The Oklahoma City Thunder are finding new ways to win as they host the Dallas Mavericks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Saturday night. The series is tied 1-1 as it shifts locations.
The Don Best odds screen has the Thunder as 3-point favorites with a total of 201 points. ESPN will broadcast at 6:00 p.m. (PT) from Oklahoma City Arena.
The Thunder are riding high after a 106-100 win at Dallas in Game 2 on Thursday night. Superstar Kevin Durant led the way per usual with 24 points, but it was the reserves that were the main story.
The backups outscored their Dallas counterparts 50-29 after a 53-22 disadvantage in the Game 1 loss (121-112). Sixth-man James Harden was the big gun with 23 points. More shockingly, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks went with four reserves along with Durant for almost the entire fourth quarter.
Starting point guard Russell Westbrook was the big omission down the stretch. He had decent stats (7-of-15 shooting, 18 points), but his plus/minus rating (-12) was terrible compared to backup Eric Maynor (+18).
Westbrook was not happy about his benching and team chemistry could be at stake if Brooks makes the same move again. However, Westbrook was just 3-of-15 from the floor in the opener and is shooting just 32.4 percent in five games versus Dallas this season.
The 206 combined points scored last game went ‘over’ the 199 ½-point total. The Thunders’ sharp 55.7 percent shooting really helped the cause. The ‘over’ is 2-0 this series and 4-1 in the meetings between the teams this year.
Oklahoma City was a five-point underdog last game. It is now 2-3 SU and ATS against the Mavs this season, winning and ‘covering’ for the first time with Dirk Nowitzki healthy and in the lineup.
Nowitzki had a Larry Bird-like performance in Game 1, scoring 48 points on 12-of-15 from the field and 24-of-24 from the line. He played very well again in Game 2 with 29 points, but didn’t get enough help with center Tyson Chandler next on the list with 15.
Reserve guards Jason Terry and Jose Juan Barea combined for 45 points in Game 1, but saw that total slip to 19 on Thursday. Nowitzki shot 10-of-17 last game (58.8 percent), but the rest of the squad was 25-of-63 (39.7 percent).
Terry is Dallas’ second-leading scorer (17.9 PPG) in the playoffs behind Nowitzki (28.5 PPG). No other player is in double-digits. Caron Butler (knee injury) would have been a great addition, but his return is not close.
Coach Rick Carlisle relied on defense in the first two rounds, allowing 88.2 PPG, but is surrendering 109 PPG this series. The 55.7 percent shooting last game was the highest allowed by Dallas since January. Shoring up that end of the court is the first priority on Saturday.
The Mavericks suffered their first ATS failure after starting the playoffs 10-0-1 against the spread. Their seven-game winning streak was also snapped.
Dallas now heads back on the road where it’s 3-2 SU and 4-0-1 ATS this postseason. It dropped Games 3 and 4 in Portland, but has won the last three, including tough ones at the Lakers’ Staples Center.
Oklahoma City is 6-1 SU and 4-3 ATS at home in the playoffs. The one loss was Game 1 of the Memphis series last round. It won the next three home games over the Grizzlies (3-0 ATS), including 105-90 in the crucial Game 7.
The teams will remain in Oklahoma for Game 4 on Monday before going back to Big D on Wednesday. ESPN will broadcast both contests with TNT having the Miami vs. Chicago series.