By A. Suave Francisco
Things didn't go the Oklahoma City Thunder's way in their last trip to Dallas, TX to face the Mavericks and it honestly didn't go their way Monday night either...until Russell Westbrook exploded for 16 points in the final quarter, propelling his team to a 92-91 victory, while tallying his 37th triple-double in the process.
In a world where so much credit has been put on the offensive side of the ball, the outcome of this particular game would've been vastly different if Andre Roberson wouldn't have performed the way he did late in the game defensively. He effectively shut down both Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews on the perimeter and in the post. Barnes finished with 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting and Matthews had a very nice game, until the fourth where his shooting percentage plummeted to 38.5 percent, including a 2-of-9 shooting night from three. Reflecting back on the fundamental stages of basketball, everyone should have learned that defense turns into offense and without Roberson's All-Defensive First Team quality of play late in the game, Russell's offensive effort would've gone to waste, just like it has a few times this season due to lackluster effort on the defensive end. This was a team effort, orchestrated by Andre Roberson on the defensive end and capitalized on by Russell Westbrook on the offensive end.
Russell finished the game with 37 points, 10 assists and 13 rebounds on 50 percent shooting. Victor Oladipo fell just short of a double-double with 15 points and 9 rebounds while Taj Gibson continues to have a huge impact on this Thunder squad, finishing with 13 points and 6 rebounds, 4 of which were offensive. Gibson was also a team-high +27, which proves his huge impact on this young and learning team. The Thunder are now (7-2) with Gibson in the starting lineup, so obviously, his impact isn't coincidental.
Although tonight's outcome ended on a positive note, the majority of the game was sloppy and inefficient for the Thunder. It appeared the mentality from Sunday's game against the Houston Rockets carried over through three-and-a-half quarters of this game. Steven Adams hasn't grown into the center the Thunder hoped for after a great postseason last year, scoring just 8 points and pulling down 6 rebounds, while only taking 6 shots as OKC's starting center. Dallas's gameplan on Enes Kanter worked. Nerlens Noel and Salah Mejri did a great job making Kanter virtually a non-factor during this game.
Nevertheless, Oklahoma City won and improved to (42-31) on the season, sitting just one game shy of a streaky Los Angeles Clipper team for fifth place in the Western Conference with 9 games remaining, 7 of which are against non-playoff teams which should make their road to fifth place a little bit easier.
- Russell Westbrook's 37th triple-double leaves him just 4 shy of Oscar Robertson's 41, with 9 games remaining.
- When Westbrook tallies a triple-double, the Thunder are (27-7).
- The Thunder need to go (8-1) through the remainder of the season to reach the coveted 50-win mark.
- With 9 games remaining, the Thunder still only sit 2 games behind the Utah Jazz for fourth in the Western Conference.