Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 12/30/11
OKLAHOMA CITY The Oklahoma City Thunder do not have a Kevin Durant-vs.-Russell Westbrook problem. Before Thursday's game against Dallas, Durant and Westbrook downplayed their sideline confrontation a day earlier. Then, Durant made the Thunder and their fans forget all about the drama with a 30-foot buzzer-beater to give undefeated Oklahoma City a thrilling 104-102 win over the visiting Mavericks. "It was crazy, a crazy course of events," Durant said of the win that moves the Thunder to 4-0. "As a kid, you dream about hitting a game-winning shot in the NBA. It was a dream come true." Durant's dramatic shot followed a similar success by Vince Carter of Dallas, who made a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds remaining that the defending champs thought might give them their first win of the season. Instead, the Mavs are the first defending champions since the 1969-70 Celtics to start a season 0-3. But for those eyeballing this nationally televised game to witness a continuation of Wednesday's Westbrook-Durant confrontation from . . . well, the bromance lives. With 3:20 left in the game, the Thunder's Kendrick Perkins forced a turnover and Westbrook outsprinted the field to the basket. Somehow, the Mavs' Jason Terry gave just enough of a chase to foul Westbrook as he finished off a slam dunk, sending the Thunder point guard catapulting into the third row of the Chesapeake Energy Arena seats. Who was the teammate who rushed into the audience to pull Westbrook to his feet? Kevin Durant. And when Westbrook was at the line, about to complete the three-point play, who was the teammate who waved his arms, leading the Thunder fans in a "West-brook! West-brook!" chant? Kevin Durant. In Oklahoma City's win over the Grizzlies on Wednesday, Westbrook shot 0-of-13 from the floor before and after an early-game altercation with Durant. There is a history in OKC of the gifted Westbrook losing his cool and the calm Durant having to ice down his teammate's emotions. "It wasn't nothing that people should be blowing out of proportion," Durant said of the conflict before Thursday's game, wisely addressing it while also downplaying it. "It happens every single day. Teams go through emotions, things happen. It's a competitive sport. "Everybody's not going to always come in and be happy every single day." And then there is the Westbrook take before Thursday's game, dripping with his typical silliness: "What happened? I don't know what you're talking about." Against Dallas, Westbrook clearly was carrying some baggage from Wednesday: anger, embarrassment, a feeling that he is unfairly cast as a second banana, something. And for much of the game, the baggage weighed him down. In a game that included an absurd seven turnovers from him, Westbrook was both tentative and sloppy at least until that three-point-play dunk in the final few minutes, part of his 16-point total. This rematch of last season's Western Conference Finals included more than a few scuffles as Dallas newcomers Delonte West and Carter worked to inject some 'tude into a winless team. It also included a damaging moment by Mavs MVP Dirk Nowitzki, who had 29 points and 10 rebounds but committed an error when his protest of a foul call earned him a technical foul, giving the Thunder a free and critical point in the closing minutes. Nowitzki recorded the assist on Carter's go-ahead 3, and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle praised Carter for his early-season play. "We've got to get some other guys to step up who aren't getting it done,'' Carlisle said. "The breaks are going against us. . . . The basketball gods are not on our side right now. The way to get them on our side is doing all the right things all the time." Jason Terry had 16 points and nine assists. The Mavs used a trio of centers, and all were effective. West scored 15. Really, Nowitzki had a great deal of support with the exception of Lamar Odom, who shot 2 for 11 from the field and wasn't in the game for the critical points of the final quarter. The Mavs' top acquisition in trade from the Lakers in a sense Dallas' replacement for impactful center Tyson Chandler has for three games now been an offensive dead weight. Dallas, reloading so much of its roster after free agency, believes it will eventually gel and return to contention, where it's been for 11 straight years. "This league is cruel," Nowitzki said. "A loss is a loss, and now we're 0-3. (But) I think we're going to be a good team that's tough to beat." For now, however, changing-of-the-guard themes are appropriate. Durant found a classy way to address the night. "When two tough teams go at it," he said, "it always comes down to the last play." And when Durant and Westbrook go at it? If the Thunder are able to overtake Dallas as the best team in the West, it will not be because they overcome a Durant-vs.-Westbrook problem. It'll be because Westbrook and the rest of his teammates find Durant picking them up, cheering them on and draining "dream come true" shots in the clutch.
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