By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
You could almost tell it wasn’t going to be the Thunder’s night when Mavs forward Charlie Villanueva accidentally (on purpose) strolled right into the middle of the pregame dance between OKC’s Russell Westbrook and Cameron Payne.
Villanueva was then joined by Justin Anderson who also disrupted the flow and from that moment on the Mavs were constantly getting in the Thunder’s way and probably under their skin too.
Kevin Durant said it didn’t matter, “that’s fake shit,” he bluntly replied when asked about it in the postgame news conference.
“That’s for guys that don’t play,” Westbrook added taking a shot at Villanueva’s DNP stat line, “You gotta do something.”
Anderson did play and more importantly he did something too. He got just enough of Durant's last shot to deflect it away from the basket and delay Steven Adams putback attempt just enough to be late by a heartbeat and stop a premature OKC celebration when fans thought the Thunder had pulled out an 86-85 win.
A replay review proved otherwise and left the Thunder with a one-point loss in a game they led by seven halfway through the fourth quarter.
Now, much like the Mavs on Sunday morning after they'd been blown out 108-70 by OKC, the Thunder are trying to figure out how things could go so horribly wrong on the way to what appeared to be a certain series sweep.
“We watched some film today and definitely got better mentally,” Durant said after the Thunder’s morning after practice.
“It’s not the end of the world, we definitely wish we would have won that game at home but it’s a 4-game series and adversity molds and shapes you into who you are.”
If that’s what happens the Thunder may have fallen into a jello mold late in the regular season when they were just 3-12 in games decided in crunch time after the All-Star break. Now they’re 0-1 in those types of games in this season’s playoffs.
“What happened yesterday is over,” said Thunder shooting guard Dion Waiters, “ we can’t dwell in the past.”
But the more the Thunder keep repeating it the more questions are going to be asked about why these struggles keep happening late in games.
Waiters admitted he doesn’t know exactly what’s causing it.
“I’m not sure but we just have to figure it out, go back and watch film and make adjustments.”
The offense struggled most all night, Durant especially as he suffered through a 7-for-33 shooting night, his worst ever since probably playing a pickup game on someone’s driveway when he was about six years old.
Down the stretch, in crunch time, Durant and Westbrook combined to go 1-for-12. The Mavericks, who’d also struggled shooting the ball most of the night suddenly got hot, scoring points on eight of their last 13 possessions.
“There were times then when we got hung up in the half court and we have to do a better job.” Donovan said.
Donovan has been saying things like that all season. Saturday night the Thunder did about as good a job offensively as can be done in a 38-point blowout win and then two nights later they are bafflingly bad at exactly the wrong time.
So where does that leave them?
“We’re gonna come out and embrace the challenge,” Durant said, “we’re looking forward to it.”
And after what happened on Monday night you can bet the Mavs are too.