Even the Dallas Mavericks know a darn good break from the basketball gods when they see it.
And a couple of hours before the Mavs spanked Oklahoma City 109-86 Sunday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Dallas received a really huge break when the Thunder announced that point guard Russell Westbrook wasn’t going to play.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks decided to sit Westbrook on the front end of a back-to-back so he could rest up for Monday night’s game in Chicago.
In other words, with Westbrook not entirely 100 percent after under undergoing knee surgery, Brooks in effect figured his team had a better chance of beating the Mavs without Westbrook than beating the Bulls without Westbrook.
The Mavs made note of that crafty move and promptly body-slammed the Thunder, leading by 26 points in the fourth quarter before winning in convincing fashion while handing OKC its worst loss of the season.
“I guess that’s what they want to do [in sitting Westbrook], and I’m proud of our guys how we responded,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “We didn’t take it for granted that he wasn’t there.”
The Mavs (40-27) were able to move half a game ahead of Memphis and into sole possession of seventh place in the Western Conference standings. It also snapped the Mavs’ seven-game losing streak to the Thunder and five-game road losing streak at Oklahoma City (48-18).
“We played well. But they were down a great player, so we caught a break there,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “But we still got to go out and play. They’ve had a great record with and without Westbrook, so it’s a game we needed. We need every one with the battle that we’re in.”
In addition to Westbrook, Carlisle also pointed out that the Thunder were without two other starters — Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha. But that mattered not to the Mavs, who shot 53.3 percent from the floor, converted 13 of 24 baskets from 3-point territory, won the rebounding battle 42-33 and dominated at both ends of the court.
Jose Calderon scored 10 of the Mavs’ first 19 points en route to helping Dallas roll to a 29-23 lead after the first period. Another 10 points from Shawn Marion in the second quarter helped steer the Mavs to a 59-48 lead at the half.
Brandan Wright then put the exclamation point on the game when he skied high to grab a lob pass from Devin Harris and dunked it in thundering fashion to give the Mavs an insurmountable 91-70 cushion going into the fourth quarter.
The Mavs were in good shape practically all night. Their defense swarmed Kevin Durant, who scored 30 points but was only 8 of 20 from the field.
Overall, OKC shot just 36.7 percent from the field and went only 9 of 29 on 3-pointers.
Marion led the Mavs with 19 points and six rebounds, and Vince Carter scored 18. Nowitzki finished with 17 points while Calderon tallied 16 points and handed out seven assists, and Samuel Dalembert added 10. Meanwhile, Carlisle said Monta Ellis played despite not feeling well, and he collected nine points and seven assists in 31 minutes.
Now, the Mavs start a franchise-record eight-game homestand Monday night against Boston. But they couldn’t help but reflect on how they dominated the Thunder.
“We wanted to keep the ball hopping; we didn’t really want it to stay on one side too much,” Nowitzki said. “We had a good night from 3. If we attack from all angles and have multiple guys score, we’re a tough team to play.”