The Thunder got straight to business on Wednesday night in Dallas, as Russell Westbrook and Paul George combined for 19 first quarter points to help Oklahoma City establish an 11-point advantage after 12 minutes of basketball. The teams then exchanged equal efforts in the second quarter, with OKC holding a 54-43 lead heading into the halftime break.
What happened next is, unfortunately, a bit predictable.
Despite the double-digit lead and the Mavericks being a poor basketball team, the Thunder wilted in the third quarter, as Dallas shot 15/23 (65.3 percent) from the field and used pesky defense to force OKC into a number of costly turnovers. All told, the Mavs outscored OKC 33-23 in the third, trimming the Thunder’s 11-point halftime lead to just one point, 77-76.
Dallas got off to a quick start in the final frame, racing out to a quick 5-0 run to take the lead. The teams then traded buckets and the lead for the better part of the quarter, culminating in a 98-98 tie with 3:17 to go. Each squad would only get one more bucket to fall from that point forward — Dallas’ coming on a Dwight Powell layup with 0.3 seconds remaining, sending the game into overtime.
Dennis Smith Jr. scored 7 points in the extra period and a Harrison Barnes jumper put the Mavs up 110-108 with just 1:21 remaining. However, despite going 0/8 from the floor in the second half, Westbrook polished off a 3/3 effort in overtime with a driving bucket and the foul. He converted the free throw to give Oklahoma City the 111-110 lead — an advantage the Thunder would hold onto until the final buzzer sounded.
Westbrook led the way for OKC with 30 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists on 11/25 shooting, with Paul George adding 23 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists of his own. However, despite the stars boasting the stat lines, it was Steven Adams who is most responsible for the Thunder victory. His 9 points and 12 rebounds (9 offensive) were all monstrously instrumental in the outcome, as his ability to create more opportunities on the offensive glass buoyed a Thunder offense that was pathetic for most of the second half. Simply put — OKC loses this game if Adams isn’t out there throwing his body in every which direction.
The narrow win puts the Thunder’s record at 36-27 ahead of Friday night’s game in Phoenix. Now for some notes on the victory.
45.2: The Thunder shot 45.2 percent from the floor, compared to 48.4 percent for Dallas.
27.8: OKC was far too reliant on the three-point shot tonight, hitting 10/36 (27.8 percent). Dallas went 13/36 (36.1) from downtown.
89.5: Don’t look now but OKC has had a couple solid free throw shooting games in a row. The team went 17/19 (89.5 percent) — a monster number when you consider Dallas went 9/15 (60 percent) in a game that was very close.
+20: The Thunder won 56-36 on the glass, including 19-8 on the offensive boards.
22: The Thunder turned the ball over 22 times — far too many times and usually the death bell. Dallas got 22 points off of those turnovers.
15 & 7: The Thunder led by as many as 15 at one point in the first half. Dallas responded by taking a largest lead of seven in the second half.
+8: The OKC reserves outscored the Dallas bench by a final tally of 31-23.
13 & 12: 13 lead changes and 12 ties. This game had a lot going on.
Tale of Two Westbrook’s. Russell Westbrook scored 20 points on 8/14 shooting in the first half of tonight’s game — a monster part of the 11-point lead OKC held at the break. He followed that up with 0/8 shooting in the second half, looked entirely disengaged, and then sprung back to action in OT, hitting all three of his shots and converting on what ultimately became the game-winning basket. The final line of 30 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists is quintessential Russ — but it was actually a lot more ugly and confusing than it appears, at least there in the third and fourth quarters.
All the Turnovers. The 22 turnovers were just awful for the Thunder. Russell Westbrook had nine, Paul George had six, Steven Adams had four… It’s nights like this when you just don’t really know what to make of this Thunder team. The Mavericks aren’t good, OK? Shouldn’t even be a talking point.
If You Give a Moose a Muffin. When I was little, I loved a book called “If You Give a Moose a Muffin.” The moral of the story was pretty easy to follow — moose like muffins and if you give them one, they’re going to want more, and then you’ve lost control and can’t handle the monster you’ve created. Simple enough, right?
At this point I’ve determined that shooting is to Carmelo Anthony that muffins are to a moose. You let the guy take one, he wants another, then another — then you end up at 5/14 from the floor, 2/7 from downtown, and wrapping up with 12 points. This happens all the time. One shot goes down, so he’s immediately empowered to take the next five. Really all I’m saying is that we probably need to stop giving muffins to Melo.
Bench Mob. Raymond Felton led bench scorers with 12 points on 4/7 shooting. Jerami Grant also reached double-figures, dropping 10 points and five rebounds on a 4/7 clip.
Shooting Guards: Josh Huestis again got the start at shooting guard, scoring 6 points on 2/5 shooting from downtown and wrapping up as a -5 in 22 minutes. Alex Abrines logged 20 minutes, scoring 3 points and finishing as a -2. Terrance Ferguson saw 10 minutes, scored 2 points and was a +3. I knew this was a problem when I started thinking about Corey Brewer like, “Welllllll…”
The Other Guys. Six Mavs reached double-figures in scoring: Harrison Barnes (26), Dwight Powell (21), Smith Jr. (17), JJ Barea (12), Dirk Nowtizki (12), and Wesley Matthews (11).
Legendary Dirk. With a patented fadeaway jumper midway through the second quarter, Dirk Nowitzki became the sixth player in NBA history to score 31,000 points in his career. There’s not much to say about Dirk that hasn’t already been said — he’s a living legend and, by all accounts, a really good dude. Congrats to the big German.