Thunder use balance to advance past Mavericks
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) The Thunder have developed multiple scoring threats around Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and that could make their Western Conference semifinal series against the San Antonio Spurs interesting.
In Oklahoma City's first-round series against Dallas, the Thunder shot 47.6 percent from the field. Durant and Westbrook posted their usual scoring numbers, both averaging 26 points per game. But Durant shot an unusually low 36.8 percent in the series.
The rest of the team picked up the slack. Enes Kanter averaged 15.2 points, Serge Ibaka 12.6, Dion Waiters 11.0 and Steven Adams 9.2, and the Thunder won the series 4-1. Players other than Westbrook or Durant made a combined 110 of 202 shots (54.5 percent) from the field against the Mavericks.
''They threw many defenses out there,'' Durant said. ''They pressed us, they played zone, they double-teamed in the post and they were standing tight on our shoes on the perimeter, so it was allowing Russ (Westbrook) to get down here and make decisions. He made great decisions throughout the series, and guys finished.''
The Thunder will need more of that balance if they are to advance to the conference finals.
''Obviously, they are a great team, well coached team and they are going to test us,'' Thunder forward Nick Collison said of the Spurs. ''I think the ability to play every play, be engaged every play, is key for us because they are going to test us. They run a lot of actions, it's difficult to guard, and they aren't going to beat themselves.''
Here are a few things we learned from Oklahoma City's overwhelming win over the Mavericks:
WESTBROOK SUPERSTAR? Dallas owner Mark Cuban said Westbrook was an All-Star, but not a superstar in a pregame interview session before Game 5 of their first-round series Monday night, then Westbrook dropped 36 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. He averaged 26.0 points, 11.2 assists and 7.2 rebounds in the five-game series.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle disagreed with Cuban's assessment of Westbrook, the 2014-15 scoring champion and two-time reigning All-Star Game MVP.
''I thought Westbrook played beautiful basketball this year,'' Carlisle said. ''I don't think there were many people out there in the basketball world that thought he'd be able to turn his game into both a scoring and distributing game, but he led the league in triple-doubles. That's a great credit to him. I think his coach Billy Donovan probably had some influence there too, but he was special to watch all year.''
Durant was a bit more pointed in response to Cuban's jab.
''He's an idiot,'' Durant said of Cuban. ''He's an idiot. Don't listen to - he's an idiot. That's what we've got to say about that. He's an idiot. Next question.''
THROUGH THE FIRE: The physical series was filled with non-basketball related activity. Charlie Villanueva and Justin Anderson interrupted Westbrook's pregame dance with Cameron Payne before Game 2. Durant was ejected after a hard foul in Game 4. There were two technical fouls against the Mavericks in Game 5.
''I think this series made our team better,'' Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. ''We dealt with a lot of physical confrontation in the game, and I say that in a very positive way, not in a negative way. We got tested in a lot of different ways. Hopefully through these five games we are better from it.''
BLOWN AWAY: The Thunder's four wins against the Mavericks came by an average of 23 points, including a 108-70 win in the opener and a 131-102 landslide in Game 3. All four victories were by double digits. The Thunder shot at least 50 percent from the field in each of the last three games, all wins. The Thunder showed the capability to dominate a game defensively in Game 1 and offensively in Game 2.
REBOUNDING: Oklahoma City dominated the glass in all five games. The Thunder outrebounded the Mavericks 56-33 in Game 1. The closest matchup was Monday, and the Thunder still outrebounded the Mavericks by seven. The Thunder led the league in rebounding during the regular season, and they will need to control the boards against a San Antonio team that ranks in the middle of the pack.
DONOVAN'S TEST: Donovan got his first NBA series win against the Mavericks. Now, the first-year NBA coach meets San Antonio's Gregg Popovich, the league's most accomplished active coach with five NBA championships.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .