DALLAS – Seth Curry is on a roll.
During the Dallas Mavericks’ 104-89 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night, Curry poured in 22 points while converting 10-of-16 shots. It’s the fifth time in the last six games Curry has scored at least 20 points in a game.
That includes the career-high 31 points he tallied against Minnesota on Feb. 24.
"He’s playing terrific and he’s been gathering momentum all year,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. "He’s making plays, doing a good job defensively and getting the ball in the basket for us.’’
In the last six games Curry is averaging 23.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, three assists and 1.5 steals in 35.3 minutes per contest. He also is shooting a sizzling 57.8 percent from the field and an equally hot 52.6 percent from 3-point territory, and is a perfect 16-of-16 from the charity stripe.
"He’s done a lot of really terrific things and become a very big part of our team,’’ Carlisle said. "Give him the credit, because a lot of people thought he was a pretty good player, but I’m not sure many people thought he could do this.
"He’s played with an edge all year long. I don’t see that changing."
Curry scored seven of his points Sunday in the first quarter, which ended with the Mavs clinging to a 28-27 lead. He added eight more points in the second quarter, including a beautiful finger-roll and a 21-foot jumper which increased the Mavs’ lead to 60-50 at intermission.
"I have a lot of confidence right now,’’ Curry said. "I’m trying to play with a lot of energy and have a lot of fun out there,
"I feel like it’s contagious right now. Everybody’s getting a chance to show what they can do and have a fun time playing basketball, so we’re just trying to keep this run going and most importantly win ballgames during this home stretch and have a chance to make the playoffs.’’
The Mavs are just two games behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
In the meantime, Dirk Nowitzki tallied 18 points and grabbed a season-high tying 12 rebounds. The 19-year veteran is now just 20 points away from becoming only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 30,000 points in his career.
While Nowitzki rightfully is receiving a lot of attention because of the incredible milestone he’s close to achieving, Curry has been busy establishing his own mark with the Mavs.
But Sunday also belonged to the defensive job the Mavs were able to do on OKC superstar Russell Westbrook.
In averaging 31.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.1 assists to start Sunday’s game, Westbrook is on pace to become only the second player ever to average a triple-double for an entire season. He also entered the game with 30 triple-doubles.
But after scoring 14 points in the first quarter, the Mavs limited Westbrook to just 15 points in the final three periods. In all, Westbrook finished with 29 points, six rebounds and five assists and was a pitiful 8-of-24 from the field, including just 2-of-10 from 3-point land.
"We did a better job of taking the paint away,’’ Carlisle said. "In the first half they got in the paint 45 times out of 52 possessions, which has to be a galactic world record.
"They were penetrating us consistently and even though we were up 10, we weren’t playing good defense.’’
Then, everything changed in the third quarter. The Thunder missed 10 straight shots and the Mavs went on a brisk 21-4 run to go up 81-57 with 4:15 remaining in the third quarter.
Included in that run was some solid defense on Westbrook by Wesley Matthews.
"The third quarter was the key, and I thought Matthews set the tone,’’ Carlisle said. "(He had) two or three loose balls, a charge, a rebound, got the ball in the basket.
"He just took over the game defensively with his attitude.’’
It was Matthews’ first game back after missing the previous two with a hip injury. He showed his value on a night when the Mavs won for the 10th time in their last 16 games to increase their record to 26-36.
"So that’s the value of a guy like him,’’ Carlisle said of Matthews. "We built enough cushion where we could finish the game."
Westbrook picked up a technical foul for protesting a call too vehemently, and a flagrant penalty-1 foul for executing a forearm shove on Harrison Barnes during the Mavs’ game-changing rally. In essence, he was clearly frustrated that things weren’t going his way.
"There’s a lot of little things going on in a game like this,’’ Carlisle said. "It’s so competitive, both teams are playing for a lot.
"These guys are playing for playoff positioning just like we are – it’s testy out there.
"I though the officials did a very good job with everything and it just comes down to executing and getting the ball in the basket.’’
The Mavs shot 48.8 percent from the field and turned the ball over just eight times.
"Offensively, we felt like we had a good groove,’’ Nowitzki said. "We set pick-and-rolls and spread the floor well.
"Our guards got in the lane and made some stuff happen, and I thought that was really good."