The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Dallas Mavericks in overtime to kick off their road trip, 111-110. Since I can’t write it any better than Katz, here you go:
Game over. Thunder lose by negative-1.— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) March 1, 2018
That about sums it up, doesn’t it?
The Thunder took an 11 point lead into the half and, once again, promptly squandered it in another ‘turd quarter’ where they were outscored by 10. At one point, the Mavericks announcer watched the Thunder move into an ‘offensive set’ and proposed something to the effect of, “I’m not sure the Thunder know what they’re doing here.” And that non sequitur is about as accurate as I could imagine. We’re 60 games into the regular season, and if OKC doesn’t know by now how to execute a basic offense against a Mavs defense which is only better than the 3 teams that have fewer wins than them, then they probably never will. Getting open shots against that kind of team should practically happen by accident, as at any given time Dallas was featuring Yogi Ferrell (small), J.J. Barea (smaller), and Dirk Nowitzki, who is 137 years old.
And yet OKC found themselves down 7 following a Dirkish dagger midway through the 4th quarter, and it appeared as if things were unraveling again. However, the Thunder showed just enough grit to move into the lead, only to see it tied at the buzzer with a Dwight Powell putback.
Dwight Powell's game tying layup at the buzzer! #MFFL pic.twitter.com/BFtSiyAVs4— NBA (@NBA) March 1, 2018
Heading into OT, the question was whether OKC would succumb again to a lottery team, or if they would tighten their defense just enough to turn the corner. Russell Westbrook, despite scoring 30 on the night with 11 rebounds and 7 assists, had been off since the 1st half. His shot disappeared in the 2nd half, where he was 0-8, missing all 5 of his 3-point attempts, and committed 5 of his 9 total turnovers. Yet despite all that, Russ had one final push in OT, shooting 3-3, including what proved to be a game winning and-one.
After a fun sequence where the two teams traded really suspect offensive fouls, the Mavs had one shot left, and OKC defended it well to escape with the 1 point win. Phew.
- Big props to Dirk, who hit the 31,000 point milestone. I’ve said this before about other players, but in the decades I’ve watched the NBA, there are lots of players I’ve forgotten. I will never, ever forget that I got to watch Dirk play at every stage of his long career, and enjoyed every minute of it.
Dirk Nowitzki, from HIS spot, with HIS shot.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) March 1, 2018
31,000 career points. pic.twitter.com/5Q9QzWECr5
- Game ball goes to Steven Adams, whose main contribution was to give OKC an overpowering edge in the one statistic that probably helped them win this game. They smashed Dallas on the glass, 56-36, including a 19-8 advantage on offensive rebounds.
- Carmelo Anthony was once again pretty bad, and he’s getting worse. Earlier in the year you could paint scenarios where he was providing scoring and not taking away too much on the other end, but that trend is veering sharply downward. If anything, he’s crossing into Alex Abrines territory where, unless he’s hitting shots, it’s difficult to find a reason to keep him in the game over Patrick Patterson. Yes, he hit a big 3 in the 4th during OKC’s comeback, and then scored what was almost the game winner posting up Dennis Smith Jr., but his inability to finish at the rim or draw fouls, now coupled with his cratering shooting percentage (37% overall, 35% from three in the month of Feb.) while still logging over 30 MPG (37 tonight) makes you wonder how much worse he has to get before Billy Donovan makes a move.
- And then there’s Russell Westbrook, who was even worse than that. I’m not sure what exactly happened weeks ago when OKC thrashed Golden State, but since then, he’s missed two games, and in the 6 games he has played, shot 35% from the floor, a jaw-dropping 8% from 3-point range, all the while committing 5.7 turnovers per game. And yet due to his sheer force of will, he’s still grabbing 11.7 rebounds and collecting 10.5 assists per outing (incredibly, he’s a rounding error away from averaging a triple-double for the year). My theory, and it isn’t a radical one — he’s still hurt. His balance is off, his handle is off, he’s not finishing at the rim and certainly not from long range, his passing is off and is trying to figure out whatever way he can to help the team win.
Westbrook's body language was odd tonight. Not much emotion, no arguing with the officials, no back-and-forth with any opponent or their bench.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) March 1, 2018
And this isn’t a good thing for OKC. Just like on defense with Andre Roberson, the offense is predicated — completely built upon — the idea that Westbrook can create open shots for all of his teammates. So as we watch the percentages fall off for Melo, Paul George, and the rest, keep in mind that they’re not getting the clean looks they were getting a few weeks ago.
- I guess this is the rare occasion where we can be thankful the Twitter is losing their minds over a 1st quarter James Harden 3-pointer to help us avoid thinking about this one too long. Heaven help us heading into Friday night against the machine-like precision of the Phoenix Suns.