The Oklahoma City Thunder and their all-stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, came into Dallas undefeated at 5-0 but left out of sync and with their first loss as the Mavericks slowed the pace and used 26 Dirk Nowitzki points to win 100-87 Monday night.
The game began even, 20-20, after one quarter, but then the Mavericks used a big lineup to spark an early second quarter run, slow the game down and score with Nowitzki, their benc, and Shawn Marion (17 points, 6-8 second half shooting). The Thunder never had the lead again.
Nowitzki was involved in every major run for the Mavericks, who held the pace down to a season low (for both teams) 90 possessions on the night. The bigger lineup forced the Thunder into a halfcourt game and to settle for tough, contested shots that, despite 27 points for Durant, Oklahoma City couldn't make enough of to overcome Dirk and Dallas.
Dallas kept the Thunder at arm's length throughout. Even in the fourth quarter, when four straight Dallas turnovers allowed Oklahoma City to close the gap to eight, it was Nowitzki out of a timeout with 3:17 to go that made the off screen jumper and pushed the lead back out to double digits and put the game safely away.
The Mavs bench accounted for 47 of the team's 100 points and was led by Jason Terry, who had 15 points and three fourth quarter assists. Paying dividends in the big lineup off the bench for Dallas was Vince Carter (8-9 free throws attempted, 14 points) and Ian Mahinmi, who nearly produced a double-double (10 points, 9 rebounds) in his 21 minutes.
By contrast, after Durant, Westbrook and James Harden (23-52 shooting between the three), the rest of the Thunder shot 32 percent (8-25), allowing the Mavericks to enjoy a 49-40 field goal percentage advantage overall.
Mavs Moneyball tosses bouquets to Nowitzki for the win and suggests the now 2-4 Mavericks are rounding back into form:
As much as been made of the Mavs new additions and the offensive potential of all the new parts clicking together, the Mavs only go as far as Dirk Nowitkzi goes and tonight, Dirk went well. Everything the Mavericks want to do trickles down from how well Dirk operates on the low block and hit of pick and pops. Dirk looked like the 2011 playoff hero, hitting those silly fades and getting to the rim when needed and looked like, well, Dirk. His slow start might have worried some of those of little faith, but rest assured: Dirk is getting ever so closer to being the All-NBA force that we all know and love.