In a game that was up for grabs, the Dallas Mavericks once again couldn’t find a way to close the game out as they suffered a 107-101 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Clearly, Dallas got the getting while the getting was good. The Mavericks are 1-11 against the Thunder since beating Oklahoma City in the 2011 Western Conference finals, including last season’s sweep in the first round of the playoffs. Dallas has lost their last 10 games against their northern I-35 rivals.
Oklahoma City’s stars shined brightly against Dallas. Russell Westbrook totaled a game-high 35 points to go along with six rebounds, a game-high six assists and two steals in 37 minutes. Kevin Durant scored 19 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter. He added nine boards and two blocks in 39 minutes.
Dirk Nowitzki made his first eight shots of the game (including his first three 3-point field goal attempts) and recorded 23 points and seven rebounds in 34 minutes against the Thunder. He scored 20-plus points for the seventh time in his last 13 games (10th time this season). Nowitzki finished 8-of-10 (.800) from the field. With the loss, the Mavericks moved to 12-1 all-time when Nowitzki shoots at least 80 percent from the field (minimum 10 field goal attempts). The story of the game will be the fact that Dirk didn’t take a single shot from the field in the entire fourth quarter. His last field goal attempt came with 2:25 left in the third quarter. He wasn’t calling for the ball on every possession, the Thunder tried to blanket him and no one on the Mavericks really could deliver him the ball.
The injury bug once again landed on Roddy Beaubois. After a nice string of games leading up to the game against the Thunder, Beaubois exited the game after fracturing the second metacarpal in his left hand during the second quarter. He is out indefinitely. If the injury is a season-ending one, with free agency looming, this could be the last time Roddy wears a Dallas uniform.
Some notes before the quotes:
- Mike James recorded a season-high 14 points to go along with three rebounds and four assists in 33 minutes (previous high: 13 points vs. Milwaukee Mar. 12). He went 2-of-3 from 3-point range and has now made at least one trey in each of his last nine games. James has shot 18-of-39 (.462) from 3-point range over his last nine games. He is averaging 9.4 points and 4.1 assists in that span.
- With a steal (his 955th career) at the 7:23 mark of the first quarter, Nowitzki passed Jason Kidd (954) for second place on the Mavericks’ all-time steals list. Nowitzki intercepted a pass thrown by Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and then finished with a dunk on the fast break (from O.J. Mayo). Derek Harper is Dallas’ all-time leader with 1,551 career thefts.
- Elton Brand made his 17th start of the season (847th career) against Oklahoma City on Sunday. It was his first start since Feb. 1 at Phoenix. The Mavericks’ starting lineup on Sunday featured Jae Crowder, Dirk Nowitzki, O.J. Mayo, Mike James and Brand. Dallas used its 21st starting lineup of the season against the Thunder.
Here is the quoteboard for Dallas’ loss to Oklahoma City.
On the Mavericks’ possession when the game was tied 101-101: “We could have done better [against their defense]. They were doing a lot of switching. We got up against the clock. Didn’t do a good job. It was a tough possession.”
On Dirk Nowitzki not getting many fourth quarter shots: “We didn’t do a good job. I take responsibility for it. A few times they fouled him before he could get a shot off. He got to the free throw line two or three times. When they get into all of that switching and denying, sometimes other guys have got to step up and make plays, and we weren’t able to make plays.”
On rebounding: “It’s always tough because it’s chances they get that you don’t get. They had a flurry of offensive rebounds early in the game which hurt us. They had 12 to our 8, a difference of four. Second-chance points were 11 to 5. There’s the difference if you want to look at it that way. Rebounding is something we’ve got to keep working on. We have to get it done collectively because we’re not the tallest and most athletic team but we’ve got to be the most persistent.”
On Roddy Beaubois’ injury: “I don’t know what to say. I feel very bad for him. He has been putting the work in. He’s been playing well. This is a game where we needed him. He’s had some bad luck with his injuries. We just hope we can get back.”
On the psyche of the team: “We’re disappointed we lost … We’ve just got to rise above it. We’ve got to get on a plane and go to Atlanta. We’ve got to put it all out there (Monday) night. That’s where we’re at.”
On the loss: “Yeah they just made more plays down the stretch. We had Durant under control for about 75% of the game. He just came up big and hit some big shots. Westbrook hit some big shots at the end of the game. They scored and we didn’t. We fought well and we were right there.”
On being unable to get over the hump with the Thunder: “Yeah it’s disappointing. Our fans were here loud and proud and had the house rocking. We really needed this win and we couldn’t pull it out. We were just so close. It’s definitely disheartening. They just played better down the stretch and we didn’t.”
The lack of touches for Dirk: ‘Yeah it’s tough. Dirty was 8 for 10 and was hot and we got to find a way to get him the ball, but their defense took it out of his hands. If they’re going to do that, we have to make some plays.”
On the game against Atlanta: “We have to dig deep. This is a game that could make or break the season. We have to step up (Monday).”
On if Dirk is shooting enough in the fourth quarter: “He makes the right play. He knows teams are double-teaming him and trying to take the ball out of his hands. One thing he’s been great at is making teams pay and putting the onus on us … (The media) is going to have their opinion on it but against good defensive teams, that’s what good defensive teams do. They try to take it out of the best player’s hand and make other guys make plays.”
On the lack of shots in the fourth quarter: “They were just hugging me on the weak side and basically saying we don’t even want him to catch the ball. That’s an adjustment a lot of teams make. I still think we were right there. I don’t think that’s why we lost the game. We were scoring enough there in the fourth. We just couldn’t get stops anymore really.”
On Roddy’s injury: “I feel bad for the kid. It’s just sad, so many injuries … It’s tough. We feel bad for him.”
On if he needs to force the issue more and demand the ball: “I don’t want to start taking bad shots, obviously. I didn’t see that we were really struggling offensively three, four or five times down. I think that’s the time we need to force something.”
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.