OKLAHOMA CITY– Even the post-game crowd at the arena bar was light.
Usually the line wraps past the velvet ropes just outside the court at Chesapeake Arena and the music is loud and thumping with folks ready to talk about what they just saw.
Guess there was no reason to stick around on a Monday and celebrate.
On a night that had makings of a fascinating matchup, the Mavericks brought the dull and the Thunder did what they were supposed to do, sucking the drama from the building with a big second quarter and going on to an easy win.
The story from Monday could have been included a number of different plot twists and storylines. None of those came to be and the 112-91 Oklahoma City victory was boring, dull and routine.
And just in time, because the Thunder needed a big dose of Monday.
It’s been too many losses, not enough wins and not near enough fire in the past nine games as the Thunder have won five and lost four since Jan. 18, trading off wins and losses like a team trying to just make the playoffs, not win the whole thing.
So, it had to be somewhat of an exhale on Oklahoma City’s part that Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder starters got to sit out the fourth quarter for a change, win easily and not worry about anything tangential.
“It’s just good to get a win,” Durant said. “We’re not focused on saving ourselves. This team plays us tough every time, so we wanted to just play a a good game.”
The best thing that can possibly happen in the near home future is the Thunder continue onward on this Melba toast trend because the uninteresting isn’t going to last long.
It shouldn’t have even been the case Monday. After all, the Thunder were playing a Dallas team it needed overtime to beat twice in the two previous meetings this season. Meanwhile, Durant was dealing with a minor rib injury he suffered a game ago, adding a bit more of a surprise element to the game, not knowing how he would feel.
None of those storylines were an issue. Durant scored 19 points on just 11 shots, had 10 rebounds, a block and a pair of steals, to go along with four assists and said he felt fine doing it.
Up next are home games against Golden State (Wednesday) and Phoenix (Friday) before road games at Phoenix and Utah. Then comes the drama as the Thunder get Miami on Valentine’s Day and face James Harden and Houston six days later.
“It’s been a little choppy at times,” coach Scott Brooks said. “But we just work every night. We work every day. It’s not always pretty and not always perfect.”
It wasn’t even choppy Monday. The Thunder scored 29 points in the first quarter and then 39 in the second quarter — the most they have scored in the first half this season. Dirk Nowitzki had just 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting and the Mavs fell behind by as many as 33 points.
Obviously, that meant no drama from Dallas, but the better thing was the lack of excitement from Westbrook. The wildly moody one was calm Monday. He scored 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting and did it with some icy stoicism, usually reserved for poker players and tax attorneys.
Last Thursday against Memphis, Westbrook blew up on the court then blew up on the bench before storming off the court and into the tunnel. That earned him a thorough dissection of not only his game, but his personality and all its conceivable disorders by pretty much anyone who has ever heard of the NBA.
But none of that was in play Monday.
Same, old Russ, Durant said. Well, not exactly, but it was a same-old kind of win against the Mavs — the same team they swept out of the first round of the playoffs a season ago.
But back to the turmoil that the Thunder have created for themselves. A 5-4 stretch over the past two weeks has looked like a grind. Monday didn’t. Instead of struggling, the Thunder looked like the team that crushed the Western Conference in the playoffs a season ago, not the team that lost to Cleveland Saturday.
“Yeah,” said guard Kevin Martin, agreeing it has been a bit rough. “You go through stretches. It’s the middle of winter, the holidays are over and everyone’s a little angry. We just have to get through the All-Star break and focus on the second half of the season.”
Well, the second half of the season is upon us. The Thunder are 36-12 and on pace to be one of the top seeds in the Western Conference.
No one was talking about any of that on Monday. It was just another win at home against another team they were supposed to beat.