Russell Westbrook posts another bullet on the MVP resume with rally in Dallas

DALLAS -- Russell Westbrook tried to clear his throat a couple of times but couldn't shake the raspy sound that was coming out.

"My voice is always gone, man," Westbrook said. "After the game I never have my voice. But it's all right."

Westbrook could've lost it Monday a number of different times, whether it was in the second quarter -- when the Oklahoma City Thunder went more than six minutes without a point -- or when they fell behind by 13 with 3:31 to go.

But he probably lost it when he stomped, stormed and screamed his way all over the court after punctuating a 14-0 run to close the game with a pull-up jumper with 7.1 seconds left to steal a win from the Dallas Mavericks 92-91.

"I mean, it's just awesome seeing it go in," Steven Adams deadpanned. "We just trust him. His ability to just do the job rather than thinking about the pressure and whatnot, that's all him."

Maybe Westbrook lost a bit of his voice about 15 seconds before in frustration when he missed his first chance to put the Thunder up, a pull-up jumper from 20 feet which caught back iron. The Mavs rebounded the miss. After a trap forced a timeout, Westbrook jumped the inbounds pass, knocking it off the fingernails of J.J. Barea. Westbrook did some more yelling, this time at the officials, adamant the ball went off Barea. A review confirmed Westbrook's claim, and the Thunder had it back with 13 seconds to go.

"I told them I'm not missing another one," Westbrook said.

Wait, did he actually say that?

"No," Victor Oladipo said with a grin, "he just kind of just didn't miss."

That's been par for the course for Westbrook this season in clutch time (last five minutes of a game within five points) as he's evolved into one of the most ruthless, cold-blooded, crunch-time killers. Westbrook has made 11 more clutch-time shots than anyone in the league and has scored the most clutch points on 43.2 percent shooting. In one-possession games with under 30 seconds left, Westbrook has the most points in the league. Behind or tied in the last 10 seconds of a one-possession game -- you guessed it -- he has the most points in the league this season.

To even get to the point of having a chance, though, was a long shot. It took Westbrook scoring 12 of the final 14, almost singlehandedly engineering a roaring comeback. With Billy Donovan deploying a small-ball lineup led by Taj Gibson at center, the Thunder defense tightened, giving Westbrook his window of opportunity.

"The thing I think is really great for our team, and the thing I think any coach wants from his team is to have a never-say-die attitude and to work and be relentless and passionate and play all the way to the final buzzer," Donovan said. "And [Westbrook] embodies that in every possible way, shape and form there could be. He's just got this desire, this drive, that he just, he'll find a way. Nothing's too insurmountable to overcome. It's a great credit to disposition and his competitiveness and I also think it trickles into our team, especially in timeouts and huddles because he really encourages and inspires the group."

What made the rally even more spectacular was it came a night after the Thunder gave up 137 points on 63 percent shooting in a deflating loss to the Rockets in Houston. The Thunder's chance of making a push for the 4-seed was about to take a severe blow, and Westbrook's MVP case was also possibly set to be undercut. On the heels of James Harden taking another head-to-head matchup, to drop a dud in Dallas was going to sting. But Westbrook's statement against the Mavs was loud, and with superstar expert Mark Cuban watching, potentially quite satisfying.

"Nah, man, I play every night the same way," Westbrook said of sinking the Mavs in front of Cuban. "I go out and compete. I compete at a high level every night, and what he says doesn't even matter to me. He's going to do his job and I'm going to do mine."

By the way, Westbrook notched his 37th triple-double of the season -- 37 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists -- putting him four away from tying Oscar Robertson for the most in a single season with nine games to go. But the Thunder have their eyes on other things in the final nine games. They're still within striking distance of having home court in the first round of the playoffs and, with a stunning win in Dallas, have a little momentum.

"Pretty good, mate," Adams said of the comeback win.

Monday's game was a microcosm of what this Thunder season has largely been like. A battle of offensive attrition when Westbrook sits, a wave of frustration and brilliance bounded together when he doesn't, then a hold-on-to-your-butts flurry at the end as Westbrook tries to will the team to the finish line. The fury endures, and it often leaves Westbrook struggling to talk after it's all over with.

"Emotions get in the game, and as you know, I'm full of emotion and I love winning, especially on the road seeing my teammates celebrate," Westbrook said. "That's the best part about it."