Paid in Full: Thunder Wipes the Slate Clean Against Dallas Heading into the New Year - OKC 122, DAL 102
With only 24 hours in between games, the Thunder’s battle against the Dallas Mavericks shared a lot of the core features that marked Sunday night’s 105-103 loss down in Dallas. The few differences, however, made for a drastically happier feeling at the final buzzer.
Russell Westbrook used the backboard as a range finder for his jump shot, the Thunder showed more resolve and willpower in the second half and Dallas was unable to win the second chance points battle, leading to a 122-102 Thunder victory to make the Thunder 9-2 all-time on New Year’s Eve, which has always been celebrated in Chesapeake Energy Arena since the team arrived in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder sustained a second half barrage, including 6 straight made three’s by Harrison Barnes, but the difference in composure was so stark that Dallas took a timeout it didn’t have, while the Thunder kept it's head and surged on forward. After a quick Thunder 4-0 spurt, featuring two buckets by Steven Adams including a transition finish on a dish from Westbrook, Mavericks Head Coach Rick Carlisle called a timeout despite using all of his up to try and quell the Thunder’s advances earlier in the game. The result was the Thunder taking a free throw and getting the ball back, in addition to putting the game to bed for good.
The pressure on Dallas was high all night, and it started with Westbrook at the point of attack. One night after shooting 4-of-22 from the field and putting so much onus on his shoulders after the game, Westbrook was super precise and disciplined with his shot attempts on Monday night, going 13-for-24 from the field, including 9-of-15 on mid-range jumpers, for a 32-point, 11-assist, 11-rebound triple-double. Westbrook’s 10th triple-double of the season was kick-started by his reliance on one of the most fundamental plays in the history of the game: the bank shot.
“He found that glass,” forward Paul George smirked.
“It’s an easy shot,” said Westbrook. “If I happen to be in that area I’m going to shoot the same shot. Why do anything different if they keep giving you the same shot, then take it.”
Westbrook knocked in four midrange jumpers from the left elbow area and that seemed to calibrate his jump shot for the rest of the night. In front of the loyal crowd, who loudly cheered his first make, Westbrook brought his trademark fire, determination, energy and do-it-all ability and this time he had the intentionality on offense and the shot to match. Instead of forcing up three-pointers or attacking into a lane jammed by 5 defenders, Westbrook took what the defense gave.
“When you keep it simple, it makes the game easier for everybody else, not just myself,” Westbrook added. “Keeping it simple is something that I’ve strived to learn over the course of the years.”
“I expect what he expects, to come out and shoot the ball well and play well,” George said of his superstar teammate.
This should make you wanna vote, vote, vote. All-Star combo @ work.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) January 1, 2019
The tone was set from the very outset by the focused and slightly revenge-motivated Thunder, who jumped out to an 18-5 lead by repeatedly turning the Mavericks over and getting out into transition. Paul George made all four of his steals in the first quarter, and the Thunder made a usually sure-handed Dallas squad loose and sloppy with the ball.
“Everything,” George said of what the Thunder took away from Dallas. “We were just aggressive and we just made an emphasis to just getting everything and touching them up.”
“They run sets so we were just trying to take them out of that and force them to play iso,” George added.
Thunder hands were high, the rotations were crisp, particularly on the back side of pick and rolls, and the Thunder was able to anticipate their way to 13 steals and a team-record 29 forced turnovers. By the end of the night, the Thunder had turned those miscues into 36 points, two shy of an Oklahoma City-era record, and dominated the fast break points 26-12 and points in the paint 56-28.
“Just using our size, our length, our hands, being in the right spot and defending at a high level,” Westbrook said.
The latter number was perhaps the most significant in the game. The Thunder attempted 20 more field goals in the paint than the Mavericks did, and allowed just 5 offensive rebounds for the game, shoring up a problem spot from Sunday. The Mavericks may have made 14 three-pointers and played its style, but the Thunder lived up to its best self too. New year, same identity, better result.
Highlights: Thunder 122, Mavs 102