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Monday NBA Roundup: Resilient Mavs Showing Thunder They Won't Go Down Quietly

Published by Bleacher Report on Tue, 19 Apr 2016

The Oklahoma City Thunder's blowout victory in Game 1 was supposed to serve as the Dallas Mavericks' playoff obituary. Here's the problem: No one told the Mavericks.Dallas limped into Monday night's Game 2 matchup against Oklahoma City. J.J. Barea sat with a groin strain. Deron Williams made an improbable start as he battled through a sports hernia he suffered earlier this season. Chandler Parsons is still done for the year following right knee surgery. Dirk Nowitzki remains old. The stench of Saturday night's 108-70 letdown, the second-worst postseason loss in franchise history, lingered like a rotting egg.Put simply, the Mavericks had no business winning Game 2.They won anyway.Led by Raymond Feltonyes, himthe Mavericks scrapped and clawed and crawled their way toward a 85-84 win on Oklahoma City's home floor. They now head back to Dallas for Game 3, with home-court advantage and a monumental single-game upset in their back pocket, per ESPN:There will be those who paint Dallas' win as Oklahoma City's failure. And they will be right on many levels.Russell Westbrook, despite exerting the energy and will of his usual superhuman self, finished 8-of-22 from the floor and committed four turnovers. Kevin Durant was even worse. Much worse. He shot 7-of-33 for 21 points to go with seven turnovers.It was an unsettling performance to say the least, as CBS Sports and ESPN Stats & and Info dutifully pointed out:But it was also an outing rife with asterisks.Durant and Westbrook won't combine to shoot 27.3 percent every night. The Thunder as a whole were 2-of-11 from the field in the final five minutes, with offensive breakdowns and ill-advised shot attempts galore. Oklahoma City has suffered from crunch-time warts all year, but Dallas cannot plan on those follies and foibles.And the Thunder, as ESPN.com's Royce Young explains, cannot plan around them:To make this all about what the Thunder didn't do, though, would completely overlook everything the Mavericks actually did.Felton basically saved their season. That is a real sentence. Following a real playoff game. In the year 2016. AD.He drove and dished his way to 21 points and three assists, breaking down Oklahoma City's defense at every turn, all while corralling loose balls (11 rebounds) and rivaling Westbrook's aggression:Though Felton missed a pair of crucial free throws in the waning seconds, giving the Thunder a chance to win the game, it didn't matter. Dallas' defense held, and Steven Adams' last-ditch put-back left his hands too late:Williams came up equally huge, both with his spur-of-the-moment availability and on-court contributions. He eventually needed to be yanked but not before tallying 13 points and five assists on 5-of-9 shootingplus one feel-good endorsement from head coach Rick Carlisle, per SB Nation's Tim Cato:Carlisle himself deserves as much credit as anyone. Dallas' starting five was actually a minus-nine while on the floor. He rearranged the rotation, finding ample time for Devin Harris,Salah Mejri and even rookie Justin Anderson.Without those midgame tweaks, without him unearthing unique ways to hide Nowitzki on defense, the Mavericks don't win. Dallas has a real series on its hands, and we're left to reconcile the once-far-fetched idea that Carlisle could, somehow, exceed his typically lofty expectations, per SI.com's Rob Mahoney:To be absolutely sure, the Mavericks are not suddenly favorites to improbably upset the Thunder and advance through to the second round. Such a scenario remains unlikelyunfathomable, even.Oklahoma City, for all its recurring flaws, is still the superior team.The Thunder are still the sensible pick to win this matchup.But the Mavericks, shorthanded and weary as ever, will not go down quietly or in succession.Win or lose, they're going to make sure the Thunder feel this series.Exhaling in TorontoBreathe, Toronto Raptors fans. Complete crisis has been averted.After dropping Game 1 and forfeiting home-court advantage, the Raptors came storming back Monday night, gutting out a 98-87 victory over the scrappy Indiana Pacers.It wasn't a pretty win by most measures. In fact, it was decisively not pretty. Toronto opened up a 19-point lead, but it took most of the game