Coming into this rematch of last season's Western Conference Finals, many expected a very different result. The Thunder have been one of the top handful of teams since this short season started, and Dallas struggled to shake the hangover from the seven month long celebration it had after winning the franchise's first title. And to their credit, the Thunder held home court for a 2-0 lead in the series as it heads to Dallas. But with the total margin of victory for the Thunder being at just four points, this is still a series that Dallas can take with the aid of one bounce somewhere.
The statistical differences between the Thunder and Mavericks is paltry. But there has to be one that Oklahoma City has an edge in that has given two wins. Dallas has out-rebounded the Thunder 77-75, so that probably isn't the reason. OKC has two more assists, but Dallas has three more steals and one less turnover.
But Dallas has been stronger in the paint. It has 72 points in the paint trough two games, while OKC has been stronger up and down the court with a 12 point advantage in fast break points. And Dallas' bench won the battle of the back-ups in game won, while OKC's bench took the second game.
Such similar stats should not be expected in a series that has a total margin of victory of four points. But the direct difference between these two teams is in free throws. OKC has missed five free throws through two games, while Dallas has missed nine-four more. In last year's series, Dallas shot a higher percentage of free throws than OKC in all but one game(which actually was not the game it lost), while it has been behind the Thunder in both games this season. The loss of Tyson Chandler in the offseason has actually resulted in Dallas outrebounding OKC in both games, while it was outrebounded every game by the Thunder last season. Additionally, Dallas only held the Thunder under 90 points in one game last season, so there wasn't a lot of defense being played in the first place.
In reality, the difference between these two teams is not on the box score which basically makes the Stat Guy angle to this article almost useless. But Dallas is short one of the best defensive centers in the league, and J.J. Barea is not there to break down the defense, penetrate, and draw flagrant fouls. ON the other side, OKC is a year older, and despite still not quite looking right on the same court, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are getting it done with Harden recording starter-like numbers off the bench. And nowhere on the bow score will it show Durant's cold-blooded shot over Shawn Marion to take steal back game one.
Last season, Dallas Vaulted over Oklahoma City, making a statement on the way to an NBA Championship. If it's not careful, it could be the victim of the Thunder doing the same thing.