By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — The decision was made weeks ago. In games in which Oklahoma City played back to back games, Russell Westbrook was going to take a seat on the bench.
With the Thunder playing in Chicago Monday, they took the opportunity to rest Westbrook Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks. Already down two starters and facing a hungry team trying to stay in playoff contention , it was too much to overcome for even MVP candidate Kevin Durant as they fell to the Mavs 109-86 Sunday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The 23-points represented the largest margin of defeat for the Thunder this season, but it wasn’t enough to make the Thunder second guess resting their star point guard.
“The temptation doesn’t even go through our mind,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We have a plan and we’re going to stick with it.”
Regardless, it was a big win for Dallas, who snapped an 11-game losing streak to Oklahoma City and held onto their seventh place position in the Western Conference.
“This is a tough place to play,” Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki said. “Obviously, Westbrook getting the night off helped us. It’s really only a good thing if you win the game. I’ve played plenty of games in career before, where people were resting and we still lost. So it’s only an advantage if you take care of business.”
With Westbrook sitting out, the Oklahoma City offense ran through Durant much of the night.
However, the team didn’t respond like it had when Durant ran the offense during Westbrook’s injury absence. Oklahoma City found itself down by 21 heading into the fourth quarter.
No matter what Oklahoma City (48-18) tried, Dallas had an answer to rebuff any fourth-quarter rallies. From 3-pointers by Vince Carter to fade-away jumpers by Nowitzki, the Mavericks (40-27) scored at will to start the quarter and put the contest away early.
“Vince was hot tonight,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.
“We rode him in the third and fourth quarters. His shot making probably put the game away for us. He’s one of those guys that has the rare ability to rise up over people from deep, and hit two or three big ones.”
Shawn Marion paced the Mavs with 19 points. Carter came off the bench to score 18 points while Nowitzki added 17 on 6-of-12 shooting.
Jose Calderon had 16 points and seven assists.
Durant led all scorers with 30 points on 8-for-20 shooting. It was his 31st straight game of scoring at least 25 points.
Serge Ibaka added 19 points and six rebounds for the Thunder. Reggie Jackson, who started in Westbrook’s place, had 13 points and three assists.
Dallas came out firing from behind the arc in the first period. Led by Calderon, the Mavericks were 4-of-8 from 3-point range as they took a 29-23 lead.
After falling behind by 10, Durant and Ibaka picked up the scoring for the Thunder. They closed the deficit to 50-46 before Marion led Mavs on a 9-2 run to end the half.
“It seemed like we wasn’t there,” Durant said. “We were just coasting.
“There’s no excuse. You’ve got to figure it out. We’ve just got to do it. We’re pros.”
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