By Jay Betsill
The Oklahoma City Thunder had back-to-back back-to-backs this week, highlighted by three consecutive wins before losing a thriller to the Mavericks on Tuesday evening at American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Kevin Durant scored 35 points to give the Thunder their 50th win, a 102-95 road win over the Cavaliers. Cleveland played without injured guard Kyrie Irving (strained biceps) and forward Luol Deng (sprained ankle). The very next evening the Thunder escaped Toronto with a 119-118 OT win, led by Durant’s 51 points and 12 rebounds.
Guard Russell Westbrook limped off in the third quarter with a sprained right knee. After sitting out Thursday’s win at Cleveland, to rest the knee after having surgery for the third time earlier this season, Westbrook was injured when he collided with Kyle Lowry after a pump-fake.
The Thunder had the weekend off before facing another back-to-back that started with a home contest against the Denver Nuggets. Oklahoma City would win going away 117-96, behind Durant’s 27 points and 23 points from recently signed forward Caron Butler.
“That’s what we want him to do,” Durant said, speaking of Butler. “He was aggressive, and that’s what we need him to do for the rest of the year.”
On Monday evening, the Thunder traveled to Dallas to take on the Mavericks. Westbrook returned, but his 23 points — all scored in regulation — and Durant’s 43 points were not enough as they fell to Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs 128-119 in OT. It was Dallas’ second consecutive win over their rivals, north on I-35, coming on the heels of the 109-86 at Oklahoma City on March 16 in the Thunder’s worst loss of the season.
“I’m proud of our guys’ effort and energy, coming back from back-to-back games,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. “I can’t complain about anything we did tonight.”
The Thunder host Sacramento on Friday, and Utah on Sunday. Then they have yet another back-to-back. This time at home against the Western Conference leading San Antonio Spurs on April 3rd. Followed by the next night at the Houston Rockets.
The Thunder are currently 52-19, three games behind the first place Spurs who are riding a 15-game winning streak.