OKLAHOMA CITY — Tip off for Game 2 of this Thunder-Mavericks series is still a few hours away. But the gamesmanship and rhetoric that cranked up in this series over the weekend was dialed back this afternoon by the man who started it all.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who raised the issue of the Thunder’s aggressive defense and physical play on Dirk Nowitzki late Saturday night, did his best to clarify his comments at his team’s shootaround practice at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Well, sort of.
“This is a physical series, a physical series,” Carlisle said. “And look, if there’s been a memo issued saying that if you elbow a guy in the throat it’s legal, I would appreciate that memo being passed along. And I will say this, and I sincerely mean this, if one of our guys elbows [Kevin] Durant or [Russell] Westbrook or Reggie Jackson or Cole Aldrich in the neck, that’s a foul. You know, it just happened to be a play that was missed.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks reacted in kind Sunday.
“Just go back to your quotes in 2011,” Brooks said. “He said the same thing … If you’re going to get into that, you’re taking away what NBA basketball’s about. Play your game, do it as hard as you can, and live with the results.”
Carlisle said he was just answering a question with the truth, according to the Mavericks.
“I was asked about my opinion, and I made two statements of fact,” Carlisle said. “It’s not posturing or positioning. They were two statements of fact. You’re talking about a guy who has been very difficult to officiate because of his unusual skill set, and he gets played very physically, and we’ve seen it for four years. That’s a fact. That’s not an attempt to lobby the league. That’s a fact of life we have to deal with, and Dirk does a great job with it. But hey, look, it’s physical. We don’t expect it not to be. We’re going to have to be a little bit more physical tonight. That’s a part of the game where we feel we can pick it up a little bit.”
By the way, Jackson, the Thunder’s rookie guard, was in street clothes for Game 1.