince Carter fan so I hate seeing him leave the 1st round of the playoffs, it was a total bummer they had to face OKC in the 1st round but I give OKC all the credit. Bottome line: a win is a win.
    I had OKC-MIA in the finals in the start of the playoffs and so far OKC is holding up their side of the bargain :)

  13. BFoulds says:

    I’m glad I came in here and read everyone jumping on the OKC will win it all bangwagon. I guess its true that nobody appreciates the best team in the league with the best coach in the league at all. I’ll tell you this, if Gregg Popovich was the one coaching the Heat, we would see the Heat winning countless rings. Pop has taken the old, rusting, fragile, boring, no-skilled, heartless (things I’ve read y’all claim them to be) San Antonio Spurs into first in the west (again) and this time they are rested and healthy. Sleeping on the spurs is like sleeping while you drive. You’re going to crash and regret it. Lastly, if Spurs make it to the Finals, it doesn’t matter who they play, you can go ahead and give them the rings. 4 appearances, 4 titles. Popovich vs Spolestra? Popovich vs any Eastern coach? The only one who would have a chance is Thibodeau. 2011-2012 champs, San Antonio Spurs. You heard it here first.

  14. x-writer says:

    thanks to the ref, they did very poor job, poor dallas

  15. LakersRangafan2417 says:

    when is KD going to be announced as the MVP?

  16. ryde says:

    Thunder is just the BETTER team no doubt. Gonna win the West.
    Mavs are old and ready for re-building. Can’t blame Mark Cuban though…he was looking ahead already. He should have held on to though with his championship team (w/ Chandler) just one more season. They might have a better chance of beating the Thunder. Still, I think Thunder will still win the series. Not a sweep though…Thunder 4-3, 4-2.

  17. Cody says:

    I’m a Bulls fan, been watching the NBA Basketball since Micheal Jordan, and seen all the dynasties of teams and players. With that experience over the years the next Dynasty will be the OKC Thunder. I have seen this team in the last 4 years since they moved from Seattle to OKC come from the worst team in the NBA to one of the best to have a chance at a Championship. They are young and the build year after year they never take a step back.

  18. joan_calape says:

    Unless, somehow my Lakers stop them…it looks like an OKC and Heat Finals are in the making.

  19. srff says:

    okc all the way, they are the best team in the playoffs at field goal percentage Offensive and defensive no way they lose

  20. Yave says:

    OKC steamroll over L.A ans San Antonio and Face Miami in the Finals.

  21. The thunder are on beast mode right now

  22. SoonerMike1 says:

    After watching Dirks postgame comments…basically saying I need more help. Geez Lurch, you missed several big shots late and play absolutely NO DEFENSE! You look like a matador out there. Maybe you should shut-up and do your part to help out. Durant, Westbrook, and Harden not only score, they defend and create. Look in the mirror Dirk, you’re the softest player on your team..

  23. FACT says:

    @David
    I doubt it would happen, San Antonio Spurs will decimate the Oklahoma Thunder in the conference finals. Los Angeles Lakers is doomed in the second round, since the AVENGERS (Oklahoma Thunder) will sweep them as well.

    As for the East, there is no guaranteed victor yet as the surprising 76’ers led by Coach Doug, Miami Heat Act 2.0, and Intensity Minded Indiana Pacers are guaranteed teams that could win the Eastern Conference Finals.

    • uoykcuf says:

      I think lakers and OkC will be a hard fought series. If lakers win, west finals of SA and lakers will be epic. SA in 6.

  24. Belizeboy says:

    Must be the new trend for the NBA reigning champs to get swept.

  25. David says:

    Celtics-OKC final. You read it here first.

  26. duro says:

    Maybe OKC wins this year but wait before calling them a dinasty already.
    They depend too much on Harden and he’s going to become free agent and it’ll be difficult for OKC to find the salary cap space to re-sign him.
    Besides, Westbrook has huge offensive talent but little patience and nerves and these are things that matter a lot more the deeper you go into the playoffs.

