Thunder outlast Dallas in an overtime thriller, 111-105

BOX SCORE

Some games, man. Some games.

First, the Thunder looked like they were going to fall flat on bouncing back from the Miami loss and drop an unusual third straight game. Then it looked like they were about to steal one they really had no business winning. Then it looked like the Mavs were going to do the same when Darren Collison hit that alley-oop buzzer-beating 3-pointer to send it to overtime.

Waves upon waves upon waves of emotions.

But someone had to win. And in the end, it was the Thunder who had the horses. Plural. Because the extra ones in the stable came through big when it mattered.

For instance, in a game full of insane things, here was maybe the craziest: Kevin Durant, who was flat spectacular, had 40 points and was very clearly in one of those KILL KD KILL modes, but didn’t score a single point in overtime. Russell Westbrook, who was struggling all over the place in what was set to be maybe his worst overall game of the season, scored eight of his 16 in the extra frame, outscoring the Mavs by himself.

Think about that: The Thunder won an overtime game where KD didn’t score in overtime.

“To be honest, I don’t know man,” Durant said chuckling when asked about that. “I just always trust my teammates and they came up big. K-Mart was really big. Russ was unbelievable in the second half and overtime. I guess I ran out of gas a little bit there. But that was a group effort.”

That effort started with Westbrook, who was lacking plenty of it early on. Unless you watched it, it’s hard to describe the turn of events. Westbrook was genuinely awful for almost four quarters. He couldn’t hit anything and he was either sulking or unfocused on the defensive end as his former UCLA backcourt buddy torched him time and again in the pick-and-roll. Westbrook was so bad defending Collison I actually wondered out loud if the Thunder should go with Reggie Jackson down the stretch. For real. I actually said that.

“He was just frustrated with himself,” Durant said about Westbrook. “I think that he let it take over him a little bit. We all do it. I do it, everybody does it. But he just let it go and came out there and made some really, really big plays on the defensive end and in overtime really took over. Before the ball tipped I told him this was his time and he came out there and responded and made some big plays.”

In typical Westbrook fashion, he bounced back. He kept competing, kept playing, kept trying to impact the game. He has that crazy knack for making big plays in big moments. It started with him sparking a run in the fourth with a handful of assists, finding Thabo for a couple 3s, Durant on some kickouts and Kevin Martin for a few open looks. Then he made a massive defensive play late in regulation, stripping O.J. Mayo with OKC up one with seven seconds left.

And then overtime. Maybe all it took for Westbrook was to see the ball go in once. The Thunder executed a little slip play perfect and Westbrook got an easy two at the rim. Then he put OKC on top, 105-104, drilling one of the more reluctant jumpshots I’ve ever seen from him. He had a clean baseline look as Dirk sagged deep off him, but Westbrook hesitated twice before finally deciding to take it. He knew he was struggling and though he wouldn’t admit it postgame, for once in his life, he really didn’t want to shoot it. But he’s Russ, so he did.

And it dropped, and from that point on, it was Westbrook’s game. A steal and a layup and a couple clutch free throws and the Thunder walked away with some kind of an improbable, unlikely win.

“That’s what Russell does,” Scott Brooks said. “He’s a competitor. He fights.”

Even when you think that for once, the player that gives more and plays with more heart than anyone, was taking a night off, he shows up. Like Scotty said, you can’t ever count out Russell Westbrook. He just makes things happen, he just keeps playing, he just tries to win. That’s just what Russell does.

NOTES:

