On Sunday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder blew things open in the third quarter and led by as many as 23 points. Two nights later, the damage started with a 17-4 Thunder run to end the second quarter. With a few minutes to go in the third, the Dallas Mavericks were again down by 23.
A fourth-quarter garbage-time comeback made the score respectable as OKC swept the preseason pair.
What does it mean?
Well, start with the fact that it is the preseason. Add that Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd didn't play in the first game, a 14-point OKC victory. Throw in that Jason Terry and Delonte West didn't play Tuesday at OKC because both were ill. Plus, the Thunder played their usual cast in both games.
Dallas led 24-18 after the first quarter and 35-30 into the second before everything fell apart. A 40-13 OKC dunk-a-thon (21 fastbreak points for the Thunder in the game) fueled a 70-48 lead.
The Mavs' reserves led a fourth-quarter comeback just as they did Sunday night. Diminutive guard Jerome Randle made another case for a roster spot with a team-high 17 points in 18 minutes. Brandan Wright, in his first action as a Mav after being ill Sunday, had a nice showing with 12 points and four rebounds. Shawn Marion, with 10 points in 22 minutes, was the only other Mavs player to score in double figures.
There weren't many other highlights for Dallas, and although this was a preseason game, it is evident that the start of the season could be a tough go for the defending champs who basically enter the Christmas Day opener against the Miami Heat -- a team like the Thunder in that it is virtually unchanged and ready to roll -- with zero chemistry and almost no floor time with actual lineups that will be counted upon in the regular season.
Terry and backup point guard West didn't play Tuesday because of illness. Nowitzki, in his 2011-12 debut was 2-of-10 from the floor with six points in 23 minutes. Kidd, who hadn't played a basketball game since Game 6 of the NBA Finals in mid-June, had three points and three assists in 18 minutes.
Vince Carter, who was dealing with knee tendinitis issues a few days ago, didn't play. Lamar Odom had eight points 3-of-10 shooting. Starting center Brendan Haywood, taking over the job for the departed Tyson Chandler, had no points and two boards in 20 minutes.
What is clear after these two games is that good, young, unchanged teams like the Thunder and Heat should have extreme advantages over re-tooled teams like the Mavs. Dallas fans can count on the 2010-11 championship banner being raised before Sunday's 1:30 p.m. tip.
After that, what happens on the court is anybody's guess.