The Oklahoma City Thunder closed out 2017 by welcoming the Dallas Mavericks to the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Russell Westbrook notched his 12th triple-double of the season, but the Thunder came up short against the hot-shooting Mavs, 116-113.
Paul George returned to the lineup after a one-game absence, but the Thunder were without Andre Roberson due to a knee injury. The absence of Roberson's defense was felt tonight, as the Thunder defense did not seemed to be locked in for the full 48.
The Thunder jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead, getting out in transition and getting easy layups for Steven Adams. However, after a Mavs timeout, their refocused offense began to click on all cylinders. Harrison Barnes found his shooting stroke early, Wesley Matthews got some easy looks, and Dennis Smith, Jr. was able to set up his teammates while finding offense for himself. The Mavs scored 35 points in the opening quarter to take an early lead.
Despite the efficient first quarter for the Mavs, the Thunder offense still has firepower. So while the Thunder were not getting many stops defensively, the offense was matching the Mavs step for step. At the midway point of the second quarter, the Thunder trailed 44-41 and then closed out the quarter scoring 22 points. Westbrook was getting to basket at will and Melo scored 11 in the quarter. The Thunder led 63-57 at the halftime break.
In the second half, the Thunder's defense did not show any signs of improvement and did not make any defensive adjustments. The Mavs continued to get easy looks at the rim and open shots from the perimeter. Both teams did not have defensive answers for the other. The score was tied at 75 when Devin Harris hit two 3's and Salah Mejri had a couple easy layups at the rim to make the score 82-77. The Thunder responded with a 9-2 run to end the quarter, capped by a layup in transition by Terrance Ferguson. The Thunder led 85-84 after three quarters.
The Thunder and Mavericks were locked in a back-and-forth exchange for much of the 4th quarter. The Thunder held a five point lead early in the 4th but the Mavs tied the game within a minute.
They exchanged leads and ties throughout the quarter, no teams truly gaining the upper hand on the other. Westbrook nailed a jumper to give the Thunder the lead at 104-102, then Matthews hit a three to give the Mavs the lead right back. The rookie Smith put his stamp on the game scoring 11 points in the final 1:30 of the game, including two 3's. The Mavs had 115-110 lead when George was fouled on a three, he made all three free throws to pull them with 2. Smith made 1 of 2 free throws and the Thunder had a chance to tie the game. Both of Westbrook's three point attempts and the Mavs came away with the W.
The Thunder shot 48% from the field and hit 10 threes on the night. They won the rebound battle 45-36 but lost in the paint, 46-34. The Thunder also shot 17 of 23 from the free throw line (74%). The Mavs, however, had 26 assists against just 8 turnovers. Also, the Mavs shot 51% from the field. The Thunder still had many chances to win even with the Mavs efficiency.
Barnes led the Mavs with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Smith scored 19 points along with 5 rebounds and 6 assists.
Westbrook had another MVP-type outing with 38 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists. George put in 25 points and Melo scored 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting.
The Thunder close 2017 with a 20-17 record. The push in December really opened many fans eyes to what this team has the potential to be, but they’re still not quite there yet. The Thunder will open up 2018 on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers.