Russell Westbrook limped along, much like his team, his knee hurting and his pride more so.
The Thunder had been outmuscled, outsmarted and outshot by this ghost of a Maverick team. Even outUCLA'd. Westbrook's old Bruin running buddy, Darren Collison, was en route to 32 points, his second-most as a pro.
Meanwhile, Westbrook, the NBA's sixth-leading scorer, didn't even reach double digits until overtime.
But love him or loathe him, and there are multitudes on both sides, give Westbrook his due. He never goes gently into the night. The lightning always finds the Thunder point guard, and it did so again Thursday night.
Westbrook scored eight straight Thunder points in overtime, delivering to the Boomers a game they had no business winning. The Thunder beat the Mavs 111-105 despite playing its worst game of the season.
The Thunder was ragged on defense and stagnant on offense. The Thunder was on the run all game long against a shell of the team that won the NBA title a mere 18 months ago.
Shawn Marion no longer is the Matrix. Dirk Nowitzki, in just his second game of the season after October knee surgery, made only three of 11 shots. O.J. Mayo didn't score until late in the third quarter.
Mav coach Rick Carlisle has been so frustrated with Collison, he gave Derek Fisher nine starts in Collison's place. Dallas came into this one 12-16, having lost six of seven.
The Thunder should have run the Mavs out of the gym. Instead, the opposite almost happened.
And Westbrook was part of that. His playmaking was actually good — Westbrook finished with 10 assists, a virtual miracle on this wayward night — but his defense on Collison was awful, and Westbrook couldn't find the basket.
Of course, Westbrook being Westbrook, he still plays.
“That's what Russell does,” Scotty Brooks said. “He's a competitor. He fights. He didn't have a good first half. But he kept fighting.
“I love Russell. Love what he does. Love what he's about.”
Westbrook had two steals down the stretch of regulation to key a Thunder comeback. The latter seemed to give OKC the victory, until Collison hit a loose-ball, throw-it-up, 3-point prayer at the buzzer to forge overtime.
Westbrook went to overtime having made just four of 16 shots.
But Kevin Durant, who had a quiet 40 points, gave his Sundance Kid a pep talk.
“Before the ball tipped, I told him this is his time,” Durant said. “And he came out there and responded and made some big plays.
“He was just frustrated with himself. I think he let it take over him a little bit. We all do it. He just let it go and came out there and made some really, really big plays and in the overtime really took over.”
You could tell Westbrook's confidence was dented. He missed an 18-footer on OKC's first overtime possession. Then when Dallas took a 104-101 lead, Westbrook took a backdoor pass from Thabo Sefolosha and dropped the ball in the basket, but not with his usual force.
On the next Thunder possession, with a chance to take the lead, Westbrook had an open 16-footer. He hesitated. You rarely see doubt in Westbrook's demeanor, but we might have seen it then. If so, it was fleeting.
Westbrook regrouped, forged shooting space and nailed a 16-footer a few feet closer to the baseline.
“Sometimes you have nights like that,” Westbrook said. “You just gotta continue to fight through it.”
The Thunder never lost the lead. Westbrook scored on a drive to give OKC a 107-104 lead, then made two foul shots to make it 109-105 with 20.7 seconds left.
When it was over, Westbrook found Collison, with whom he shared the UCLA backcourt during a run to the 2008 Final Four. Collison, not Westbrook, was the point guard on that team.
Westbrook gave his old friend a little pop, a handshake, a quick hug and a short conversation.
“Russ is a non-stop attacker,” Collison said. “You gotta be on your toes and be ready to play against him.”
The whole 48 minutes. Or 53, in this case, when Westbrook, like he often does, saved his best for last.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.