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December 28, 2012

Westbrook rallies Thunder past Mavericks

OKLAHOMA CITY — Here's a new twist on the Oklahoma City Thunder's budding rivalry with the Dallas Mavericks: With a game coming down to crunch time, Dirk Nowitzki didn't want the ball.

Instead, it was Russell Westbrook who shrugged off a shaky start and closed out a Thunder victory.

Kevin Durant scored 40 points while Westbrook added eight of his 16 points in overtime to help Oklahoma City beat Dallas 111-105 on Thursday night for their 11th straight win at home.

Westbrook turned the game around with six straight points after the Mavs had gone up 104-101 on Chris Kaman's bucket inside midway through overtime. Westbrook had a layup, hit a jumper over the rusty Nowitzki and then made a leaping steal of an O.J. Mayo pass that led to a fast-break layup. The sequence left Mavericks owner Mark Cuban shaking his head in his seat near the team's bench.

"I just try to make an impact on the game," said Westbrook, who also had 10 assists, six rebounds and three steals. "Maybe it's not scoring. Maybe it's rebounding, maybe it's passing, maybe it's defending.

"But I just try to make an impact on the game every night."

Until the end, it had been Westbrook who was frustrated. He missed eight of his first 10 shots and struggled to contain ex-UCLA teammate Darren Collison, who scored a season-high 32 points and hit a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime.

"Sometimes there's nights like that," Westbrook said. "You've just got to continue to play, fight through it and play your game."

When asked specifically about Collison, Westbrook cut off his postgame interview and cussed on his way out of the locker room.

"He kept fighting and kept fighting for the team," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. " ... I love Russell. I love what he does. I love what he's about. He competes every time. He's a big part of why we're a good team."

Still working his way back into shape, Nowitzki proved to be a liability during Oklahoma City's 17-6 fourth-quarter comeback. He sagged off of Durant far enough that the three-time NBA scoring champion could drill a 3-pointer from the left wing, then was trailing a play when Mayo backed into him and lost the ball to set up Durant's fast-break dunk and three-point play.

"I don't really have the stamina or the legs there, so I couldn't really put on the brakes. I mean, I kicked the ball out of his hands," Nowitzki said. "It was just some ugly stuff."

In overtime, Carlisle pulled Nowitzki in favor of Shawn Marion for defense at one point. And he wasn't his usual clutch self with the game on the line — as Oklahoma City knows well from the Western Conference finals two seasons ago.

"I didn't really want the ball that much," Nowitzki said. "I don't really feel like I've got the stamina, the lift to do something out there with the ball, make a one-on-one move.

"I think that I'm a week or two away of really dominating the ball down the stretch and making some stuff happen."

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