Thunder-Mavericks Preview (Nov 25, 2017)

BY AP • November 25, 2017

DALLAS -- The new-look Oklahoma City Thunder thought they finally might be finding their groove after a double-digit win over the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

Two nights later, however, and it was back to the drawing board for Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

The Thunder couldn't hold a 15-point lead in the third quarter at home against the Detroit Pistons and fell to 8-10 heading into the second half of a back-to-back on Saturday at the Dallas Mavericks, who have been finding some footing of late.

As has been the case with the Thunder, they went from hot to cold, scoring 59 points in the first half but then just 18 and 21 in the third and fourth quarters, respectively. The Big Three combined to go 7 of 26 from the floor, including 2 of 11 from beyond the 3-point arc, for 16 points.

"We scored 39 points in the second half, and we're a better team than that," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

Westbrook had an opportunity to win it but opted for a 3-pointer that didn't go.

"We're going to live and die with Russ taking that shot," George said. "He had a good look, but it just didn't go in."

The Mavericks (4-15) remain in the cellar of the Western Conference, but the record can be a bit deceiving considering a slew of close losses and fourth-quarter collapses. One of the latter occurred earlier in the week when they blew a 13-point lead with seven minutes to go against the Boston Celtics.

That loss prevented what would have been a three-game win streak after Dallas bounced back on the road to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies. Harrison Barnes, who missed a jumper in the final second that could have defeated Boston, banked in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

For Barnes, who has assumed the closer role for 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, the ups and downs have been part of the maturation process.

"When the team trusts you to have the ball in your hands late in the game and you miss a shot like that, you kind of beat yourself up a little," Barnes said, according to the Dallas Morning News. "But you have to move on. So when you come to (the Memphis game), and to make that shot, it felt great."

Mavs rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. will get his second look at Westbrook, who fell one assist shy of a triple-double in the first meeting between these teams, a 112-99 Thunder victory at Oklahoma City, and will likely be a tad agitated after missing the mark Friday.

In four games during the last two seasons against Dallas (three last season, one this season), Westbrook has averaged 34.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists.

Even with George and Anthony in the fold, Westbrook remains a triple-double threat on most nights -- he's averaging 20.9 points, 9.6 assists and 8.8 rebounds -- and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle knows he's also still the Thunder's primary engine.

"To me, he's proven he can do anything he puts his mind to on the basketball court," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, according to the Dallas Morning News. "He'll do everything he needs to make the three of them function at the highest possible level. And that's one of the reasons they're going to be very difficult to play."


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