Thunder look to avenge Sunday loss to Mavericks
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It's been rough going for the Dallas Mavericks lately.
But with rookie sensation Luka Doncic at power forward and second-year point guard Dennis Smith Jr. leading the way, the future looks bright for the Mavericks.
For the Oklahoma City Thunder, the present is much more important.
Billy Donovan's team enters Monday's home game against Dallas in need of a win to close out 2018 after dropping three of its last four games.
The game will be the second of a back-to-back home-and-home between the teams.
The Mavericks took Sunday's first meeting 105-103 after leading for much of the game, letting the lead evaporate in the fourth quarter and then closing strong to pull out the victory.
Much of that finishing kick was thanks to Smith, whose layup with less than 30 seconds to go put Dallas in front and then his defense on Paul George on the other end preserved the lead as George missed a shot with four seconds left.
"This is what being a big-time player is all about," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "You make the go-ahead basket at one end, and you guard the best player on the other end."
Doncic said the key to pulling off consecutive victories over the Thunder would be Dallas' play on the defensive end and limiting turnovers.
"Our defense needs to be on top of the rival so that's going to win the game," Doncic said, adding that the Mavericks also needed to cut down on their 24 turnovers from the win.
While Dallas has been excellent at home -- Sunday's win elevated their record to 15-3 at the American Airlines Center -- it has been decidedly less impressive on the road.
The Mavericks are just 2-15 away from home this season with their only wins coming at Chicago and Houston.
Dallas has dropped eight consecutive road games. The Thunder are 12-4 at home.
Oklahoma City also has the advantage on the second night of a back-to-back. Dallas is 0-5 on the second night of a back-to-back this season while the Thunder are 3-2.
Russell Westbrook is coming off one of the worst games of his career.
Sunday's loss was the first time in 353 career games that Westbrook attempted 20 or more shots from the field and he failed to score in double figures.
He finished with nine points on 4-of-22 shooting, missing all eight of his 3-point attempts in the Mavericks' win.
The final missed shot was a three at the buzzer that would've given the Thunder a victory.
Instead, it fell short and Oklahoma City fell for the third time in four games.
"I've just got to do a better job, man. It's really on me," Westbrook said. "I've been (expletive) the last month or so. I've just got to get focused in and locked back in on what I need to do. I've got to help my guys out. I've been letting them down."
But Westbrook was far from discouraged.
"I'm not worried," Westbrook told reporters after Sunday's loss. "We play tomorrow and I'll be better from then on."
Updated December 31, 2018