OKLAHOMA CITY — The decision was made weeks ago. When the Oklahoma City Thunder played back-to-back games, guard Russell Westbrook was going to take a seat on the bench in one of them.
With the Thunder playing in Chicago Monday, they took the opportunity to rest Westbrook Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks. The Thunder were already down two starters and were facing a hungry team trying to stay in playoff contention. It was too much to overcome for even MVP candidate Kevin Durant as the Thunder fell to the Mavs 109-86 Sunday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The 23-point loss represented the largest margin of defeat for the Thunder this season, but it was not enough to make the Thunder second-guess resting their star point guard.
“The temptation doesn’t even go through our mind,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We have a plan and we’re going to stick with it.”
Regardless, it was a big win for Dallas, which snapped an 11-game losing streak to Oklahoma City and held onto its seventh-place position in the Western Conference.
“This is a tough place to play,” Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “Obviously, Westbrook getting the night off helped us. It’s really only a good thing if you win the game. I’ve played plenty of games in my career before, where people were resting and we still lost. So it’s only an advantage if you take care of business.”
With Westbrook sitting out, the Oklahoma City offense ran through Durant much of the night. However, the team didn’t respond like it had when Durant ran the offense during Westbrook’s injury absence. Oklahoma City found itself down by 21 points heading into the fourth quarter.
No matter what Oklahoma City (48-18) tried, Dallas had an answer to rebuff any fourth-quarter rallies. From 3-pointers by forward Vince Carter to fade-away jumpers by Nowitzki, the Mavericks (40-27) scored at will to start the quarter and put the contest away early.
“Vince was hot tonight,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “We rode him in the third and fourth quarters. His shot-making probably put the game away for us. He’s one of those guys that has the rare ability to rise up over people from deep, and hit two or three big ones.”
Forward Shawn Marion paced the Mavs with 19 points. Carter came off the bench to score 18 points while Nowitzki added 17 on 6-of-12 shooting. Guard Jose Calderon had 16 points and seven assists.
Durant led all scorers with 30 points on 8-for-20 shooting. It was his 31st straight game scoring at least 25 points.
Forward Serge Ibaka added 19 points and six rebounds for the Thunder. Guard Reggie Jackson, who started in Westbrook’s place, had 13 points and three assists.
Dallas came out firing from behind the arc in the first period. Led by Calderon, the Mavericks were 4-of-8 from 3-point range as they took a 29-23 lead.
After falling behind by 10, Durant and Ibaka picked up the scoring for the Thunder. They closed the deficit to 50-46 before Marion led the Mavs on a 9-2 run to end the half.
“It seemed like we weren’t there,” Durant said. “We were just coasting. There’s no excuse. You’ve got to figure it out. We’ve just got to do it. We’re pros.”
NOTES: Oklahoma City G Russell Westbrook sat out Sunday’s game against Dallas. Coach Scott Brooks said it was planned that Westbrook would be rested in back-to-back games since he returned from injury on Feb. 20. Westbrook will be available on Monday at Chicago. … Dallas G Shane Larkin was featured in a documentary on Saturday titled Summer Dreams. A film crew followed Philadelphia 76ers rookie Michael Carter-Williams and Larkin around last summer. “CBS pretty much followed me around from before the draft, to the draft, what I did training-wise to get you to the draft,” Larkin said. “And basically it films how summer league works for rookies and guys who are out of the league trying to get back into the league, and undrafted guys and a whole bunch of different aspects.” … The Thunder signed Tulsa 66ers G Mustafa Shakur to a 10-day contract. Shakur was in uniform against Dallas. In the NBA Development League, the 6-foot-3 guard averaged 18.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.7 assists in 20 games with the 66ers this season and named the D-League Player of the Month for February.
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