You know the Western Conference Finals are becoming as competitive as they are intense when Mark Cuban again takes center court.
The Dallas Mavs owner who has alarmingly grown silent throughout his team’s improbable playoff run— even during their merciless takedown of the defending champion L.A. Lakers— erupted like Mount St. Helens Thursday night during halftime of his team’s eventual 106-100 Game 2 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
While walking off the court at American Airlines Arena, Cuban stopped to loudly ask NBA officiating supervisor Bernie Fryer what he thought of the officiating to that point. No soon as Fryer could reply, “great,” Cuban was interjecting his own thoughts. “You’re not watching the same game I am,” he shouted. “Horrible.”
If Cuban was angst then, imagine how he must feel now— with his team’s seven game winning streak snapped and heading to Oklahoma City for the next two games deadlocked at 1-1 and the Thunder having at least somewhat found a solution for slowing all-star forward Dirk Nowitzki.
Two nights after pouring in a career playoff high 48 points against a string of hapless Thunder defenders, including a record setting 24 straight free throws, Nowitzki was held to 29 points Thursday, netting fewer than half as many attempts from the line as he did in the series opener.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma rode the continued hot hand of league leading scorer Kevin Durant (24 points) and a spirited fourth quarter defensive effort by the reserve quartet of Nick Collison, James Harden, Eric Maynor and Daequan Cook to paydirt.
“We had a good start to the fourth quarter,” Durant said of Coach Scott Brooks decision to all star guard Russell Westbrook and the Thunder’s other starters on the bench. “You can’t mess that chemistry up.”
In Cuban’s mind, it seemed a little late for such sentiment. —Glenn Minnis