The Moore American

Sports

December 21, 2011

Thunder-Mavericks not a rivalry...yet

OKC wins second preseason game 87-83

OKLAHOMA CITY —  Scott Brooks doesn’t want to call it a rivalry just yet. Even though no team has battled the Dallas Mavericks as tough as his Oklahoma City squad has over the past two years, he says it’s not at that point yet.

“Our guys love to compete,” Brooks said. “I know we played them in the playoffs and they beat us fair and square. I think when you play each other and there is multiple playoffs series year after year, I think then it becomes a rivalry.”

The Thunder and Mavericks faced off Tuesday for the second time in three days in preseason action. The Thunder won the opener, but Dallas played without Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd. That was not the case this time as both team’s starters played heavy minutes and the Thunder rolled again 87-83 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The victory concludes preseason action for the Thunder, who start the regular season Sunday when they host the Orlando Magic.

“The real show starts on Sunday,” Nazr Mohammed said. “That’s going to be the real barometer for us.”

But they will not have to wait long before they see the Mavs again. NBA schedule makers made sure the two combatants wouldn’t forget about each other as they’ll face off twice in their first six games.

“This team we play tonight is not going to be the same team next week,” Brooks said. “But we are really focusing on ourselves. Really trying to get better. Get solid as a group as quickly as possible.”

Dallas and Oklahoma City are approaching the budding rivalry from different viewpoints. The Mavericks are coming off winning their first NBA title in franchise history. They just got to the top of the mountain and are hoping to make it a long stay.

Conversely, the Thunder want to claim that perch for themselves. And they know the only way to do that is to go through the defending champs.

“It’s easy to say this will be a good rivalry,” Brooks said. “We’re a good team, they’re a good team. The location of each team. But we don’t look at it in that way, yet. But maybe in the future.”

Even though Brooks said he wasn’t treating the games against Dallas any different than the other 29 teams in the league, his Thunder gave a regular season effort Tuesday.

Oklahoma City started slow but got the got their feel in the second quarter. James Harden came off the bench to lead the Thunder to 47-39 half-time advantage.

The Thunder pulled away in the third as the team caught fire. But it was an altercation between Nick Collison and the newly acquired Lamar Odom that had the arena buzzing and also set a tone for what this series will look like this year.

With Oklahoma City leading 74-53 both teams kept their starters on the bench the entire fourth quarter.

Harden had a team high 13 points. Russell Westbrook added 12 while Kevin Durant took only nine shots on his way to 10 points.

Nowitzki never found his shot scored only 6 points. Jerome Randell led Dallas with 17.

Because it was a preseason game, the outcome means little. But every time the Thunder can beat Dallas, they have an opportunity to plant a seed of doubt in the champions heads in case they meet again in the postseason.

“Playing the defending champion is always fun,” Brooks said. “Watching them play for the championship last summer it was great basketball. I really think they are as good as any team in the league. Every season is different. There are other good teams in the west, but they are the defending champs. They earned it, they deserve it. We know we have to play good basketball to beat any team in this league. And you have to play really well to beat the Dallas Mavericks.”

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