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Dirk-less in Dallas Helps Thunder End Tumble | January

Dirk Nowitzki was not in the lineup for the Dallas Mavericks, as he has been out since injuring himself last time the Mavs took on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Caron Butler was not on the floor either, as he is expected to miss the season after rupturing a patella tendon on New Year's Day. Combine all of that with a strong second half by Oklahoma City, and the Thunder were able to end their longest losing streak of the season of just two games by winning in Dallas, 99-95.

They way things have been going, we'll take the victory. With or without Nowitzki and Butler. It is still a win over a solid team on the road. It may not have been the "signature victory" I was hoping the Thunder could pick up against the San Antonio Spurs last week, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Although, the schedule does not get much easier in the near future.

Last night, the Thunder were able to do what the Mavs had done against them twice already this season. They flat out overpowered them in the second half and stepped up their defensive effort, holding Dallas to 34 percent shooting in the final two quarters. And although they were without two of their top three scorers, it still took a complete effort by Oklahoma City to finally defeat Dallas. The Mavs saw Shawn Marion fill in quite nicely for Butler with 25 points on 12 of 17 shooting. Tyson Chandler also chipped in with 14 points and 18 rebounds, and while Jason Kidd did not see his name on the points category, he still dished out 7 assists and pulled down 10 rebounds.

The Thunder got the majority of their production from the usual suspects, although they struggled from the free throw line once again. They shot just 17 of 26 from the charity stripe, yet still were able to find other ways to win, highlighted by Kevin Durant's game high 28 points on 11 of 22 shooting. Jeff Green scored 16 points and pulled down 9 boards, while Russell Westbrook scored 15 points and handed out 9 assists. 


As I said, it does not get much easier for the Thunder over the following two weeks. They will finally get to return home for a brief layover to host the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night, but then head out to Houston to face the Rockets on Wednesday night. After traveling back home overnight to host the Orlando Magic on Thursday night, the Thunder will hit the road to take on the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets before returning to the Ford Center to take on the New York Knicks. Needless to say, it will be a critical two weeks on tap for Oklahoma City.

* Make sure to follow Kelley on Twitter @RobKelley24, as he was named one of the 1,000 Most Influential Sports Writers on Twitter.