The Oklahoma City Thunder managed to overcome a seven-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter to pick up a 111-110 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in overtime on Wednesday night.
The Mavericks jumped on the Thunder early by knocking down three consecutive threes to start the game, and less than two minutes into the first quarter, Dallas led Oklahoma City 9-4. The lead didn’t last long, though, as the Thunder would outscore the Mavs 28-12 the rest of the period. Russell Westbrook jumped his way out of his recent shooting slump as he put up 10 points on 5/6 from the floor, Paul George added in nine points on 3/5 to go with six rebounds and three assists, and after 12 minutes of play, Oklahoma City held a 32-21 advantage over Dallas.
Oklahoma City looked like it might blow the game wide open in the second quarter, but the Thunder couldn’t seem to hit shots from anywhere. It was the defense that kept Oklahoma City on top, as Dallas struggled to take care of the ball and turned the ball over 10 times total in the first half. Both teams shot 38.1% for the quarter, but the Thunder still led 54-43 at halftime.
Despite a solid first half, the third quarter was full of forgettable basketball for the Thunder. Dallas went on a 9-3 run over the first 2:13 of the third quarter to cut the deficit to five, and at the midway point, the Mavericks were able to tie it up at 64-64. After multiple ties over the course of the following four minutes, Dallas would take only its second lead of the night with under two minutes left in the period to go up 74-72. However, Paul George would hit a shot at the end of the third to put Oklahoma City back on top 77-76.
Dallas had momentum on their side, and they retook the lead after Dirk Nowitzki hit a three on the Mavs’ first possession of the fourth quarter. They would hold on to that lead, getting up by as many as seven midway through the period, until the Thunder was able to get back on the high side 100-98 with 1:23 left in the game. Dallas missed a number of golden opportunities to tie or take the lead, but the Thunder could not capitalize to make it a two-possession game, and with the clock winding down, Dwight Powell was able to tip in a bucket at the buzzer to tie the game at 100-100 and send the game into overtime.
After starting off the game playing some of his best basketball as of late, Russell Westbrook seemed to fall apart from that point forward. Overtime proved to be just what the doctor ordered for Russ, and his MVP-like play proved to make all the difference. Westbrook was a perfect 3/3 from the floor as he scored seven of the Thunder’s 11 points in overtime. He could not have done it alone, though, and with 6.1 seconds left in overtime, the Dallas Mavericks had an opportunity to win the game. After they inbounded the ball, Steven Adams got switched onto Dennis Smith, Jr. The Thunder had failed to switch matchups effectively all night long, but Adams was able to force Smith into a tough shot, which missed, and the Thunder came out on top.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Steven Adams, Unsung Hero: The Thunder big man is having a career-season, and while the box score doesn’t always show it, Steven Adams is consistently one of the most important players on the courts for Oklahoma City. Tonight, Adams put up a stat line of nine points and 12 rebounds. While these numbers aren’t altogether impressive, nine of his 12 rebounds were on the offensive glass, and none were more important than the two that he had late in the fourth quarter to keep the Thunder alive and in the game. Adams doesn’t get near enough credit for his amazing contributions, but he was undoubtedly a difference maker tonight.
- Turnovers Are Becoming an Issue: The Thunder has made vast improvements this season to take care of the ball. Going into the All-Star Break, Oklahoma City was averaging 13.9 turnovers per game, the lowest mark for the Thunder in franchise history. Over the last three games, however, Oklahoma City has turned the ball over 58 times, an average of 19.3 times per game. Specifically, tonight was the second consecutive game for the Thunder with 20+ turnovers and the seventh time of the season. Surprisingly enough, Oklahoma City is 6-1 in those games. With much more challenging opponents on the horizon, the Thunder cannot expect to turn the ball over at such a high rate and come away with victories. They have to take better care of the ball, or it will surely come back to bite them and likely cost them in the playoff race.
- It’s Not Getting Any Easier: Despite Oklahoma City’s seemingly easy matchup with the Phoenix Suns on Friday, the Thunder plays 14 of its 19 remaining games against teams that are over .500 on the season and either in the playoffs already or fighting for a position. Playing down to competition has been an issue for Oklahoma City, but they are also very capable of playing up to the challenge of any team in the NBA. After tonight’s win, the Thunder currently sits at seventh in the West, but they are only 1.5 games back from third and .5 game back from fourth. A lot can go down in the next month-and-a-half of basketball, and Oklahoma City has to bring their best every single night to ensure the best possible position headed into the playoffs.
On to Phoenix
The Thunder now moves on to game two of a three-game road trip as they head to Phoenix, Arizona, where they will take on the Suns on Friday night. The Thunder and the Suns have met once this season, which resulted in a 114-100 loss in Phoenix. The Sun are fresh off a 10-game losing streak after picking up a 110-102 win over the Memphis Grizzlies tonight. Tip-off is set for 8 PM CT on Friday and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The game will also be broadcast on WWLS 98.1 FM.
Be sure to check out this week’s episode of Thunder Things with the Thunder Guys.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter & Instagram, and like us on Facebook.