Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 5/2/12
DALLAS After falling down 0-2 in this Round 1 best-of-seven series, the Dallas Mavericks couldn't get out of Oklahoma City fast enough but the Basketball Gods refused to even grant them that wish, as a hailstorm prevented the team plane from departing OKC following Monday's Game 2 loss. Ah, more time on a bus, then on a plane, then on a day off before Thursdays Game 3 in Dallas more time to contemplate the bounces that couldve been and the mistakes that were. "We're really just a couple of bounces away from being up 2-0,'' says Mavs MVP Dirk Nowitzki, who has posted terrific numbers but is haunted by a handful of late-game failures that have seemingly doomed the defending champs. Thunder 102, Mavs 99 is simply the latest in a series of games that have featured what once could be called "uncharacteristic" Dallas outcomes but would not more accurately be called "trends" and maybe even a developing of "bad habits." The sunniest side up for the Mavs regarding their penchant for playing OKC so close? How close? The Mavs' four games in Oklahoma City this year were decided by two and four points in the regular season and now one and three points in these playoffs. Four games, 10 total points. But the counterpoint from a Thunder team that has two wins in two tries and has yet to truly get NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant untracked? The final scores may be tight but during crunch time at the end of each playoff quarter, the chasm is wide. In the last two minutes of the series' eight periods, Dallas has been outscored by OKC by a combined score of 55-29. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle allowed himself a humorous moment when he quoted the twisted grammar of his buddy, Texas Rangers manager Ron Washingon. "Thats the way baseball go," Carlisle quipped. But its not all about errant bounces. Yes, Durants improbable Game 1 shot with 1.5 seconds left hit the front of the rim and caromed above the square before settling him and KD essentially saw none of it due to the impeccable defense of Shawn Marion. And yes, in Game 2, Nowitzkis final possession shot from the same 15-foot distance as Durants bounded off the rim once, twice, thrice, before breaking Dallas heart. But in Game 2, the Mavs Jason Terry committed a foolish end-game foul on Durant with just two seconds on the OKC shot clock, Terry somehow thinking there was value in attempting an impossible steal. That allowed a pair of Durant free throws and a lead. And it wouldve never come to that had Nowitzki make his uncontested 3-pointer with about a minute left that wouldve put Dallas up four. "That 3-ball I had in the corner,'' Dirk says, "that's game time if we go up four. The game's over.'' Instead, Oklahoma City is hoping the series pretty much is. The Mavs are demonstrating a willingness to go down fighting, and OKC led by the brutish Kendrick Perkins seems desirous of doing so literally. A key storyline in the game (and possibly the series going forward) is the shovingelbowingpunch-swinging involvement of Perkins and Nowitzki, "He tried to bully me," Nowitzki said of a violent fist-half exchange, "and I bullied back. We talked about some stuff and moved on." Carlisle, however, is not quite ready to move on. "It's playoff basketball. It's physical," Carlisle says. "I mean, we don't like the cheap shots when they give them, and they don't like them if we give them. That's the nature of competition Hey, I love hard play, clean, competitive playoff series. You throw the ball up and may the best team win, but the dirty bulls--- has got to stop. We don't want anybody getting hurt out there either way." Almost certainly coincidentally, Durant uses a boxing metaphor when describing what OKC needs to do to advance in the series. "We have to continue to take that punch from them and do a great job of sticking together," he says. "Game like these in the playoffs are going to get chippy." The games are chippy and the games are close. But close isnt yet counting for Dallas.
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