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Thunder vs Mavericks, final score: Westbrook’s 4th quarter run silences short-handed Dallas, 109-98

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This game shouldn’t have mattered.

via Bennett Berry

box score | Mavs Moneyball

The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Dallas Mavericks at home 109-98, their third consecutive win in a row, and bringing the Thunder to 9 games over .500. In a game that ought to have been decided by the early 2nd quarter, instead the Thunder failed to put forth a concentrated effort, which required Russell Westbrook’s theatrics in the 4th to seal the win.

The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one other such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.

— Plutarch, Life of Pyrrhus

If you want to have a great example of a Pyrrhic victory in the NBA, then this game was it. The Mavs left home all of their big guns (Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, and the biggest of them all, J.J. Barea). The Thunder were fully stocked and ready to close out this hellacious month of January against two of the league’s best in the Cavaliers and Spurs, where a possible (if unlikely) split over the final two would actually give them a winning record for the month. It is in situations like this where I appreciate the Spurs the most, because instead of needing a great game from any one player to win, they know that simple execution will bring them out on top. All it would take was one really sharp quarter surrounded by 3 quarters of basic competency, and the Thunder could move on.

Instead, we got a lazy first half, plagued by turnovers, almost no execution at all with the possible exception of one half of the 3rd quarter, an admittedly great 4th quarter from Westbrook (45-8-3-2) where he did a fantastic impression of 2006 Kobe (not really a compliment), we had a far too-close-for-comfort ending which required Russ’ effort, and most tragically, Enes Kanter, the human embodiment of “what color is this dress?” lost a fist fight to a folding chair, which will likely keep him out of the lineup until April.

Pyrrhic indeed.

Random notes

  • Westbrook did a pretty good Stephen Curry impression in the 4th, and in front of Steph’s brother, Seth Curry, to boot. I didn’t love the fact that OKC needed it, but it was impressive all the same.
  • This was a game where the Thunder’s primary action sets were dying for some secondary action. The Mavs, without most of their starters, were defending the primary action well. They stopped the pick and roll, kept the ball out of the hands of the Thunder bigs, and denied the corner-3. But instead of the Thunder rotating the ball into secondary action, they kept forcing it and turned the ball over a lot, especially in the 1st half.
  • Cam Payne update - he is starting to put me in a bad place mentally, where I am now starting to expect him to make dumb plays (like that turnover where he tried to throw a TD pass on the break to Kanter over the top of 3 defenders). I do wonder - does Cam realize that he was just thoroughly outplayed by a 2nd round draft pick that is playing on a 10-day contract?
  • All OKC really needed to do in this game was continue to attack the paint, just like they did against the Pelicans, and they would have fouled out half of the Mavs who suited up. OKC did get to the FT line 36 times, but it could have been so much more.
  • I remarked this to RK Anthony during the game - how is it that a bad team like the Mavs can still have better 3-point shooters than the Thunder?
  • All things considered, it was nice to see a decent 3rd quarter out of the Thunder.
  • Pure grain alcohol, in case you were wondering.

Next game: @ Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday, Jan. 28th at 2:30PM CST.