As Yogi Ferrell hit a 3 to put the Mavs up 91 – 78 with less than four minutes left to play, I started to type out “Well, Russ tried his best, but he just can’t win them all by himself”. Throughout the next three plus minutes, Russ decided to prove me dead wrong as he put the Thunder on his back and carried them to an amazing comeback victory against the Dallas Mavericks, 92 – 91.
Up until these last few minutes, the Thunder had not played like a team that had any chance of pulling off the victory tonight in Dallas.
However, they did start off looking a lot more aggressive on defense in this one than they did yesterday against the Rockets. They had active hands and forced the Mavericks into some tough shots. The Mavs lone bright spot early on was Nerlens Noel, who was scoring from mid-range, down low and from put backs off the offensive glass.
For the Thunder, Russ, was Russ, as he finished the first quarter with 11 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds (triple-double watch!) and he had some help from Taj Gibson, with 7 points, on a few nice finishes in the paint.
The game remained close with the Thunder on the high side through most of the quarter. But, when Russ checked out, the wheels fell off and stayed off throughout most of the game.
The second quarter started out incredibly sloppy for both teams and you could start to see glimpses of the Thunder looking like a team coming off a back-to-back. It didn’t get any better throughout the 2nd as the Thunder didn’t score until the 6:35 mark and the Mavs rattled off 14 points during that time.
Russ was the only thing going for the Thunder as no one else could hit a shot, finishing 13 of 35 as a team in the first half. Russell had almost half (17) of the Thunder’s 35 first half points. In addition, he had all five of the Thunder’s assists as no one could make a shot. Russ scored or assisted on 11 of the 13 made FG’s in the first half. However, Russ wasn’t perfect, as he had four of the Thunder’s nine(!) turnovers in the quarter. To make matters worse the Thunder bench unit played terrible. They had absolutely no ball movement on offense. Not a single player recorded an assist in the first half and all 6 of their points came from one person, Enes Kanter.
The Mavs got anything they wanted on offense. As long as they were patient, they eventually could get a good shot against the Thunder’s half-court defense. The Thunder D broke down against the pick-and-roll and were letting the Mavs guards, Barea and Yogi, penetrate at will.
Without Russ getting any help from his teammates, the Thunder went into the half trailing to the sub .500 Mavs, 50 – 35.
The Thunder came out of the locker room looking like a completely different team. They forced the Mavs into 4 turnovers on their first 5 possessions on their way to an 11-0 run. The defense was energized and the Thunder were moving the ball on offense and FINALLY putting the ball through the hoop. However, a pair of Mavs 3’s and a lot of second chance opportunities allowed Dallas to pull out to a 12 points advantage at the end of the quarter.
In the fourth, things still weren’t going very well for the Thunder. Russ got some offensive help from Taj and Vic, but any time they made a run, the Mavs killed their momentum with a big 3. However, as mentioned above, they couldn’t hold down the unstoppable force that is Russell Westbrook.
I know I’ve already covered it, but Russell was simply amazing in the final 3 minutes. He started off the run with this dunk:
Which seemed to ignite him into super nova mode, and then scored in multiple ways, hitting from the outside, nailing his patented pull up jumper and finishing at the rim. Including the game winner:
It was incredible to watch, especially after an all-around poor night of basketball from the Thunder. He finished with his 37th triple-double of the season, going for 37 points (15 of 30 from the field), 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
Even coming off a back-to-back, this would have been a bad loss for the Thunder, and Russ was not going to let that happen.
- Seth Curry was a late scratch before the game with a left shoulder injury. Last time he faced the Thunder he went off for 22 points, most of them coming on Thunder defensive specialist Andre Roberson. That being said, it was noted that Roberson tweaked his ankle during the game, but it definitely was his worst defensive showing this season. Would’ve liked to see these two go at each other again. I think this time it would’ve went a little differently for Seth.
- Speaking of Andre, with all the (well-deserved) attention focused on Russ, his solid defense on Harrison Barnes tonight seems to be getting swept under the rug. Roberson, who primarily guarded Curry in their last meeting, was guarding Barnes a majority of the time tonight. He held Barnes, who averages 19.7 points per game, to just 10 points on 4 of 14 shooting. Dre also had a couple of huge stops on Harrison late in the game that contributed to the Thunder run.
- Taj came out of the gates playing really well in the first quarter, but he ended up only playing seven minutes total in the first half. I would’ve liked to see more of him especially with how stagnant the Thunder’s offense became in this game.
- Steve showed some aggressiveness on both ends in the second half that I feel we’d been missing lately.
- Nerlens Noel has been so good for Dallas. He is great in the pick-and-roll with Barea and Yogi and finally gives them a presence inside that they’ve been lacking. They’ve been a top 10 defense since they acquired Noel, and they have to be feeling pretty good about that trade.
- Speaking of pick-and-roll, even though I despise him, JJ Barea makes some absolutely beautiful passes. Whether he’s sitting up the roll man, or kicking to a shooter, they are always crisp and find the mark. He’s also great with the no-look pass.
- We got a blast from the past with Nick Collison guarding Dirk in the first quarter.
- Also, to note, Domas Sabonis was a DNP- Coach’s Decisions tonight… but Semaj played 20 minutes.
- And while we are talking about Semaj, let me just say that I don’t understand why he is getting the minutes that he is. 0 of 5 from the field and a -17 in those 20 minutes. And out of those 5 shots, 3 of them weren’t good looks. I also don’t think there’s even been a time that he’s shot it and I’ve thought “that’s going in”.
- Last thing on Semaj. Andre and Semaj lineups are my least favorite lineups.
- Not a great night for Kanter. 6 points on 2 of 6 shooting. It seemed that his forearm wrap might have been bothering him as he ripped it off at halftime. He also seemed to be bothered by Mejri’s defense in the post.
- One big problem for the second unit was the ball movement and off-ball movement. When Kanter was doubled, no one was moving around to open spots or cutting to the basket for him to make the pass. The Thunder were passing on the perimeter, but just passing around and not even looking to make a play does not count as ball movement.
- The Thunder shot 43.5% from the field and 26.1% from 3. Despite the poor shooting, they did get up more total attempts than the Mavs (5 more), which is something they failed to do in their loss to Dallas.
- The Thunder seemed to get some tough calls tonight. They committed some bad fouls, but they seemed to pick up a few questionable ones and you could definitely see the frustration from some of the players.
- Victor was able to knock down a couple of 3’s in the second half, but other than that I didn’t think he had a great night overall.
- Russ’ triple double was the NBA’s 100th of the season.
- Not only did Russ hit the game winner, but he made a great defensive play to force the turnover that got the Thunder the ball back from that possession.
- Oh, and in case you missed this from earlier today:
Next Up: Wednesday in Orlando at 6:00 CST