DALLAS, Texas — Russell Westbrook tossed his orange shooting sleeves aside following his fifth missed three pointer midway through the third quarter. 12 seconds later, Westbrook was called for his league leading 11th technical foul.
It was that kind of night for Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder (22-13).
Two nights after having his best shooting and scoring performance in a month, Westbrook finished with nine points on 4-of-22 shooting. He never made a three pointer, missing all seven of his attempts.
“The other night against Phoenix, he was 3-for-6 from three,” Billy Donovan said after the game. “It was important because it allowed him to get to the rim more because they had to respect the shot. Tonight the idea was kind of the same in terms of trying to open up the game for him.”
Westbrook’s shooting struggles continue to haunt the Thunder despite the team winning most of their games. Tonight, Westbrook’s offense was sorely missed.
“I thought we dug ourselves a hole in the third quarter,” Donovan added. “It kind of stayed that way but we were able to go on a nice run to start the fourth.”
Oklahoma City’s best quarter all year has been the third. Tonight the Dallas Mavericks (17-18) punished the Thunder in the second half and took advantage of a near-seven minute run without a basket. Oklahoma City only scored 14 points in the quarter while Dallas turned a two-point halftime deficit into a 13 point lead.
Westbrook’s continued shooting woes doomed any Thunder possession. Paul George was dealing with a shooting slump of his own, only hitting 1-of-9 from three. Without Oklahoma City’s best offensive weapons hitting shots, the Thunder seemed done for.
The second unit, led by Raymond Felton, helped bring the Thunder back in the fourth. A 10-2 Oklahoma City run capped off by a Hamidou Diallo lob to Patrick Patterson for a slam dunk gave the Thunder new life.
George then took control.
The Thunder’s final 13 points were all scored by George. With 1:58 to go, the Thunder were ahead 101-95 as George could not miss.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, the Mavericks closed on a 10-2 run of their own to close the game. Westbrook committed a turnover and missed three shots in the final two minutes.
“I’ve been in worse spots before,” Westbrook said in the locker room. “My approach never changes. I can do everything every night. I have the confidence that I can get it anytime.”
The Thunder would have it no other way in defeat, however. The will to remain aggressive despite shooting woes has been a staple of this team this season.
“There is no fine line,” Felton said when asked about if there are moments when teammates should calm a player down who’s missing shot after shot or just have them keep shooting. “We want our guys to be aggressive and hit shots. We are all professionals here. Just keep shooting and they will eventually fall.”
It worked for George, it just didn’t work for Westbrook.
Oklahoma City will return home tomorrow night to face the same Dallas Mavericks for the second night of a back to back.