The Oklahoma City Thunder barely had any business staying in this game, considering the lackluster effort they brought to the floor for the majority of its first three and a half quarters.
But while Dallas had the energy, they simply didn’t have the execution when it mattered most, and OKC pulled away in overtime for the 111-105 victory.
This was a game the Mavericks should have won, plain and simple.
Dallas was the aggressor essentially all night long, with Darren Collison leading the way from the point guard position. He took it to the Thunder at every opportunity, and finished with 32 pints, five rebounds, four assits, and four steals.
None of Collison’s shots were bigger than his ridiculous one-legged three-pointer as time expired in regulation that sent it to OT, but it was that kind of night for him personally, despite his team’s ultimately negative result.
The Thunder were clearly experiencing a bit of an emotional letdown, after losing the Finals rematch to the Heat on Christmas Day and facing a Mavericks team at home who they would have had no real reason to fear coming into this one.
But Dallas likely knew that they’d have more of a shot than normal if they simply brought it from the opening tip, and were able to take advantage of a Thunder team that was likely to coast through the game’s beginning stages.
The Thunder had no interest in exerting the necessary energy to defend for the majority of this game, but the overall talent present in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook proved to be more than enough to make up for the lack of effort initially.
While the Thunder shot just 40 percent from the field through three quarters, the Mavericks were in attack mode, and led by as many as 10 with under eight minutes to play in the fourth. But some costly turnovers and some missed free throws late from O.J. Mayo really hurt his team’s chances on this night, despite his All-Star caliber play that carried Dallas offensively while Dirk Nowitzki was making his way back from injury.
Dirk came off the bench for Dallas, and finished with just nine points on 3-of-11 shooting in 26 minutes of action.
Russell Westbrook didn’t have one of his better games offensively, and finished with 16 points on 7-of-20 shooting. But he seemed to find his way on the defensive end of the floor down the stretch, making some key plays which helped his team seal it.
Westbrook’s defense was enough to turn Mayo over twice with the game on the line — once near the end of regulation, and once near the end of the overtime session.
That’s the danger of the reigning Western Conference champions; the fact that they’ll find another way to beat you if their preferred method of transition offense isn’t having the success it’s accustomed to. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have Kevin Durant scoring a smooth 40 points in 48 minutes, either.
Dallas deserved to beat the Thunder on Thursday, but as is often the case with the league’s elite teams, the longer the game continues, the less favorable the chance for the underdog remains.
The effort to even get it to overtime was impressive from Collison and the Mavericks. But in order to beat one of the top teams on their home floor, you need to execute for 48 minutes. Dallas faltered in this department down the stretch, and the veteran and more talented Thunder simply took advantage.