The Oklahoma City Thunder (23-13) returned the favor on Monday night by defeating the Dallas Mavericks (17-19) following last night’s disappointing loss in Dallas. Russell Westbrook led the way for the Thunder, recording his 10th triple-double of the season. It was encouraging to see Westbrook’s play take a positive turn after his struggles throughout the month of December. By game’s end the Brodie had 32 points (13-of-24 FG, 0-of-1 3P, 6-of-6 FT), 11 rebounds, 11 assists, four steals, and five turnovers.
Oklahoma City dominated the opening quarter, holding the visiting Mavericks to 33.3 percent shooting from the field while forcing nine turnovers. Paul George was scorching out of the gate, scoring 16 points and swiping four steals. Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle implemented the Hack-A-Kiwi midway through the quarter, as Steven Adams missed both freebies. It’ll be interesting to see if other opposing coaches intentionally send Thunder foul shooters to the line going forward. The Thunder led 32-21 after one.
The turnovers kept piling up for Dallas in the second, as the Thunder forced the Mavericks into a season-high 17 first half turnovers, scoring 26 points off of the turnovers. While Westbrook’s mid-range game has been largely nonexistent of late, he found the stroke in the second quarter immediately after badly air balling a mid-range attempt. Westbrook looked smooth as he converted four different jumpers off the glass from the left elbow in the half. The former MVP scored 12 points in the second quarter on 4-of-8 shooting from the field, including 4-of-4 from the free-throw line. Oklahoma City took a 60-43 lead with them into the break.
The Thunder forced eight more turnovers in the third, which offset the Mavericks catching fire from downtown. Dallas shot 8-of-13 from three in the quarter, but the Thunder maintained their 17-point lead heading into the final frame.
Billy Donovan pulled the starters with three minutes to go as the Thunder were on cruise control en route to the 122-102 victory.
Russell’s Resurgence: Mr. Triple Double notched his 10th of the season tonight 24 hours after his worst performance of the season in Dallas. He carried the Thunder throughout, living in the midrange while pestering the Mavericks on the defensive end. Westbrook ended his night with 32 points (13-of-24 FG, 0-of-1 3P, 6-of-6 FT), 11 rebounds, 11 assists, and four steals. Here’s to Russ keeping his groove going into 2019.
Forcing Turnovers: The Thunder blueprint was on full display tonight, as Oklahoma City forced a franchise-record 29 turnovers, resulting in 36 points. George and Westbrook both chipped in with four steals apiece.
Too Many Whistles: Scott Foster’s bunch just wanted to close out 2018 with a little limelight, right? In total, there were 59 fouls called tonight, resulting in 69 (nice) free throw attempts for both teams.
Barnes Catches Fire: The former North Carolina standout was the lone bright spot for the Mavericks tonight, with 25 points (8-of-11 FG, 7-of-9 3P, 2-of-2 FT), five rebounds, an assist, and a steal. All non-Barnes Mavericks struggled on the second night of the back-to-back, shooting 36.5 percent from the field.
Where’d Their Timeouts Go?: I can’t recall another example of this in all my years of watching the NBA. Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle burned through all of his timeouts midway through the third quarter. Things got even weirder when Carlisle nonchalantly called a timeout, which he didn’t have, after Adams converted a second-chance tip midway through the fourth. The Mavericks were issued a technical as the game was already out of hand. Coach ’em up, Ricky.
Three-Point Shooting: It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows tonight for the home team tonight, as the Thunder shot a pitiful 6-of-24 from three-point range. It’s time to start hitting some of those open threes, boys.