anda helping hand from Pacers head coach Frank Vogel to get there,per EricKoreenofSportsnet:Both DeMar DeRozan's and Kyle Lowry's shooting struggles continued throughout most of the night. They combined to go 9-of-31 from the field, and Raptors head honcho Dwane Casey kept DeRozan chained to the bench for a large chunk of the fourth quarter.Lowry, to his credit, played his gosh darn heart out. He chased rebounds (seven), drove incessantly to create opportunities for his teammates (nine assists), hit all 10 of his free-throw attempts and was integral in limiting George Hill and Ty Lawson to unimpressive outings.Cory Joseph pitched in 16 points and three assists, often serving as Toronto's steadying offensive presence. He also did this, because he cares not for Lawson's feelings:Jonas Valanciunas turned in a monster performance of his own. Casey has been reluctant to sit him even when the Pacers go small, and now we know why. He pumped in 23 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks, absolutely manhandling Indiana in the paint, where the Raptors were a plus-16 overall, en route to reaching a unique franchise milestone, per StatMuse:Paul George once again bordered on magnificent, collecting 28 points on a tidy 8-of-15 shooting. But with the exception of Monta Ellis, who finished with 15 points, three assists and two steals, he was on his own.Pacers not named Paul George shot 21-of-55 (38.2 percent), including just 2-of-17 (11.8 percent) from beyond the three-point line. Another consistent source of offense must rear its head for Indiana to make the most of this 1-1 series tie.Still, the Pacers did their job. They stole one in Toronto. The pressure remains on the Raptors to get more out of DeRozan and Lowry, so that they can snag back home-court advantage with a win on Indiana's turf in Game 3.No Steph' No ProblemStephen Curry's latest ankle injury should have been good news for the Houston Rockets. But it wasn't.The Golden State Warriors barely missed a beat without their soon-to-be two-time MVP, jumping out to a 2-0 series lead with a 115-106 victory over the Rockets.Klay Thompson responded well to becoming Golden State's de factoNo. 1 option. He shot just 8-of-20 from the hardwood, but set a new career high with 16 free-throw attempts. On the back of 15 makes from the charity stripe, he finished with 34 points and five assists.Andre Iguodala, meanwhile, was retro Andre Iguodala, as Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes so eloquently explained:The reigning NBA Finals MVP finished with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go along with three rebounds, three rebounds, two steals and a block. He pestered Houston's wings and played the best all around game of anyone on the floor.Andrew Bogutcontributed three blocks and was the consummate Dwight Howard nuisance. DraymondGreen flirted with a triple-double despite an off-shooting night, leaving Oracle Arena with 12 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.No one could really get going for the Rockets. James Harden was the only player to eclipse 15 points, finishing with 28 bones on 7-of-19 shooting from the floor. Dwight Howard had an overall solid game with 12 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks, but Houston failed to use him enough on the offensive end. Ball-handlers didn't look for him enough exploding off screens, and he was often overmatched on defense against Golden State's unique frontcourt speed. He fouled out late in the fourth quarter.One of the few things the Rockets did right was outscore the Warriors from long range. That usually spells trouble for Golden Stateinsofar as Golden State can experience real trouble, per Tim Roye, the Warriors' radio play-by-play announcer:On this night, the three-point deficit was irrelevant. The Warriors finished as a plus-12 in the paint and a plus-six in transition, thoroughly outclassing the Rockets using just about every offensive style imaginable.Houston now heads home, trailing Golden State 2-0, a seemingly insurmountable lead given the opponent. It's not yet clear if Curry will be ready to rock by Thursday, but for the Warriors, at this stage of the playoffs, it almost doesn't matter. They can beat the Rockets without him.Dan Favalecovers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter,@danfavale.
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