A great night for Kevin Durant, a great night for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Russell Westbrook struggled all game long on both ends of the floor, but came up as the big man in overtime. On the other side, the Dallas Mavericks keep losing, and Dirk Nowitzki is going to take a while before he’s back in fighting form.
It always seems like Durant is keeping the Western Conference finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 close to his heart. He seems to bring out his very best against them each and every time. Having a hobbled Dirk Nowitzki, who admitted he doesn’t have the stamina to be very effective in these games at this point, guard you quite often, helps. Durant finished with 40 points, averaging 36.8 points over the last four games, stopping the team’s two game losing streak.
There’s just no stopping Durant at the moment, but as the losses to the Miami Heat and the Minnesota Timberwolves proved, the Thunder need Russell Westbrook to step up at the right time, along with other players, to keep all of Durant’s ability and heroics not go to waste.
Westbrook missed most of his early shots but was big in overtime, scoring 8 of his 16 points during the final 5 minutes. He had only 7-20 from the field but added 6 rebounds, 10 assists and 3 steals. He struggled against former UCLA teammate Darren Collison, who scored 32 points, including the shot that sent the game into overtime. Westbrook keeps hurting the Thunder on key defensive plays,and is getting more and more frustrated when he’s asked about it, leaving a post game interview once Collison’s name came up.
And as sad as the Mavs look at the moment, losing four straight games and seven of their last eight games, they seem to get some kind of push from playing the Thunder. Shawn Marion finished with 14 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Chris Kaman had 17 with 8 rebounds. Their problem is O.J. Mayo, the man who is supposed to carry them offensively. The former USC guard is losing confidence in his shooting, finishing with only 1-7 from the field and 4 points. He’s averaging only 7.3 points during the current losing streak.
The Thunder had a huge night from Serge Ibaka as well. He finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds, 8 of them on the offensive glass. Ibaka keeps showing how much his game has expanded over the last couple of years, becoming much more than just an elite shot blocker but a very dangerous big man, getting more and more aggressive on the offensive glass, adding to his mid-range jumper. Kevin Martin was another big addition from the bench, finishing with 18 points and hitting all the open looks he was getting.
Things aren’t perfect for the Thunder, and it’s not just Russell Westbrook struggling to handle his own selfishness and lazy tendencies combined with amazing talent and athleticism. There are moments with the second unit you don’t know where the points will be coming from. There’s Kendrick Perkins who sometimes feels like a fifth wheel on offense. The Thunder have great talent, but remain a few adjustments by Scott Brooks away from getting to the promised land.