  27. OWNED says:

    dallas got OWNED in the fourth quarter, damn they were so helpless,papa kidd should retire and Dirk should get traded to a better team where he should play as a 6th player off the bench, he is 7 feet 34 year old,i think he should be more efficient coming off the bench from now on.

    • Sam says:

      I had been waiting for sumone to ask 4 a dirk trade… Everytime a team loses they should trade their best player to another team & there he should become a reserve…. I’m a dallas fan n trust me wen i say v r happiest with Dirk around & he is happy to be here….. Dallas has some cap space available & I just hope that they pick up some good pieces from free agency to get back to their championship ways….

      • what are yall smokin, TRADE DIRK, FOR WHO, know get rid of cuban like he did the team that won the championship weres he at now i don’t hear him run off at the mouth, get rid of dirk man yall in dallas wouldn’t even know what basketball was if it weren’t for dirk, before him yall was sad for years. let him retire there like the great player he is, Dirk for mayor of dallas.

    • Bring Dirk off the bench WHAT?

  28. ITS OVER says:

    Its all over for Dallas,until mark cuban gets out of the way they r going nowhere.

  29. akosibonik says:

    KD and westbrook is an allstar, but man, give props to harden. this is the thing that miami need to have, and bosh should be playing a harden’s role in miami, just saying. congrats to OKC, please beat the LAKERS. :)

  30. supplanter33 says:

    Sweeep! Dallas Pathetic

  31. lakermig says:

    I knew that the mavs were gonna go down …the thunder just sent everyone a message

  32. Two In The Bush says:

    Mavericks management, nay, owner, let the bird in his hand go for the two in the bush.

    By not extending contracts to key players he deliberately sacrificed this season for some vague future. Odom dropped in his lap as a Godsend … no he didn’t exactly come blazing both guns, but he was relieved not for the adjustment issues but because he dared to talk back … ” Why are you playing mind games with me? “.

    Why would a Deron Williams or a Dwight Howard want to submit to such a fragile ego, such a fickle boss (remember Nash ?) is beyond me.

    Your verbose praise of the Thunder is not entirely baseless, but Durant, Westbrook and Harden combined cannot claim as much credit as due Mark Cuban.

  33. SWEEP says:

    GO OKC!!!

  34. kb24fan says:

    i think this is really OKC’s time…..that was one close series even though they swept the Mavs…..

  35. Renato says:

    Once again looked like the Mavericks would win,and then the Thunder plays seriously for three minutes and ties the game. Harden played incredibly well and Kidd proved once again he can´t defend the Thunder´s guards.It was an interesting series, with close games,but the Mavs just weren´t able to finish those games (Nowitzki on game 2 is the greatest example).Now the Thunder will be rested to face either the Lakers or the Nuggets.

  36. DESIREE says:

    That’s right !!! WERE HUNGERY, WE WANT IT. IT’S OUR TIME TO SHINE.

  37. Amitpal says:

    I must say I’ve never seen a team like the thunder. They are just so young and yet they have experience. They know what the playoffs are about and how to win in the playoffs. This team has chances to win not 2 or 3 or 5 but 8 championships. There big three are still learning and yet they are already close to unstopable.

  38. buddy says:

    I am a fan of mavs and I love them more when they started to add muscles in their roaster (co’z I consider them a non physical/flat footed team) a team can’t survive in NBA just shooting from the outside (just what happen to Mavs before and after Chandler). You had to defend, grab those rebounds, and make the shooter change his shot, bang bodies, how many times you heard “it all started to a good defense”. Cuban and the rest of the Mavs management, what are you thinking? You disbanded the lineup that gave you your first championship trophy. The Jet mentioned after winning the championship last season (in this effect) “if Chandler had been in the team before, the Mavs had been back to back champion now” that’s how important Chandler, the Jet seen the weakness of the team, too weak in the post and defense.
    Now, the Mavs become the laughing stock and Cuban and the Mgt to blame

    • Billy says:

      Good point buddy everything well said with Chandler back dis year dey would b really good bra Mavs gave up alot bra