Preseason Recap: Thunder 87, Mavericks 83
The Thunder closed out its two-game preseason schedule with the kind of effort Head Coach Scott Brooks expects: tenacious defense, a commitment to sharing the ball and playing as a team.
That formula has been stressed throughout Thunder Training Camp 2011 and has been executed in every practice, every scrimmage and in both preseason games.
Tuesday night, playing in front of a revved-up Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd, the Thunder defeated the Dallas Mavericks, 87-83, for the second time in three days in a game that wasn’t that close. Fourteen players saw action, 11 of whom logged at least 10 minutes, in a game in which the Thunder led by as many as 23 points.
“I give ourselves a pretty good score,” Brooks said after the game. “In the last 12 days of Training Camp and the two games, we were good. The attention to detail, the level of concentration every day was good.
“We have a team that believes in each other and believes in the team. … They do a great job of competing and that’s what I enjoy about coaching this team.”
TURNING POINT: The Thunder used a 17-2 run in the second quarter to take control of this game.
The Mavericks led 24-18 after the first quarter and led 35-30 with 5 minutes, 57 seconds to play before halftime. Sparked by the defensive play of rookie guard Reggie Jackson and the outside shooting of both James Harden and Daequan Cook, the Thunder rolled to a 47-37 lead.
“I thought defensively we really played well,” Brooks said. “We did a good job of stopping the basketball, a good job of fighting screens and a good job contesting the shots. … That second quarter defense was really good and also the third quarter. The guys got after it.”
PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Late in the first quarter, with the Thunder trailing 14-13, Mavs reserve center Ian Mahinmi is on a break to the basket and a sure dunk. Not so fast. Serge Ibaka blasts through the lane to alter the shot and the Thunder is off and running with the rebound. Ibaka wraps up the sequence with a short jumper at the other end. … Cole Aldrich catches a bounce pass deep in the key from Eric Maynor, uses a hard dribble to get Dirk Nowitzki to commit defensively and goes past the Mavs' big man and under the hoop for a reverse basket. … James Harden, on the wing behind the 3-point line, throws a chest pass across the court to Eric Maynor, who immediately fires it back to Harden for a 3 to stop a 6-0 Mavs run. … Nick Collison, battling two Mavs under the basket, tips a rebound to Daequan Cook to keep a Thunder possession alive. The effort results in a Harden 3.
PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Russell Westbrook steps in front of a Jason Kidd pass, goes hard to the basket and tucks under the outstretched arm of Shawn Marion for a reverse layin. … Kevin Durant, with Marion’s left forearm in his back, fakes a move with his shoulder and head, then quickly spins toward the rim for a beautiful finger roll. … Kendrick Perkins sprawling on the floor for a loose ball. The effort leads to a Westbrook jumper at the other end and 57-40 lead. … Thabo Sefolosha races down court to alter the shot at the rim by the Mavs’ Dominque Jones. … Cole Aldrich, arms up, jumps in a passing lane to create a Mavs turnover and send the Thunder racing down court.
RETURN OF THE ROAR: Nearly six months have passed since the last game was played in Oklahoma City, but make no mistake, Thunder fans know their role and take pride in their reputation.
They responded when they got their first look at the team, 15 minutes before tip. But that was only a warm-up. With 3:28 remaining in the second quarter, Thunder fans erupted when Daequan Cook drilled a 3-point shot from the wing, giving the Thunder a 42-37 lead and forcing the Mavs to call time out.
“Going into the game, you don’t know” how fans will react, Brooks said. “All day you're thinking, 'OK, hopefully our fans are back' and they're back! I think they thought it was a playoff game. The energy at the start of the game, I think they don't realize it's December, they thought it was May. It was great. Our players love it. They love playing in this gym in front of our fans because they know that our fans are going to bring it every night. It helps them.
"They may be a little low in the gas tank, but the fans give them the energy it takes to compete every night.”
HE SAID HE HAD HOPS! Early in Training Camp 2011, Kendrick Perkins talked about losing 32 pounds and the impact it will have on his game. "I've never been known as a leaper, but I've got some hops," he said.
"Perk" showed his jumping abilities throughout the game, but one play in particular had Thunder fans on their feet. With the Mavs on a lopsided fast break, Kevin Durant stepped in front of a bounce pass and immediately hit Russell Westbrook with an outlet pass. Westbrook then turned and dished to Perkins, who went in uncontested for a two-handed reverse dunk that sent the crowd, and his teammates, into a frenzy.
LIGHTER SIDE: Moments before the opening tip, Rumble the Bison greeted referees Kevin Fehr and David Guthrie with a handshake and back slap before moving on to Dick Bavetta.
Rumble immediately dropped to one knee, bowed his head in a sign of respect and shook the hand of the referee who is in his 36th season of officiating NBA games.
Of course, Rumble can't stop there. He also attempted to shine Bavetta's black sneakers before running off the court. Silly bison.
QUOTABLE: “We understand it’s an exhibition game and they are the world champs. … I thought our guys did a very good job of competing and sharing the basketball. The passing was really good tonight.” – Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks.
The Thunder officially begins the new season on Sunday night when it plays the Orlando Magic in the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Game time is 7 p.m. and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.