Westbrook finds groove, sparks Thunder's OT win over MavericksBy Michael Kinney, The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – Fri, Dec 28, 2012 12:30 AM EST
OKLAHOMA CITY -- With Oklahoma City riding a two-game losing streak, Russell Westbrook was not at his best Thursday against Dallas. The all-Star guard sleepwalked through three and half quarters of action as Kevin Durant carried the team. But when the game was in the balance, Westbrook woke up to help lead the Thunder to a 111-105 overtime victory over the Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena. "That's what Russell does," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "He's a competitor. He fights. He didn't have a good first half. He kept fighting for the team." The win ended a two-game losing streak for the Thunder (22-6), but it didn't come without its share of drama. Oklahoma City trailed 104-103 with 1:04 left in overtime. Westbrook, who was struggling from the field, made a jumper over Dirk Nowitzki to give the Thunder a one-point lead. Dallas' O.J. Mayo then attempted to throw a cross-court pass to Darren Collison, but Westbrook came out of nowhere for the steal and layup. The Thunder led 107-104 with 42 seconds to go. Mayo tried to answer with a 3-pointer that was off the mark, but he was fouled by Kevin Martin. Mayo made one of three free throws. Westbrook was fouled, and he made both of his attempts to put the game away for Oklahoma City. "Just playing my game," Westbrook said. "Stayed aggressive throughout the whole game. Sometimes shots are going to fall. Sometimes they are not. But I know if I continue to play the right way offensively and defensively, something good is going to happen." Westbrook scored 16 points on 7 for 20 shooting to go along with 10 assists, six rebounds and three steals. Serge Ibaka added 19 points and 17 rebounds for Oklahoma City. But it was Durant who shouldered most of the scoring load as he registered 40 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots. He was also 4 for 8 from behind the arc and hit every big shot until Westbrook found his game. "He scored the ball tonight," Brooks said. "He put himself in position catching the ball, playing with force." Collison paced Dallas (12-17) with 32 points on 13-for-22 shooting. He hit all four of his 3-point attempts. Mavericks center Chris Kaman chipped in 17 points and eight rebounds, and Shawn Marion added 14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. In his second game back, Nowitski shot 3 for 11 for nine points and grabbed six boards. The Mavericks have lost four games in a row, but they said it can learn from how they played against the defending Western Conference champions. "We try to take all the positives we can from this loss," Marion said. "I think this was one that we let slip through our fingers. We've still got to learn from it and go home tomorrow against a good Denver team and try to stop the bleeding." With Oklahoma City trailing by nine heading into the fourth quarter, Durant almost single-handedly cut the lead down to 95-94. Then with 1:57 left, he hit a jump hook over Vince Carter to give the Thunder their first lead since early in the first quarter. After a couple of empty trips by both teams, Dallas had a chance to take the lead back with 15 seconds remaining. Mayo got the ball and tried to drive into the lane, but Westbrook came up with a steal. Durant knocked down two free throws to put Oklahoma City ahead 98-95. Dallas called a timeout and got the ball at half court. With 2.2 seconds left, Marion threw a pass to Carter, who was unable to handle it. Marion rushed in and knocked the ball to Collison, who threw up a shot in one motion and knocked down a game-tying 3-pointer to send contest into overtime. "Collison was terrific," Dallas coach Rick Carisle said. "Really tremendous on both ends. The way he played tonight is really what we need from him just in terms of his presence in the game. I'm not just talking about points scored, although that's a part of it." NOTES: After the second returns of the 2013 NBA All-Star Balloting, Durant is the third leading vote-getter behind Kobe Bryant (977,444) and LeBron James (970,314). Durant has 924,898 votes to lead all frontcourt players in the Western Conference. Westbrook is fifth among Western guards with 232,074. No Dallas Maverick is in the top-10 of at any position. ... A week after being named the NBA Development League Player of the Week for the Tulsa 66ers, Reggie Jackson has passed Eric Maynor as the backup point guard for the Thunder. Coach Scott Brooks said the position is still open, but he wants to give Jackson a chance to lock down the spot. "We are just going to give him some games," Brooks said. "Eric started the season with some minutes, but Reggie is going to get some now. We will see how it goes. ... He's going to have to continue to work and play well."
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