Mavs Rout Thunder Behind Smothering Defense

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The return of Wes Matthews provided Dallas with an added spark Sunday night. It wasn’t that the team hadn’t been playing defense already -far from it. With their 104-89 victory tonight, Dallas strung together its seventh straight sub-100 defensive effort. Not bad for the boys in blue. The best example of this was a wild sequence in which Matthews took on Russell Westbrook at the top of the key and simply hounded him with active hands and solid positioning. Every time Russell turned, the Mavs flashed an added defender, forcing the triple-double machine back toward Matthews. Westbrook and Wes danced a bit, then Russ flipped up an awkward off-balance shot at the buzzer that missed everything. The crowd erupted and Wes pumped his fist. Matthews might have only chipped in 9 points, but his relentless effort nevertheless fueled a stellar effort.

Equally impressive in tonight’s win was the fluid ball movement. Dallas routinely moved the ball and found the open man, spreading out the scoring and creating high percentage shots. Leading all scorers was Seth Curry with 22 as he continued his red-hot stretch. He might not be as good as his older brother but if Dallas has any sense it will lock this man down with an extension this Summer before his price tag becomes problematic. Other notable scores were Dirk Nowitzki with 18 (leaving him only 20 points shy of becoming only the 6th player in NBA history to reach 30,000), Harrison Barnes with 17, and Nerlens Noel with 13.

Though Dallas lead for most of the game, it was a 21-4 burst to begin the third quarter that saw a once close game swell to a blowout. Westbrook was visibly frustrated, lashing out on several occasions and was fortunate not to be ejected. Scoring 29 points on just 33% shooting, the explosive one-man-show found himself bottled up all night and kept well away from his triple-double average.

With the win, Dallas moves to 26 and 36 on the year with a chance to continue their furious charge for the 8 seed. Next up, the Los Angeles Lakers, who are in the midst of a seven game losing streak.

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