OKLAHOMA CITY _ Just when the Mavericks thought they were on a visit to Chokelahoma, they remembered how to play this game of basketball.
With The Oklahoma City Thunder missing its two leading scorers, Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, the Mavericks should have been able to gobble up this game like a piece of cake.
Maybe it wasn't a choke. But it was certainly something similar after the Mavericks played pitifully in falling behind by 23 points, rallied as close as four and finally succumbed 96-87 Monday night at the Ford Center.
Rookie Russell Westbrook had a triple double with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists and journeyman center Nenad Krstic had 26 points.
That was enough to beat the Mavericks, who would have been just fine if they'd played the first three quarters like they played the fourth.
They fell to pieces in the third quarter, when the Thunder made its first seven shots of the period. It was 79-59 going into the fourth quarter, when the Mavericks finally got interested.
By then, it was too late. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Gerald Green tried to get them back into the game and Nowitzki's 3-pointer with 4:12 left made it 88-84, Thunder.
But Kyle Weaver retorted with a 3-pointer and the Mavericks misfired on five consecutive possessions to end their rally.
The Mavericks should have known this was going to be tough, considering they won two meetings this season in Dallas against the Thunder by a total of six points and needed overtime to do so on Friday.
This time, they got burned by their lack of focus.