If the mood of three-time NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant in any indicator, the Thunder has quickly turned the page after its frustrating 103-97 loss at Miami on Christmas Day. “It’s Christmas time, man. You can’t be frustrated around this time,” a smiling Durant said after Thursday morning’s shoot-around in preparation for today’s nationally televised (TNT) game at 7 p.m. against the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena. “Of course, we were a little upset about the (Miami) loss, but we learned a lot about ourselves. We had a great film session (Wednesday), so that made everything better. Just coming in here and getting better.”
After winning 12 straight, the Thunder (21-6) is now riding a two-game losing streak. Tuesday’s loss to the Heat was the first time this season OKC has lost consecutive games, having lost its previous outing 99-93 last Thursday at Minnesota. Since 2010-11, the Thunder is 39-10 (.796) after a loss.
“We’re a resilient team, no matter what,” Durant said. “We’ve been down big before and we’ve come back and won. We’ve lost two or three in a row, we’ve bounced back and won four or five in a row. We’re a resilient team and we know that. We can’t get down on ourselves and when we won 12 in a row we couldn’t get too high on ourselves as well. We have a good, even attitude coming in about ourselves every single day.”
The revamped Mavericks have struggled with a slew of injuries this season, most notably to 2007 MVP Dirk Nowitzki, who made his season debut last Sunday following knee surgery. Dallas used its 13th different starting lineup of the season in its last outing, a 129-91 loss at San Antonio.
“There’s no secret to what they do,” Durant said of the Mavs. “Dirk is back. They lost (shooting guard Jason) Terry, but O.J. Mayo is doing the same thing, maybe even better. They mix the point guards up a lot so it’s kind of tough figure out who’s going to have a good game or who’s going to be playing because they have so many lineups they can mix and match with, and they’re playing small as well. It’s going to be tough. Rick Carlisle is an unbelievable coach. He puts all those guys in great positions. We’ve got to be focused and ready for a tough one.”
Nowitzki played 20 minutes against the Spurs, finishing with eight points and six rebounds. “Obviously, when Dirk gets back and is full strength they’re going to be a completely different team as the season goes along,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “They’ve had a lot of injuries so it’s hard to be consistent, it’s hard to get the start that you want when you don’t have all your guys ready to play. Dirk will play tonight. We all know what he does and how he does it and he always seems to have good games against us.”
Mayo has battled flu-like symptoms, but returned to practice Wednesday and is expected to play in tonight’s game. “It seems like when he plays well, they win,” Brooks said of Mayo, who is averaging a team-high 19.3 points per game and shooting 48.6 percent from 3-point range (second in the NBA).
- John Rohde