In what was perhaps the most satisfying win of the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have overcome the rival Dallas Mavericks, 117-114. The Mavericks came into tonight riding a 6 game win streak, and had the game tied with 1:15 to go. But Russell Westbrook was the hero for the Thunder, scoring twice in the final 62 seconds of the game. It was a fitting end to an extremely efficient night from Westbrook. 54% from the field, 31 points, 11 assists, and 5 steals are definitely stats worth writing home about. Westbrook did have 7 turnovers as well, but meh.
Westbrook wasn't the only positive for the Thunder tonight, though. Serge Ibaka was finally able to find his groove, scoring 16 points on 53% shooting. Dion Waiters was right behind him, contributing 14 points on 41% shooting. Most importantly, both Waiters and Ibaka were able to contribute to the effort down the stretch. It doesn't stop there though, because the Thunder's bench had an extremely good night offensively as well. Morrow, Kanter, and Collison all hit double digits and were over 50% from the floor. In general, it was just a great night for sharing the ball on offense, as the Thunder assisted 25 times on 47 makes.
The Mavericks had a real team effort on their end, with all five of their starters finishing the game in double digits. Deron Williams led the way with 20 points and 2 of 2 shooting from three. Wes Matthews was right behind Williams, scoring 18 and shooting 4 of 10 from three himself. As a team, the Thunder allowed the Mavericks to shoot 53% from three, despite Dallas coming into the game shooting 32% on average.
Still, it was a good defensive effort from the Thunder. OKC was able to force Dallas into 17 turnovers, four over their average of 13. The Thunder were also able to win the offensive rebounding battle, 14-9. Lastly, the Thunder were able to capitalize on their opportunities more, scoring 21 fast break points and 17 second chance points. By contrast, the Mavs had 14 fast break points and 9 second chance points.
Waiters was key in the clutch, but flawed overall
Dion Waiters was hot today, scoring 14 points on 12 shots. It wasn't the greatest efficiency in the world, but Waiters was so timely with when he was able to score. Seven of Waiters points came during the first, all of them unassisted and within his matchup. Big part of OKC's 6 point first quarter lead. Then, Waiters was essential in the clutch. With 3:27 to go in the fourth, Waiters hit a corner three on a gorgeous pass from Westbrook. With 2:18 to go, Waiters stole the ball from Deron Williams and ran the length of the court for a layup.
Donovan, on Dion Waiter's Defense: "I thought it was a game for Dion where he lost a couple of guys for some threes. But the biggest thing with Dion is seeing his effort, his energy out there. In the Knick game, with the way they were running offense, [Dion] had to play a lot of 1 on 1 defense. In and around the basket on the follow. He guarded Carmelo in a lot of iso situations at the elbows, in the short corner area. [Tonight] was a different game because [Dion] was run off a lot more screens. A couple times [Dion] got sucked in trying to help on drives and they threw it back to his man. I think that's something [Dion] will get better and improve on. "
Here are the three possessions where Dion clearly gave up a three. There was another made three by Wes Matthews, but I didn't count it because Dion had to guard the paint in transition.
Donovan's lineup chess
I really like the lineup Donovan used to close the third quarter. Kanter-Collison-Roberson-Morrow-Westbrook. It worked well for this game specifically, because the Mavericks were constantly playing with two smaller guards. That meant Morrow's size wasn't an issue, and his speed was an advantage. Collison and Roberson were the defensive anchors of the lineup, while Kanter and Westbrook were the offensive engines. When it was all said and done, this lineup was +11 in the final 5:25 of the third. The Westbrook-Kanter pick and roll was effective, and I love how Morrow was able to score when given a little bit of space.
Morrow's positive momentum carried into the fourth quarter, where the Thunder had to survive five minutes without Russell Westbrook. Donovan decided to go with the same lineup he used to close the third quarter with, except with D.J. Augustin at point guard. The move worked out, as Augustin and Kanter worked well in the pick and roll. Even a Collison/Morrow two man game was able to generate points. That kept the Thunder even, and allowed the starters to close. If the bench could play this way every night without Kevin Durant, the Thunder's record would be much better. I honestly think it's a result of having a backcourt of Augustin-Morrow-Roberson that's willing to share the ball, along with Collison in the frontcourt. Kanter only gets the ball in scoring position, so he can't take over possessions like a guard can.
Cameron Payne gets time
Payne got some minutes. Here's why, from Donovan: "Going into the game, we knew [the Mavs] were going to play three point guards at some times. When the Mavs went with Barea, Felton, and Williams, we felt we could give Cameron an opportunity to play a little bit. It was probably a better matchup for Cameron than it was for Kyle in that game." I did some digging on the Popcorn Machine, and found that the Mavericks never played Barea, Felton, and Williams together at any point tonight. Two of the three were on the floor during every point of Payne's second quarter playing time, though.
Overall, you have to like what Payne brought to the game. Payne worked around screens well, hitting a jumper and finding Ibaka in the paint. There was even a play where Payne managed to steal the ball from J.J. Barea, but went just a bit too far trying to run it out. Still, there will be growing pains with Payne. Defensively, Payne was beaten by a bigger guard more than once. Offensively, Payne made a couple of errors, taking a contested three early in the shot clock and shooting into a double-team. But the potential is clearly there.
