After hanging close in the first half, a porous defensive effort in the third quarter doomed the Mavericks as they fell 112-99 to the Thunder on Sunday night.
The Mavericks rolled into Oklahoma City hoping to capitalize on a short handed Thunder squad who sat starters Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams due to injuries.
Turns out, OKC still had one superstar too many. Paul George rained in 7 threes for a game high 37 while Westbrook stuffed the stat sheet with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Combined, the Thunder duo outscored the entire Mavericks starting lineup.
Harrison Barnes paced the Mavericks once again with 22 points on 9-14 shooting. He was joined by the backcourt of Yogi Ferrell and Dennis Smith Jr. (18 and 15 points respectively) as the only Mavericks to score more than 11 points.
A defensive gridlock in the first half, Dallas trailed by just two points heading into the break. However, a change in footwear at halftime may have changed the dynamic of the game.
Westbrook came out of the tunnel firing on all cylinders after trading his neon-orange Jordans for a pair of black and blues. He accounted for 16 of the Thunder’s 39 points in the third quarter as the lead quickly ballooned to double figures.
In the fourth, the Mavericks never clawed closer than 13 points of the lead as Paul George held any comeback attempt at bay with a barrage of three pointers.
Sitting at the bottom of the standings at 2-12, one of the Mavericks’ only bright spots is the continued development of Dennis Smith. The rookie point guard has looked increasingly comfortable initiating the Dallas offense, averaging 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists over his last six games.
Although his production has yet to result in many wins, team chemistry is brewing. Halfway through the second period, Smith slammed home a lob from Matthews that has quickly become a playbook staple.
On a darker note, Nerlens Noel logged just two minutes after receiving a DNP-CD in the previous game against the Cavs. As the relationship between the center and Coach Carlisle continues to sour, a trade is perhaps in the imminent future.
The Mavericks will begin a four game homestand by hosting the Spurs on Tuesday at 6:30 CDT.