Each time it looks as if the star-studded Oklahoma City Thunder have turned a corner, they take one on the chin. The Thunder will have little time to recover from their latest painful setback when they open a two-game road trip at the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.
Two days after knocking off defending champion Golden State by 17 points, the Thunder had a 15-point advantage on Detroit on Friday night before faltering down the stretch in a 99-98 loss, as Russell Westbrook’s 3-pointer missed at the buzzer to leave Oklahoma City winless in nine games decided by eight points or fewer. The Mavericks opened 2-14 but they’ve since won two of three and the one loss was in overtime to the league-leading Boston Celtics. Harrison Barnes’ long 3-pointer at the buzzer lifted Dallas to a dramatic 95-94 win in Memphis on Wednesday. Paul George scored 37 points to lead the Thunder to a 112-99 win over the Mavericks at home earlier this month - their seventh victory in the last eight meetings between the teams.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, FSN Oklahoma, FSN Southwest (Dallas)
ABOUT THE THUNDER (8-10): Westbrook’s miss on the potential game-winner left him 1-for-10 from 3-point distance and put a damper on his latest triple-double (27 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds). The reigning MVP is shooting 35.1 percent during Oklahoma City’s current 1-3 stretch - including 4-of-25 from long distance. Westbrook was the only Thunder starter to get to the foul line Friday night and Jerami Grant took - and missed - the lone attempt by the reserves as the squad finished with a season-low eight free throws.
ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (4-15): Barnes was averaging 16.6 points on 37.9 percent shooting at the end of October, but he’s at 21.6 and 49.7, respectively, in November - a big reason for Dallas’ increased competitiveness of late. The Mavericks have also held their last three opponents to an average of 94.3 points. “Defensively, we started to get stop after stop,” guard J.J. Barea told reporters after the win over Memphis. “It worked out. We took the lead finally, and we were able to play in front for a little bit. That always helps.”
1. Thunder F Carmelo Anthony needs eight points to surpass Ray Allen (24,505) and move into 23rd place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
2. Oklahoma City C Steven Adams has back-to-back double-doubles after picking up 12 points and 12 boards versus Detroit.
3. Mavericks SG Wesley Matthews is averaging 13.5 points at home, compared to 8.8 on the road.
PREDICTION: Thunder 103, Mavericks 101