Mavs vs. Thunder – Series On

Dallas' Wesley Matthews (23) and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) chase the ball during Game 2 of the first round series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Monday, April 18, 2016. Dallas won 85-84. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Playoff series can provide lasting drama and even create rivalries. It did with the Rangers and Blue Jays last Fall. Most of the Rangers players have told me that they have both series with Toronto circled on the schedule this year. You see after the way game five ended, a rivalry was created where it did not exist before.

Game 2 of the Mavs/Oklahoma City Thunder series may have done the same thing. Despite proximity and the natural border-state ill will, these two teams have never really established much of a rivalry. Perhaps it’s because they aren’t in the same division. The Mavs did beat the Thunder en route to their championship in 2011, and the Thunder swept the Mavs on the way to the NBA Finals the very next year. Still there hasn’t been much of a rivalry.

Of course for a rivalry to be at it’s best the teams should be close to competitive equals. After game one of this series it was pretty clear that these two teams were anything but that. The Thunder won by 38 points. They out rebounded the Mavs by 23 and Dallas didn’t even shoot 30% from the field. Dirk Nowitzki called the game “an embarrassment.”

It’s tough to establish a rivalry when one team, Oklahoma City, plays like it will never lose again. And the other, Dallas, plays like it will never win again.

Then came game two and maybe just maybe a rivalry was born. The Mavs played an unbelievable game, slowing the pace, holding the high-powered Thunder to just 84 points on 33% shooting. Dallas did it without Chandler Parsons and J.J. Barea, and Deron Williams was hobbled with a sports hernia.

We’ve all heard the saying that a playoff series doesn’t really begin until the home team loses a game. Rick Carlisle confirmed as much and said after the game, “We know that now it’s on.”

So could that win alone may be enough to start a rivalry between these two teams? Probably not. But what happened during pregame warm-ups may have done it.

You see, before each game Russell Westbrook goes through a series of dance moves with various teammates to get himself fired up and to excite the crowd. As he danced with Cameron Payne in front of the scorers table, Charlie Villanueva wandered aimlessly into the path of the dance routine. It looked like the mindless wandering of a guy who was not paying attention to where he was walking – until Westbrook pushed Charlie V. out of the way. To prove that Villanueva knew exactly where he was, Charlie V. wandered back onto the dance floor only to be pushed again by Westbrook.

Westbrook and his frilly shirt in the post game press conference

After the game Westbrook and Kevin Durant were in the interview room together. A question was asked about the interruption of the pregame ritual even though Westbrook was at the center of it, Durant cut off the question saying, “Nothing, they didn’t do nothing.”

The reporter followed up with, “It looked like they interrupted your routine.” To which Durant responded, “That’s nothing! That’s sh**!  This is a basketball game man.” Westbrook added, “Yeah, that’s for the guys who don’t play.”

So let’s take inventory – the home team lost a game after a pregame shoving match which inspired a little war of words. I think Carlisle is right, we all know it’s on now.  I can’t wait for game 3.