Rick Carlisle previewed Monday’s visit to Oklahoma City by saying, ‘We’ve got to know where the monsters are.’ Carlisle was referring specifically to the Thunder’s interior defense. But generally speaking, when it comes to the Mavericks, the ‘monsters’ were everywhere in Oklahoma City’s 112-91 victory.
“I remember we used to respond like that,” said Dirk Nowitzki, reflecting on the fact that Oklahoma City entered Monday after having come off a surprising loss to Cleveland. “When we had a tough loss, we would come out and try to correct it, especially at home like they were. They came out swinging.”
The Dallas Mavericks (20-28) are swinging and missing. They have now lost nine games by 20 points or more and leads the NBA in that dubious category. The changing of the conference guard with the Thunder is now complete; Dallas, the 2011 NBA champions, have lost 10 of its last 11 games against Oklahoma City, the reigning Western Conference titlist. And Dallas’ situation against other West teams isn’t pretty, either; while Oklahoma City (36-12) is now 15-1 at home against West foes, the Mavericks are 5.5 games out of the eighth spot in the West playoff race … and are just five games out of 15th and last place.
As for Oklahoma City’s individual “monsters”: Russell Westbrook scored 24 points and Kevin Durant had 19 points and 10 rebounds (and didn’t play in the fourth quarter) as the Oklahoma City built a lead as large as 33. That’s regression for Dallas, which lost both previous meetings this season but did so in a pair of overtime games.
If the Mavericks are in any way even considering the lottery-related benefits of losing games, an odious but understandable consideration for a club going nowhere, Shawn Marion certainly isn’t a party to it. Trix hit 10 of 14 shots and scored 23 points.
Nowitzki, who missed the first 27 games of the season following knee surgery and missed two more over the weekend due to a leg-muscle strain, returned to the court here but managed just 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting.
The Mavericks’ most combative moment came when the Thunder’s Kendrick Perkins and Dallas’ O.J. Mayo had to be separated. Carlisle, who remains one win shy of his 500th career victory, couldn’t argue about Dallas’ lack of competitiveness.
“I’m going to have to defer on that until I see the film,” he said. “What I did see is a lot of untimely turnovers that led to big problems. When you put these guys in transition with catastrophic turnovers, they’re going to make you look bad. I think that was it more than anything… But obviously when you get down 30 in a game, you’re not competing well enough. There’s no question about that.”
Yes, Chris Kaman and Vince Carter were absent due to injury and illness, respectively. Dirk isn’t Dirk, and the Thunder seem to be threatening to be as good as the 2011 Mavericks were. But …
“That was tough,” Dallas owner Mark Cuban tweeted after the game. “Our Mavericks will keep on fighting.”
Maybe. But the fact is, the Mavericks don’t seem to possess the wherewithal to win their fights against the “monsters.”