The Norman Transcript

December 28, 2012

Westbrook leads Oklahoma City in final minutes

By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript

OKLAHOMA CITY — For three and a half quarters, it looked like Kevin Durant was going to have to do it alone. Facing a feisty Dallas squad, the three-time scoring champ had to carry Oklahoma City for most of the night.

But when the game was in the balance, Russell Westbrook finally woke up to help lead the Thunder to a 111-105 overtime victory over the Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“That’s what Russell does,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He’s a competitor. He fights. He didn’t have a good first half. He kept fighting for the team.”

The win ended a two-game losing streak for the Thunder (22-6), but it didn’t come without its share of drama.

Oklahoma City trailed 104-103 with 1:04 left in overtime. Westbrook, who was having a horrible shooting night, knocked down a jumper over Dirk Nowitzki to give the Thunder a one-point advantage.

Dallas’ O.J. Mayo attempted to throw a cross-court pass to Darren Collison, but Westbrook came out of nowhere for the steal and layup. The Thunder led 107-104 with 42 seconds remaining.

Mayo tried to answer with a 3-pointer that was off the mark, but he was fouled by Kevin Martin. Mayo made just one of three free throws. Westbrook was fouled, and made both of his attempts to put the game away for Oklahoma City.

“Just playing my game,” Westbrook said. “Stayed aggressive throughout the whole game. Sometimes shots are going to fall. Sometimes they are not. But I know if I continue to play the right way offensively and defensively, something good is going to happen.”

Westbrook scored 16 points on 7-of-20 shooting to go along with 10 assists, six rebounds and three steals. Serge Ibaka added 19 points and 17 rebounds for Oklahoma City.

But it was Durant who shouldered most of the scoring load as he poured in 40 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots. He was 4 for 8 from behind the arc and hit every big shot until Westbrook found his game.

“He scored the ball tonight,’ Brooks said. “He put himself in position catching the ball, playing with force.”

Collison paced Dallas (12-17) with 32 points on 13-for-22 shooting. He hit all four of his 3-point attempts. Mavericks center Chris Kaman chipped in with 17 points and eight rebounds, and Shawn Marion added 14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. In his second game back Nowitzki hit 3 for 11 for 9 points and grabbed six boards.

Dallas has now lost four games in a row, but players believe they can learn from how they played against the defending Western Conference champions.

“We try to take all the positives we can from this loss,” Marion said. “I think this was one that we let slip through our fingers. We’ve still got to learn from it and go home tomorrow against a good Denver team and try to stop the bleeding.”

With Oklahoma City trailing by nine heading into the fourth quarter, Durant almost single-handedly cut the lead down to 95-94. Then, with 1:57 left, he hit a jump hook over Vince Carter to give the Thunder their first lead since early in the first quarter.

After a couple of empty trips by both teams, Dallas had a chance to take the lead back with 15 seconds remaining. Mayo got the ball and tried to drive into the lane, but Westbrook came up with a steal.

Durant knocked down two free throws to put Oklahoma City ahead 98-95. Dallas called a timeout and got the ball at half court.

With 2.2 seconds left, Marion threw a pass to Carter, who was unable to handle it. Marion rushed in and knocked the ball to Collison, who threw up a shot in one motion and attempted a game-tying 3-pointer. It went in and sent the game into overtime.

Michael KinneyFollow me @eyeamtruthmkinney@normantranscript.com

 

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