Just 57 seconds into the second half, a furious Scott Brooks stormed off the bench, hands in the air, waving for a timeout.
Might as well have been the national distress signal.
Because no matter how many frustrated stoppages Brooks asked for — and there were two more in an ugly third quarter — they only served as temporary reprieve for an ongoing beatdown at the hands of the Mavericks on Sunday night.
Dallas 109, OKC 86, the Thunder’s worst home loss (23 points) since April 2009, the franchise’s inaugural season in the metro.
“The timeouts…well we didn’t need them at the end of the game,” Brooks joked.
Once again, as has been the case during this recent tailspin, the problems started on the defensive end.
Whether it was a lack of energy, lack of effort or lack of proper personnel — with three starters sidelined — the Thunder just couldn’t get nearly enough stops.
Dallas scored 29 points in the first quarter, 30 in the second and 32 in the third, grabbing and building what was a 21-point lead heading to a meaningless fourth.
Overall, the Mavericks shot 53 percent from the field and a scorching 13-of-24 from deep. Countless perimeter breakdowns led to uncontested jumpers and slow rotations allowed an array of easy buckets at the rim.
And as the steady flow of Maverick points piled up on Sunday night, the Thunder’s timeout huddles grew increasingly more animated. But that genuine displeasure didn’t translate to the court. When the ball was in play, there seemed to be a general disinterest.
“Seemed like we wasn’t there. We just coasted,” Kevin Durant said. “No excuse. None. We gotta figure it out. We’re pros. We gotta learn on the fly. All of us. We gotta act like we care.”
It’s déjà vu for a Thunder team that looked like it had solved its defensive woes the past two games, but instead reverted back to the plodding form that now has OKC 5-6 since the All-Star break.
“Just an overall theme of not good enough on the defensive end,” Nick Collison said. “I’d like to see us be a lot more consistent here finishing up the year.”
Moving forward, defense remains the area of concern. But on Sunday, the offense was equally at fault.
The Thunder shot 36 percent overall and only scored 38 points in the second half. And a brunt of those struggles fall on OKC’s bench.
With Russell Westbrook resting on the front end of a back-to-back, Durant and Serge Ibaka remained productive, combining for 49 points.
But the Thunder reserves went a brutal 8-of-29 from the field and 3-of-16 from deep. Derek Fisher and Caron Butler, two of OKC’s steadiest players of late, went a combined 4-of-15 with a plus/minus of minus-38.
This loss, combined with a Spurs win on Sunday, drops the Thunder two games behind San Antonio for the top seed in the West.
OKC gets an immediate bounceback opportunity, facing the Bulls in Chicago on Monday night. Westbrook is expected to play.
But will the defense return?