The Oklahoma City Thunder (44-33) dropped their second straight on Sunday afternoon at Chesapeake Energy Arena, losing to the Luka Doncic-less Dallas Mavericks (30-46) by a final score of 106-103. In what turned out to be an exciting back-and-forth finish, the Thunder were unable to get the necessary stops to secure the victory. Russell Westbrook recorded a triple-double with 25 points (9/19 FG, 3/8 3P, 4/4 FT), 11 rebounds, 11 assists, and two steals. Paul George was the high-man for OKC with 27 points, and Steven Adams dominated the Mavericks’ frontcourt with 20 points and 15 rebounds. However, Trey Burke led the Mavericks with 25 points off the bench, Jalen Brunson added 18 points, and Dallas knocked down 16 three-pointers to win the season series with OKC by a 3-1 tally.
Staying on brand since the All Star break, the Thunder offense was laughable to start. The Thunder’s opening possession resulted in an airball three from Russell Westbrook, followed by point-blank misses at the rim over the next three possessions by George, Westbrook, and Adams. Oklahoma City’s first field goal didn’t come until three minutes in, having gone 0-of-7 from the floor before Adams converted a post-up over Dwight Powell. The Mavericks nailed five three-pointers in the quarter and led 31-24 after one.
With Dallas missing a majority of their backcourt, including rookie phenom Luka Doncic, that allowed some extended run for guys like rookie Brunson, Burke, and Devin Harris. The Mavericks got hot midway through the quarter with a barrage of threes by Harris and Powell en route to an 11-0 run, putting them up by as many as 14 points at the 5:05 mark. After the Thunder struggled out of the gate by going 2-of-14 from three, Westbrook answered the Dallas scoring run by hitting back-to-back triples. A transition corner three and a leak out layup on consecutive trips by George trimmed the Thunder deficit six, with a steal and acrobatic fast break layup by Westbrook closing the gap further. An emphatic dunk by Adams out of the pick-and-roll capped the 13-2 Thunder run to close the half, and the Thunder trailed by two at the break.
Jerami Grant’s first half struggles continued into the third quarter — after starting 2-of-10 from the floor, he was called for an offensive foul at the 9:38 mark, prompting Billy Donovan to tweak his lineup. Raymond Felton was inserted, as well as Dennis Schroder, shifting George to the four alongside Westbrook and Adams. Felton tied the game at 62 after sizing up Dirk Nowitzki with his mid-range jumper. The Thunder lead was four after a reverse layup by Adams over Powell, capping a 10-0 OKC scoring run. A Burke deep three with the clock approaching zero pushed the Mavericks advantage to 80-75 going into the fourth.
The Mavericks lead grew to nine after a questionable whistle on Adams put Brunson at the line at the 6:50 mark. The Thunder stormed back with a quick 7-0 run following Grant’s first three-pointer of the afternoon, bringing OKC to within two. Grant then nailed another three, and the Thunder trailed by one with 4:24 left to play.
George’s free throws with just under two minutes remaining put the Thunder on the high side 98-97, before yet another questionable call from the officials stopped the momentum. With the ball rolling out of bounds near midcourt, Westbrook was called for a loose ball foul, sending Brunson to the line with the Thunder in the bonus. The game was all tied up with 1:42 on the clock after Brunson split the pair. To make matters worse, Westbrook responded by way of jacking up a deep three-pointer from the top of the key early in the shot clock, an extremely ill-advised decision. Trey Burke’s layup put Dallas back in front, but George answered with a step-back triple, putting the Thunder up one with 1:09 remaining.
The Mavs quickly answered on a Brunson step-back jumper over Grant to put them up one with 49 seconds left. After three missed opportunities on the Thunder’s next trip down, Billy Donovan called a timeout with 34 seconds remaining. Donovan’s play call resulted in a beautiful basket cut by Grant who finished the layup, giving the Thunder the one-point advantage. The Thunder needed to string together a single stop to secure the victory, but George was beat badly off the dribble by Brunson who found Powell for the easy dunk with 21 seconds left after Adams was forced to help over.
The Thunder’s frenetic crunch time possession started with Westbrook nearly turning the ball over after he was unable to dump it off to Adams. Luckily, Adams saved the ball from going out of bounds, finding Schroder for a quality look from three that didn’t fall. Adams tapped the ball back to George who initially passed up a decent look, giving the ball back to Schroder, who immediately gave it right back to George. George’s three from the top of the key missed before Ryan Broekhoff secured the rebound with 4.2 seconds on the clock. A pair of Dallas free throws gave the Thunder one last Westbrook heave from deep, but it wasn’t meant to be. OKC remains eighth in the Western Conference with the loss.
Trip To Moron Mountain?: Since the All-Star break, the Thunder are dead last in field goal percentage and second-to-last in offensive rating. With a 38.8 field goal percentage today, those numbers will only get worse. Did the Thunder spend their All-Star break with the aliens from Space Jam? This looks like a completely different team than the one we saw early in the season.
Kiwi: Adams was a force to be reckoned with today, hauling in 15 rebounds and keeping Thunder possessions alive with his nine offensive boards. With the Thunder’s offense falling by the wayside since the All-Star break, this sort of effort out of the big man becomes that much more important. The Thunder would love to have this dominance on the glass for the postseason.
Mr. Triple Double: The Brodie notched his 30th triple-double of the season, resulting in an unusual loss for OKC. Westbrook paid homage to NBA legend Dirk Nowitzki with his one-legged baseline jumper in the third quarter, a sentimental sight with Nowitzki on the verge of retirement. Another efficient game for Russ with 47.4/37.5/100 shooting splits, who will certainly need to bring this efficiency with him into the postseason.
Finding His Groove: PG took a step in the right direction this afternoon, scoring 27 points on 5-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc. His second half slumps over the past two seasons leave reason for concern heading into the postseason, but today was a solid offensive performance for George. What may be most concerning was just how easily rookie Jalen Brunson beat George off the dribble with the Thunder needing one last stop in the closing seconds.
Next Question: Predictably, Westbrook was in no mood to talk about the loss after the game.