If Scotty Brooks learned one thing from this loss, its that you DON'T sit Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook's final stats in the box score might not look that impressive, but you've got to take the good with the bad. He was a major part of OKC's late second quarter and late fourth quarter runs, and it's hard to see the Thunder being competitive tonight without him.
Thus, Brooks' decision to sit Westbrook at the start of overtime wasn't an easy one. It was, perhaps, the right decision to make. After all, Russ needs his time to recover, and the Thunder need him more in the playoffs than they do tonight. But after the Thunder started tanking, Brooks panicked and re-inserted Westbrook into the game. So, uh.....what was the point of sitting him in the first place?! Blaaaaaargh!
Anyway, other reasons why we lost....
- Kevin Durant ran out of gas. He had three straight tries from his comfort zone during overtime, but couldn't convert on any of them. It might help that the Mavericks knew exactly what play the Thunder were going to call every single time.
- Lots of defensive miscommunication. It was highlighted by the three Vince Carter took at the end of the second quarter, where he was literally just able to walk up to the line unguarded. I'd like to think it's a result of Rick Carlisle's constant lineup changes that make it difficult to track who's at what position.
- Bad perimeter defense. I really appreciated Brooks' effort to go with a consistently lean lineup tonight. The team's lone center, Adams, only played the first half of the first and third quarters. The rest of the game saw Ibaka and Collison trading time at center, only coming together on the court for short periods. It was intended to slow down the other team's shooters, but the Thunder simply weren't attentive enough (see above) to accomplish that goal.
- Andre Roberson's no-show on offense. Seriously, this guy is averaging 1.8 PPG and starting for our team. He's several levels below Perk in that regard, and I don't really see what he brings to the defensive end. When he was in, Monta Ellis had 5 points on 2-5 shooting, 1-2 FT, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, and 2 steals. When Roberson was out, Monta Ellis had 12 points on 4-10 shooting, 4-5 FT, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover, and 2 steals. There's a slight difference there in favor of Roberson, but I don't see how it's worth literally losing a man on the offensive end.
- No Perry Jones or Jeremy Lamb. I just hang my head in an exasperated sigh.
- Not enough trips to the line. There wasn't a lot wrong with OKC's offense tonight, but if they had just been a tad more aggressive about getting to the basket, it could have pushed the game in their favor. I mean, they were 6 below their season average.
- Dirk absolutely torched us. There's no way around it. KD wasn't particularly effective in guarding him, but Dirk was hitting a lot of unguardable shots. Dirk also did an excellent job of faking out Ibaka and Collison in the open court earlier in the game, nabbing him some easy points. I don't have all of Dirk's failed post-ups handy, but I do remember Reggie Jackson (and his ridiculous 7'0" wingspan) stopping Dirk on three separate occasions. Maybe a change of strategy is in order? (Lol.)
- Jose Calderon went 6-9 from three. I re-watched all of his attempts. Westbrook was definitely responsible for two of them, but the rest were just really good shots. Really, he was just feeling it.
There's some good news to be found here, though. Our fringe stars didn't fall flat on their faces, and some role players were outta their shoes. Specifically, Derek Fisher and Nick Collison were in veteran playoff form, executing some very solid plays. You know, stuff that's fundamentally sound and makes you nod your head, but won't find its' way onto the highlight reel. Reggie Jackson was effective, and as tactically sound as ever. Ibaka had trouble finding his range and presence on the boards, but he was still efficient, shooting 5-9. Even Caron Butler finished the night efficiently, despite continuing to miss open threes.
Anyway, we're bound to take losses like this. The Thunder are still smarting from the loss of their two starters, their star point guard is still recovering, and their coach doesn't quite know what to do with his rotation. Besides, Dallas is fighting for their playoff lives. They're a bunch of veterans going through a time where every season could be their last, and they just might have more fire in their bellies right now.
Appropriately, the win keeps Dallas a half game above the Phoenix Suns for the eighth seed in the West. The loss puts OKC 2.5 games back of San Antonio for the West lead, and leaves them with only a two game cushion over the third seeded Clippers.
When summing up this game, I think Russell Westbrook said it best:
Media: Going into overtime against this team, the back and forth, the momentum switches, did it feel like 2011 at all? From the playoffs, when these two teams played?
Westbrook: No. No, I mean, that's a different atmosphere. A different type of level of basketball. So, no.
"A Different Type of Level of Basketball". I'm sure that's what the Mavericks will see from the Thunder, should tonight's game earn a playoffs grudge match. I'm not worried yet.
- Hasheem Thabeet was inactive for the second straight night, despite the team having an open roster spot. Again, I can't find an explanation as to why.
- KD's streak of 25 point games is now at 36. Four away from Jordan!
- Should the Thunder not re-sign him to another 10 Day Contract, this was Mustafa Shakur's final game on the roster.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, the human scoring machine
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook, everyone's favorite madman
Thunder Blunder: Andre Roberson and his 0fer.
Thunder Plunderer: Dirk Nowitzki, whom the Thunder have no answer for at full strength
Next Game: Versus the Sacramento Kings, Friday, March 28th, 7 PM Central Standard Time