Mavs Over OKC: 'A Whimsical Thing'

DALLAS - TY's back is hurt. So Nowitzki starts at center Sunday against the visiting Thunder? 'It was a bit of a whimsical thing, but I talked to Dirk about it, he was fine with it, and we just took a shot with it.’ The 'shot' results in Dallas 112, OKC 107.

The Dallas Mavericks are already too thin at center, with Brandan Wright now wearin' the Green and Jermaine O'Neal still opening Christmas presents on his couch in Southlake. So when Tyson Chandler comes down with back spasms, what are the Mavs to do?

Let Charlie V shoot his way into the starting role? Let Greg Smith bang his way there? Let Dwight Powell bounce from Frisco to handle it?

How about Dirk Nowitzki making his first start at center in five years, and Dallas getting a season-best 30 points out of him to fuel a 112-107 win over the Durant-less Thunder?

“It was the most un-athletic front line we’ve ever had in the history of the NBA with him at the 5 and me at the 4,” said Chandler Parsons, who was athletic enough to score 26 points. “The biggest concern was who was going to do the jump ball.''

Added Dirk: “We were struggling at times to keep the guys in front of us.''

Dallas (22-10) remains in the elusive business of recording "signature wins'' and maybe by season's end, we will recognize this that way, even though OKC is now only 15-17. The Thunder had won 10 of the last 13 with Russell Westbrook in charge. But the reason for Rajon Rondo's existence in Dallas (and the reason Wright is no longer here) was accentuated Sunday as Rondo shadowed Westy. ... and he was not among the Mavs who "struggled to keep the guys in front of us.''

Westbrook saw his 11-game streak of scoring at least 25 points ended as he finished with just 18 points on 6-of-23 shooting while being harassed by Rondo, who himself scored 15 points to go with six rebounds, seven assists and two steals in 34 minutes. He has now scored 13-plus in each of his last four games with Dallas.

But while energy helped start things (with Barea joining Rondo and Monta in a three-guard starting lineup), Dirk-as-closer helped end it. The Mavericks closed the game on an 18-9 run as Nowitzki scored 10 in the final 4:59. In Carlisle's 1,000th game as an NBA coach, creativity worked.

“Our lineup at times threw them with mismatches,'' Dirk said.

Smith played, too, with eight rebounds. And Charlie V got seven points. And Raymond Felton made a brief and inauspicious debut. Indeed, tt's not all smiles for Dallas, of course. TY's back is an issue. Monta left late with an ankle injury while vowing to not miss time. Rondo reportedly required some facial stitches. The center solution on this night is, obviously, not a long-term one.

Unless ...

No, said Dirk. "When (Carlisle) asked me if I wanted to start at the 5, I thought he'd had a few beers to come up with that idea.''

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