Thunder spoil debuts for Butler, Haywood
Caron Butler was hitting shots, Brendan Haywood was making a
difference inside and the new-look Dallas Mavericks were rolling
Then, the Oklahoma City Thunder roared back with an offensive flurry and their stingy defense to run away with a seventh straight victory.
Kevin Durant had 25 points and 14 rebounds, rookie reserve James Harden added 17 points and Oklahoma City spoiled the debut of Dallas' three new players in a 99-86 win Tuesday night. The surprising Thunder moved within a half-game of the scuffling Mavericks for fourth place in the Western Conference.
"We're on a nice streak right now, but they're a humble group," coach Scott Brooks said. "They're looking forward to challenging each other tomorrow,"
Butler scored 13 points and helped Dallas build an early 12-point lead after coming over in a weekend trade from Washington, but he finished 4 for 16 from the field and Oklahoma City charged ahead in the second half.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 24 points, Jason Terry had 14 points and Jason Kidd had 12 assists for the Mavericks, who shot a season-low 32 percent.
Starting center Erick Dampier had 13 rebounds but headed to the locker room with 2:54 remaining with an open dislocation of the middle finger on his right hand. He was expected to remain in Oklahoma City and have it surgically repaired before rejoining the Mavericks. The team gave no immediate timetable for his return.
"It was frustrating," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "I'm not going to make excuses about the trade. Right now, I'm just concerned about Damp's situation."
The Thunder raged into the lead with a 40-point second quarter -- their highest scoring period of the season -- and then clamped down to hold Dallas to 11 points in the third quarter -- the lowest output for the Mavs in any period this season.
Serge Ibaka's layup pushed the Thunder lead to 17 in the first 2 minutes of the fourth before the Mavericks finally mounted a comeback. Terry hit a 3-pointer before Kidd's free throw cut it to 92-84 with 3:37 remaining. Dallas didn't score again until Jose Juan Barea's's meaningless layup with 16.3 seconds left.
"They were just making shots and we weren't," Butler said. "That's the story of the game. The third quarter, that really killed us."
Jeff Green and Westbrook also scored 17 points for Oklahoma City.
The Mavericks, who went 10-11 heading into the All-Star break, shook up their roster by trading away four players -- including former All-Star Josh Howard.
Playing their first games with the Mavericks, Haywood scored all seven of his points in the first half and DeShawn Stevenson played five scoreless minutes.
"We knew it was going to take some time, so you've got to have a short memory on this one," said Nowitzki, who was 2 for 12 in the second half. "We have four games in five nights coming out of the break. That's never easy. The first game after the break is usually never easy.
"I think you can see the potential, especially there in the first quarter."
Inserted into the starting lineup, Butler seemed out of sync with the other Mavericks early on, with Kidd noticeably directing him around on one play before he missed his first shot from the right elbow. A handful of possessions later, Butler was responsible for Nowitzki getting a second early foul as he telegraphed a pass that Thabo Sefolosha picked off and Nowitzki fouled him to prevent a fast break.
Butler made up for it with a 19-foot jumper to put Dallas back on top and start a 14-2 run that Haywood finished with his first basket. Butler and Haywood had 13 of the Mavericks' 19 points while Nowitzki was out.
"I thought we did a great job, particularly in the first half, getting out there, getting up and down the court in transition and getting things that we wanted -- especially with our main guy on the bench in foul trouble," Butler said. "But the third quarter was kind of a dry point."
Notes: Even without the foul trouble, Carlisle had hoped to trim down Nowitzki's average of 37.7 minutes per game. He averaged the same playing time last season but 36 minutes each of the previous two seasons. ... Stevenson became the first Dallas player to wear No. 92. His usual No. 2 jersey was taken by Kidd. ... Durant extended his streak of games with at least 25 points to 26, but he needed a driving layup with 26.6 seconds left to get there -- after Brooks had taken three of Oklahoma City's five starters out of the game. "I'm not real concerned with streaks. I understand he's scored 25 points in a lot of games in a row. The streak that I'm really concerned with is how many stops can we get in a row."