  • The Thunder crowd tonight was like a Hasheem Thabeet tweet. All caps. In overtime when Mayo stepped to the line with three free throws and a chance to tie, it was that kind of loud where you feel it. Like when you forgot to turn down your radio and then you start your car at 6:30 in the morning and it rattles your ear drums. Mayo missed the first two, basically just antagonizing the crowd on to make even more noise.
  • The Thunder went 1-10 from 3 in the first half. But 9-15 in the second and overtime. Important.
  • Kudos to Brooks on his late game lineup choices. He went small for almost the entire fourth and overtime with Westbrook, Martin, Thabo, Durant and Ibaka. Why does he do this against the Mavs and not the Heat? A great mystery unknown to men, women an children everywhere, but he did it tonight, and it worked great.
  • Related to that lineup choice, Brooks played Kendrick Perkins only 23 minutes, with only 8:46 of it coming in the second half. Brooks clearly saw what was working against Dallas and what wasn’t. Perk has defended Dirk well in the past, but with Dirk not himself and the Mavs not running things exclusively through him, Brooks was able to utilize Ibaka and Durant much more as his bigs.
  • Raise your hand if you thought Darren Collison was going to hit a six-pointer on the Mavs last OT possession.
  • Brooks on Westbrook: “I tell him to never pass up an open shot. I have complete confidence in him.”
  • I ragged on Westbrook a bit, especially his defense, and I think he deserved it because his first three quarters were brutal. I can’t get one play out of my mind: Early third, Westbrook was screened and instead of making any kind of effort to get through it, he just stood completely still as Collison strolled to the rim for a layup. It was embarrassing effort. I’m sure that one will be fun in the film session tomorrow.
  • I found it interesting that while Martin is OKC’s designated technical foul shooter even with Durant on the floor, when OKC is trying to close a game at the line, the ball goes to KD.
  • Let’s all take a moment to recall that Derek Fisher was starting over Darren Collison a little over a week ago.
  • You might be wondering why in a game so much about Russell Westbrook, why there aren’t really any Russell Westbrook quotes. It’s because he almost went out of his way to say nothing after the game. He was almost next level in his one-word, non-answers. At the end of his interview session, he was asked about Darren Collison’s game maybe being the best of his career and Westbrook snapped back saying, “He probably did. We won though. Have a good day.” And as he walked away, for some reason said very loudly, “God damn, man,” either frustrated with the question about Collison, or the fact he had to give three minutes of his time to the media.
  • Serge Ibaka was a monster. He had a double-double in the first half (the first time he’s ever done that in his career) and finished with 19 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks. Late in the fourth, he rebounded two straight OKC misses to create extra possessions.
  • There’s this lady that yells, “COME ON RUSSSSSELLLLLLLLLLLLL” crazy loud every time he shoots a free throw. When he misses, I’m CONVINCED it’s her fault.
  • The sequence KD blocked Collison, then turned around and took it full court for a dunk. KD giveth, and he taketh away.
  • Thabo started the game 0-4 from 3, but hit two big ones in the fourth. And his defense on Mayo was terrific.
  • Darren Collison was chewing OKC up but in the early fourth, Nick Collison got switched on him and naturally, put the locks on.
  • Perk gets stopped on easy dunks too often and it appears to me it’s because he doesn’t go up with any force. It takes him forever to get off the floor and when he finally does, he’s not exploding to go power down a dunk.  One thing though is Perk gets very little respect from officials around the basket. I assume it’s because what he does looks so funky, but he gets hit a lot without a whistle.
  • KD has started this thing where he spanks himself after big shots. After this game, his butt’s going to be red for a week.
  • KD played 49 of 53 minutes tonight.
  • The Mavs turnover where Dirk ran up behind Mayo and kicked it away from him — that was pretty much the worst.
  • Perk’s lack of rebounding is a lot his own fault, but in his defense, Ibaka and Durant really take away a lot of them from him.
  • It seems to me the Thunder are involving Martin much more in crunchtime situations. He hit an underratedly big 3 early in overtime and was part of multiple possessions. I asked Martin if he was feeling that too. “It’s going to change different games. Teams are always going to try and take us all out but you can’t do that because they’re going to get sucked in on rotations. The old saying it, they’ve got to pick their poison.” Which is exactly right. Because it’s absolutely batty not to involve a player with the kind of offensive talent Martin has. He’s proving that he’s a very clutch shot-maker and I think Westbrook and Durant’s trust in him is rapidly growing.
  • I think the next Russell Westbrook shirt we make is just going to be a silhouette of him holding his face.
  • Scott Brooks was Big Haircut tonight.
  • Oh hey, Reggie Jackson in the backup point guard right now. Brooks said before the game Jackson is going to get an extended look over an unknown number of games. And I thought he played pretty well. He hit a couple big 3s, and while he wasn’t especially noteworthy in his 11 minutes, I think he posed much more of a threat to opposing defenders. He was at least someone they had to guard.

Next up: At Houston on Saturday.

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