Surprise number one: Rick Carlisle decided to sit four starters tonight, including, yes, Dirk, after a tough overtime game last night against Cleveland. Surprise number two: The Mavericks came out in a 2-3 zone, and mostly stuck with it. Surprise number three: All hell broke loose in the second quarter, starting with a J. J. Barea/Russell Westbrook tiff which ended with five technical fouls assessed. Charlie Villanueva got two of them and was escorted to the locker room. Before the half ended, Barea and Westbrook were at it again, and Westbrook was thumbed. Surprise number three and a half: Westbrook had been fouled before being tossed, and Carlisle, under the rules, got to pick any active player to make those free throws. He chose Mitch McGary, who made one of them.
After all that, the game itself was almost anticlimactic. Oklahoma City led Dallas 65-43 at the half; the Mavs crept to within a dozen or so several times, but the high point in Loud City seemed to be the opportunity to boo Barea, the Mavs’ leading scorer with 18, who committed four personal fouls. Most interesting to Mavs watchers, perhaps, was an extended look at Salah Mejri, the 29-year-old rookie center from Tunisia, who collected 17 points and nine rebounds in just under 25 minutes. Without Mejri’s 7-8 shooting, the Mavs’ dismal 39-percent shooting would have been about five points worse.
Westbrook’s unscheduled departure left him with a very odd line: no points — he missed three shots from the floor and four from the stripe — but seven rebounds and eight assists. This left scoring opportunities for Serge Ibaka (20), Dion Waiters (18) and Cameron Payne (10). (Kevin Durant had a modest, for Kevin Durant, 29 points.) Billy Donovan even saw fit to bring out D. J. Augustin, who’d been epoxied to the bench all month; he went scoreless in eight minutes. Still, this game, askew as it was, answered no questions, and managed to propose yet another:
And either of them, I think, more than James Harden.
What? Oh, yes. The score. Oklahoma City 108, Dallas 89. OKC leads the season series two-zip.
Addendum: On the front page of the Oklahoman the next day:
So, like a fiesta, then?