Russell Westbrook’s 31 points carried the Oklahoma City Thunder over the Dallas Mavericks 117-114 on Sunday. Thanks to the NBA assists leader, five other Thunder players scored in double digits — Ibaka, Dion Waiters (14), Anthony Morrow (14), Enes Kanter (12) and Nick Collison (10).
“I really felt like tonight for — what’s it been, 14 games? — I thought this was the most complete game we’ve had offensively,” first-year Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said. “This is probably the closest I thought offensively, to an identity that I’d like to see us play with. The ball was moving. It was going from one side of the floor to the other. Guys made really good decisions. Hopefully we can build on it.”
“We played a pretty explosive team,” said Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, who was held to 11 points. “Westbrook has been incredible. He gives us problems with his penetration. We weren’t great in transition defense. We were great at pick-and-rolls. They made us pay on some of this stuff.”
Deron Williams led the Mavericks with 20 points and six assists but had his problems with Westbrook too.
“He’s just so athletic and so explosive that it’s hard to force him where you want him to go,” Williams said. “He does a good job of picking his spots, getting out in transition and getting the easy buckets and drawing fouls. He just mixes it up so well. He’s a great player.”
The Thunder held a 60-52 lead in halftime, but the lead shrunk after the Mavericks put together a 33-27 third quarter to close the gap. Westbrook broke a 113-113 tie late in the fourth quarter with a jump shot with 1:03 left in the game. Mavericks center Zaza Pachulia, who finished with a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double, made 1 of 2 free-throws to pull the Mavericks within a point. Then Westbrook struck back with 18-foot jump shot with 24 seconds remaining in the game.
Williams missed an 18-footer and Pachulia fouled Thunder center Steven Adams while going for the rebound. Adams missed both free throws, but Ibaka closed the game by blocking Williams’ layup attempt with 8.4 seconds left. The blocked shot was recovered by shooting guard Wesley Matthews (18 points), which fell as an air ball.
“It came down to the fact that our defense wasn’t good enough,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. “We missed a lot of free throws and we turned it over too much.
“I thought we were poor on defense the entire game,” he said. “We gave up 117 points and we’ve been giving up another 100 on average, it’s just not getting it done. I think we lost some of our defensive edge headed into tonight and we have to get back.”
The Thunder travel to Utah to take on the Jazz on Monday, while the Mavericks will continue on the road for trips to Memphis on Tuesday and San Antonio on Wednesday.
“Sometimes a loss isn’t the worst thing in the world,” Nowitzki said. “It’ll get everyone’s focus back. We’ll have practice tomorrow to get everybody on the same page again, and get that edge for the next two games because this trip is a beat.”