- At the end of the first half, the Thunder had produced exactly half of their points in the paint.
- Upon entering the game in the first quarter, JaVale McGee was able to score on three straight possessions. It was Kanter's defense at it's worst, as McGee's athleticism left Kanter reeling in the pick and roll. But McGee wasn't able to replicate that success in the third quarter, wasting a couple of offensive possessions by going 0 for 2 at the line and fumbling a pass. Meanwhile, Kanter finished with 12 points. You win some, you lose some.
- Dwight Powell also had a big run against Kanter in the second quarter, scoring three times in four possessions. But this time, it wasn't really Kanter's fault. Augustin and Payne were getting beaten on the perimeter, and Kanter had to step up to stop the guard. This left Powell open for easy points. In the third, Powell was able to score five points by pick and popping, as well as getting the slower Nick Collison to foul him. Despite being ridiculously efficient offensively, Powell hardly saw the floor for the Mavs during the fourth quarter.
- Serge Ibaka was up against the ancient Dirk Nowitzki for most of the game, and took full advantage on offense. Six of Ibaka's 14 shots came inside the paint, which is a higher rate than usual. Nowitzki wasn't very physical with Ibaka defensively, which allowed Ibaka to face up pretty close to the rim. Ibaka was cash from mid-range as well, shooting 50% on eight attempts. It'd be nice if Ibaka could face this lack of defense from night to night.
- To begin the third quarter, the Mavericks scored on six straight possessions. If that wasn't enough, Dallas made it even worse by scoring on six of their next eight possessions after that. Most of that run was pick and popping, although there were a couple of nice weak-side cuts and transition plays as well. The good news is that the Thunder were doing a generally good job of protecting the rim and forcing outside shots. Then the Mavs bench came in, and the shooting cooled off. As a result, Dallas went to attacking the rim in the clutch. That didn't work out too well, as the Mavericks had only four makes on twelve attempts in the paint during the fourth quarter.
- On the Thunder's side of things, Ibaka and Waiters began the third quarter by wasting two possessions each. It was pretty typical stuff. Open missed three by Waiters. Carrying violation by Waiters. A pair of missed jumpers from Ibaka. Nonetheless, Westbrook continued to trust Ibaka and Waiters throughout the next few minutes. Waiters generated an assist around a screen, while Ibaka went on a Westbrook-fueled four point spurt. This was essential to building confidence going into the clutch, as both Ibaka and Waiters scored on key possessions in the final 3.5 minutes. Given that Westbrook wasn't as forgiving just this Friday against the Knicks, I give all the credit to Russ for making the better decision here.
- Zaza Pachulia was 1 of 4 from the free throw line in the last 3:09 of the fourth quarter. Given that the Mavs lost by three, it's gotta hurt. Still, the Thunder had their own late free throw woes. Steven Adams had a chance to seal the game, as he went to the free throw line with the Thunder up 3 with 24 seconds to go. But Adams missed both attempts.
- Westbrook sealed this game, no question about it. In the final 4:40, Westbrook scored or assisted upon six of the Thunder's seven baskets, including scoring the last three possessions himself. Those final sequences were amazing, too. Westbrook strips Dirk for the runout dunk. Westbrook abuses Barea on a post turnaround. Westbrook shoots over Pachulia on a perimeter mismatch.
- I saw a lot of trust between Adams and Westbrook in the pick and roll early. Adams hit a couple of nice flip shots, and scored at the rim on Waiters penetration. But Adams completely offensively disappeared during the second and third quarters, only registering a couple of assists. By the time Adams came on to close, he was a complete offensive afterthought. I feel like Adams has gotten out to strong starts before but become lost in the shuffle. Defensively, Adams held Pachulia to right around his double-double average, and was a big part of the Thunder's clutch paint stand.
- 6 assists from Nowitzki, 3 assists from Pachulia. Obviously, the Thunder were doing all they could to guard the initial shot.
- Nick Collison had an amazing game, both offensively and defensively. On offense, Collison had double digits for the first time this season. Collison was a great opportunist, spacing the floor for a couple of jumpers and getting great position for some tough scores next to the basket.
- Believe it or not, Charlie Villanueva had back to back threes with about 7 minutes to go in fourth quarter, on separate defenders. The first was on a sagging Collison, while the next was against Ibaka in a pick and pop.
- Dirk looked as if he might heat up in the late fourth, as he scored against Ibaka on back to back possessions with four minutes to go. But Dirk only got the ball once more, and was stripped by Westbrook.
- Donovan thinks this is the best game yet: "Of all the games we've played, this is probably the closest 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."
- Andre Roberson had decent defense at times tonight, and was 2 of 3 from three. No complaints here, and I hope he continues to get time.
- Kyle Singler only played 3 minutes.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, who distributed his shots beautifully
Thunder Down Under: Anthony Morrow, just cuz'
Thunder Blunder: Kyle Singler, 0-1 FG
Thunder Plunderer: Wesley Matthews, for all of those second half threes
Next Game: At the Utah Jazz, Monday, November 23rd, 8 PM Central Standard Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!