That sound you heard Thursday night wasn’t just Thunder.
It was the ominous reality that the Dallas Mavericks are going to have to perform beyond their means just to win another game in this best-of-seven series.
In Game 1 last week, Oklahoma City led at one time by 44 points.
In Game 3 on Thursday, the Mavericks found themselves trailing in the final seconds by 31.
So do the math. Wake the kids. Head for the tornado shelter.
With Kevin Durant scoring 34 points and Russell Westbrook 26, the Oklahoma City Thunder regained control of this NBA playoff series with a 131-102 rout of the Mavericks.
“I thought we played hard at times,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle assessed after the game.” But I thought we needed to play with a lot more grit than we did.”
More grit. More effort. More grind.
As Carlisle knows, Game 2 of the series was all about grit and grind. The Mavericks followed one of their most embarrassing playoff performances in franchise history with an 85-84 upset.
Whatever magic Carlisle’s team had mustered Monday seemed to vanish by the end of Thursday’s first quarter.
“We had a couple of days to clean up some things and get better at some things we need to do against this team,” Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said of the layoff between games.
That textbook isn’t a big one, however. No other NBA teams are blessed with the fallback options that the Thunder possesses.
Durant had 20 points in the first half, and Westbrook scored 20 in the second.
“Tonight it was very clear what their game plan was,” Carlisle said. “They were isolating Westbrook and Durant all night long. Basically, having those guys attack and jump over us.”
Double-teams failed to generate the hoped-for response. Missed shots —Durant had 14 more of them, after 26 on Monday — were scuttled by a hustling Oklahoma City defense at the other end.
“They’re a great team — great talent, great rebounding — and they have two superstar players and a couple of other guys who are star-caliber players,” Carlisle said.
“You’ve got to turn the heat up on them competitively. I haven’t watched the film yet, but I think what we’re going to see is that we need to play with more grit.”
Whether it was the Mavericks’ surprising resolve in Game 2 or a Game 1 hangover by the Thunder, Thursday’s spanking left a familiar handprint. The Mavericks are hurt, playing without Chandler Parsons (out for the season) and Deron Williams (unable to play Thursday with a sports hernia).
Point guard J.J. Barea returned to log 32 minutes, but injured David Lee was only able to give Carlisle 17.
The mix was no match for the focused effort that the Thunder showed.
“I think when you really focus on the defensive end of the floor, sometimes your offense comes a little bit easier,” Donovan said.
They did make it look easy. Even with their best run of the night in the middle of the third quarter, the Mavericks found themselves down at the end of the period 97-78.
“Playing uphill is difficult and this is a great first-quarter team,” Carlisle said of the Thunder. “We’ve got to play with a lot of force.
“They are beatable. We’ve just got to come out with a better disposition. It’s as simple as that.”
Better disposition. More grind. More grit.
Meanwhile, hear the Thunder.