Thunder Take Advantage of Shorthanded Mavs

Friday, Jan 7, 2011  |  Updated 9:00 AM CDT
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Thunder Take Advantage of Shorthanded Mavs

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LAS VEGAS - JULY 24: Kevin Durant #5 of the 2010 USA Basketball Men's National Team smiles after a USA Basketball showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center July 24, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder weren't feeling sorry for the short-handed Dallas Mavericks.

Durant scored 28 points, Russell Westbrook had 15 points and nine assists and the Thunder took advantage of the absence of Mavericks scoring leader Dirk Nowitzki for a 99-95 victory Thursday night.

Nowitzki is day-to-day and there had been speculation that he might try to play against the Thunder. The nine-time All-Star, averaging 24.1 points, has been shooting at practices. Dallas also is missing No. 3 scorer Caron Butler, out for the season after tearing a tendon in his right knee.

Jeff Green had 16 points and nine rebounds, and Serge Ibaka added 13 points and eight rebounds to help the Thunder avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season.

"When you lose two games in a row, it kind of snowballs and you don't want that to happen," Durant said. "And this team (the Mavs) is good at home, and they didn't have Dirk, their best player, or Caron, but they're a fast team and players stepped up. So you had to be locked in from the beginning and not take this team for granted, and I think we did a good job of that."

Shawn Marion had a season-high 25 points for the Mavericks, who were without Nowitzki for a career-high sixth straight game with a sprained right knee.

Tyson Chandler added 14 points and matched a season high with 18 rebounds. Jason Terry had 19 points for Dallas, 2-4 during Nowitzki's absence.

"We definitely miss him," Chandler said about Nowitzki. "Not only down the stretch, but he changes the entire game. When he's in the game, he stretches the floor. Guys aren't as willing to help off of him, he's a big body. He plays great team defense."

The Mavericks scored only 40 second-half points, and Dallas' defense had trouble stopping Oklahoma City's inside game in the final minutes. The Thunder held a 16-6 fourth-quarter edge in points in the paint.

"We struggled defensively in the second half, we struggled on the boards, and (the Thunder's) second-chance points were our undoing down the stretch," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.

The Mavericks won the first two matchups between the teams this season, both in Oklahoma City, in the series that concluded Thursday. Nowitzki was hurt in the second meeting Dec. 27.

"In the second half we were good defensively, but everybody knows (Dallas) is battling some injuries and they're a different team than a few weeks ago," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.

Dallas was in front by 10 in the first half, but Oklahoma City opened the third quarter with an 11-4 run, capped by Green's 8-footer for a 62-59 edge.

Oklahoma City had a 73-70 advantage heading into the fourth quarter, and Durant's 3-pointer with 9:54 left extended the Thunder's lead to 78-71.

Durant stole the ball from Terry and went in for a dunk with 5:43 left to put his team ahead, 89-78.

Dallas was unable to get closer than four points the rest of the way.

"We had a team on their heels in the first half and didn't put them away," Marion said.

The Mavericks held a 55-51 halftime lead behind Marion's 21 points. Marion was 10 for 12 from the field in the opening half while Dallas went 24 for 41 from the floor.

NOTES: Marion had 10 of Dallas' first 12 points and the Mavs made eight of the their first 10 shots from the field. ... The Thunder started the night hitting an NBA-best 83.7 percent of their free throws, but went 17 of 26 from the line (65.4 percent). ... Nowitzki's previous career high for consecutive missed games was five in 2003-04.

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