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Thunder show they have plenty in reserve

All-Star Russell Westbrook sat out the fourth quarter of the Thunder’s win as Oklahoma City went with four backups to close out the Mavericks. All-Star Russell Westbrook sat out the fourth quarter of the Thunder’s win as Oklahoma City went with four backups to close out the Mavericks. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Associated Press / May 21, 2011

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Take a sweep of the Lakers, a nine-day layoff, and a dominant outing by Dirk Nowitzki in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, and it’s understandable why the Dallas Mavericks may have started thinking too highly of themselves.

Losing Game 2 at home to a team that played four subs nearly the entire fourth quarter should be a strong dose of humility.

“I’m not going to say a loss is ever good, because I don’t ever like to lose. It doesn’t do well for my sleep pattern,’’ Dallas center Tyson Chandler said yesterday. “But sometimes you need to get hit on the chin and get woke up. Last night, they hit us on the chin. Hopefully, that woke us up.’’

Oklahoma City withstood an early scoring barrage, wiped out an 11-point deficit by halftime, then controlled things down the stretch. Instead of being awed by the big stage, the Thunder’s youth, athleticism and perhaps a bit of naivety served them well.

Considering Oklahoma City pulled out Game 2 with All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook spending the last quarter on the bench, it would seem like they have plenty to build on as the series moves to their court for Game 3 tonight.

Provided, that is, that Westbrook is OK with having had to watch. Although he was agitated immediately after being pulled late in the third quarter, he said all the right things after the game, and continued to try to douse any controversy yesterday.

“My main focus is we got this far because the team is doing well, not if I’m doing good or bad,’’ Westbrook said.

Coach Scott Brooks went with Kevin Durant, Eric Maynor, and reserves James Harden, Nick Collison, and Daequan Cook to close out the game.

“The group was playing good basketball,’’ Brooks said. “I felt last night in my heart, in my gut, that that team was deserving to finish up the game.’’

Bulls out to regroup By the numbers, the Chicago Bulls easily could have been blown out by the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. They weren’t, though.

Even though MVP Derrick Rose struggled, even though they got outshot and outrebounded, and even though LeBron James and Dwyane Wade played more like superstars, the Bulls were in it until the end.

So maybe that’s one positive they can take from their 85-75 loss Wednesday. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has three days to try to fix what went wrong as the series shifts to Miami for Game 3 tomorrow night.

“We’re going to have to make corrections, learn from it, and do a whole lot better down there,’’ Thibodeau said. “Defensively we have to do a lot better.’’

After dominating Miami on the boards in Game 1, the Bulls got beaten, 45-41. And the Bulls went from scoring 31 second-chance points in the opener to 18 in Game 2.

The shooting was simply abysmal, with the Bulls making 34.1 percent compared with Miami’s 47.1. Whether they were firing away from the outside or going to the rim, they simply weren’t hitting. They missed an astounding 17 of 20 3-point attempts, were a brutal 17 of 42 in the paint and had little luck at the foul line, too, going 16 of 26.

Even so, for all their shortcomings, the Bulls had a chance to win. The teams were tied at 73 in the fourth quarter before James took over, so the loss hardly rattled the Bulls.

“We’re definitely confident,’’ Rose said. “I know we can’t wait to go out there and play again. We’re the type of team where when things get tough, we stay together.’’

West joins Warriors The Golden State Warriors hired Jerry West to join the franchise’s front office in an advisory role and be a member of the executive board. The Warriors announced that West will work with the basketball operations staff and the business arm of the team. A 14-time All-Star with the Lakers, West also spent 18 seasons as the Lakers’ general manager and five years in Memphis’ front office . . . The Maine Red Claws of the NBA Developmental League said they have interest in hiring former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl for its vacant position. The Red Claws are affiliated with the Celtics.

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