“That’s just part of the plan, ain’t nothing I can do about it,” Westbrook said. “… I want to play, but I got to think about the future, my health the next couple years.”
But despite the hole, the Thunder had a long-shot chance to pull it out with Westbrook back in the closing minutes.
Durant dropped in a floater, two of his game-high 43 points, cutting the Mavs’ lead to five with 1:50 left.
To have a chance, the Thunder needed stops. They never came.
Moments later, off a drive and kick from Monta Ellis, Nowitzki fired in that game-sealing dagger, the final three of his 32 points.
On the play, Durant — who guarded Nowitzki late in the game — was caught overhelping on a cutter, a defensive lapse that led to the easy 3-point look — a trend that’s been all too common for the Thunder defense this past month.
“When you’re playing team basketball, you gotta help over,” Durant said of the play. “You gotta give them credit, they ran a great play. Instead of giving a wide-open dunk, you gotta bump the guy rolling to the rim, which was me. I had a guy on the perimeter, which was Dirk, and he hit a shot.”
It was the Thunder’s second loss to the Mavs in the past nine days and dropped OKC to 52-19 on the season. The Thunder is now 2.5 games behind San Antonio for the top spot in the West.