JaVale McGee made his first appearance of the season Sunday night.
But the lanky center’s long-awaited debut wasn’t enough to help the Dallas Mavericks extend their winning streak.
I thought we were poor on defense the entire game.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle
Russell Westbrook contributed 31 points, 11 rebounds and five steals, and the Oklahoma City Thunder fought off the red-hot Mavs and hung on to claim a 117-114 victory before a sellout crowd of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
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The loss snapped the Mavs’ six-game winning streak and dropped their record to 9-5, while the Thunder improved to 8-6.
It was a frustrating night for the Mavs, who had major issues on defense, hanging onto the ball and simply trying to convert a free throw.
With those major issues aligned, the Mavs know they were fortunate to even have a shot at sending the game into overtime.
“I thought we were poor on defense the entire game,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “You give up 117 points — we’ve been giving up under 100 on average — that’s not getting it done.
“I think we lost some of our defensive edge headed into tonight and we’ve got to get it back.”
Our defense wasn’t good enough, we missed a lot of free throws, and we turned it over too much.
The Thunder shot 52.2 percent from the field, and Westbrook’s mid-range jumper over Mavs center Zaza Pachulia accounted for the game’s final points with 24 seconds remaining. Mavs point guard Deron Williams then had his jump shot rim out of the basket, and his drive to the hoop shortly thereafter was blocked by Serge Ibaka.
The Mavs’ last gasp came when Wesley Matthews was had the ball on the left side of the 3-point arc and collided with Dion Waiters. Feeling the contact, Matthews tossed the ball near the rim with 1.8 seconds left, expecting some help from the referees.
No foul was called and time ran out on the Mavs and on their winning streak.
“I don’t know who it was; I think it was Waiters hit me on my right side and I thought it was enough contact to draw the attention of the officials,” said Matthews, who scored 18 points. “But obviously not.’’
Carlisle was exasperated that no foul was called on the play.
“I haven’t looked at the film yet, but it looked like Wes Matthews got cross body-blocked and play continued and the ball got loose,” Carlisle said. “But it didn’t come down to that.
“It came down to the fact that our defense wasn’t good enough, we missed a lot of free throws and we turned it over too much. So we’ve got to improve in those three areas.”
The Mavs did receive a big boost from McGee, who played his first game after battling a left tibial stress fracture. The 7-foot center first entered the game late in the first quarter and scored six quick points. He made all three of his shot attempts.
57.1 Free throw percentage for the Mavericks
“The first stint I was in I was kind of out of breath,” said McGee, who collected eight points and six rebounds in 11 minutes. “But the second stint I was pretty good.”
Overall, the Mavs shot 53 percent from the field, 52.6 percent from 3-point range and a dismal 57.1 percent from the free throw line (16 of 28).
The Mavs, who play at Memphis on Tuesday, committed seven of their 17 turnovers in the first quarter and fell behind 41-30 less than four minutes into the second period. But the Thunder, which played without injured superstar Kevin Durant, raced to a 60-52 lead at intermission behind the cat-quick heels of Westbrook.
The Mavs, however, connected on their first 10 shots of the third quarter, opened that period with a 10-0 run and eventually darted out to an 82-72 lead after a fast-break layup by Devin Harris. Nevertheless, the Mavs’ defense broke down again as the Thunder negotiated a 13-1 run and toted an 87-85 lead into the final quarter.
“We just overall didn’t get enough stops,’’ said Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting. “It’s not going to be often you’re going to win games giving up 117 points.
“Just defensively, we got broken down too many times.”