OKLAHOMA CITY — When Dallas has taken on Oklahoma City this season, the Mavericks haven’t looked like a team fighting to reach .500. In the two previous matchups, the Mavericks lost both, but the Thunder had to go into overtime each time.
However, the Mavs reverted back to form of sorts Monday in the teams’ third meeting. The Thunder dominated from the opening tip and rolled to a 112-91 victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Despite going over the 100-point mark for the 35th time this season, it was the Thunder’s defense that had the players looking at the stat sheets. They forced 14 turnovers and racked up 25 fastbreak points.
“Key was coming out with a defensive mindset. I think tonight was just one of those nights we came out locked up and let the offense take care of itself,” Russell Westbrook said. “I think we did a good job defensively of playing together and getting out on break. Just getting stops. Then we forced a lot of turnovers, and that gave us an opportunity to get transition points.”
Westbrook led all scorers with 24 points and added seven assists and three steals. Kevin Durant scored 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting, and he pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds. Durant’s scoring average against the Mavs this year dropped from 46 points per game to 37.
“Kevin leads the NBA in scoring and he can easily do it for many years,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “But that’s not Kevin’s focus. He’s committed to winning basketball games.”
Kevin Martin added 17 points off the bench for the Thunder (36-12).
Shawn Marion paced Dallas (20-28) with 23 points. However, after collecting 28 rebounds in his previous two games, he was held to only one board against the Thunder. Dirk Nowitzki shot 3-for-11 and scored 10 points.
In the opening period, the Mavs kept the game tight behind the play of Marion. The veteran forward hit four of five shots and blocked two Dallas shots.
However, when the Thunder began to insert its bench with 2:20 left in the first, it went on a 22-6 run to take a 44-28 lead. The Oklahoma City reserves were able to get into the passing lanes and come up with steals that turned into fastbreak points.
Without Vince Carter, who was ill, the Mavericks were missing a vital scoring punch off the bench. Coach Rick Carlisle hoped the other reserves would be able to pick up the slack.
“When we substituted, we struggled,” Carlisle said. “Not having Vince out there was a big factor.”
It didn’t get any better when the Thunder starters came back into the game. Durant and Westbrook kept the pressure on as the Mavs started to lose their composure. Dallas’ O.J. Mayo and Jae Crowder exchanged shoves and stares with Kendrick Perkins and the entire Thunder bench. Oklahoma City led 68-44 at halftime, setting a team scoring high for a half this season.After its loss in Cleveland on Saturday, the Thunder seemed to need a game like this.
“The last couple of weeks, it has been a little choppy at times,” Brooks said. “One of the things we do is work. Our guys work every night. It’s not always pretty. It’s not always perfect. But for the most part, they compete every time down the court.”