Wednesday Night’s Alright (for Fighting)

You’ve got to hand it to the Thunder and Mavericks: without all the temper tantrums, blown fuses, and testosterone battles, Wednesday’s game would have offered very little in the way of a compelling story. On a night when the Mavericks rested all of their starters coming off a disheartening overtime loss 24 hours prior, the game itself was largely a formality. Thankfully the players on each side got together beforehand and agreed on a method that would create fireworks outside the realm of basketball.

There are very few fights in the history of sports that have ever been serious. There was that one time Kermit Washington punched Rudy Tomjanovich so hard his head flew into the ninth row of the stands, and pretty much everything Kyle Farnsworth ever did in baseball got ugly, but most of the time nothing at all happens. Nothing at all is a pretty good description of what transpired in the fracas last night, despite the lengthy delay and what eventually turned into two ejections.

It all started with J.J. Barea and Russell Westbrook, two scrappy little — at least by NBA standards — bastards who don’t seem to care much for one another.

To be honest, I’m not all that interested in dissecting exactly who was at fault. It bores me to no end to think of all the Thunder fans who are convinced Barea caused the whole thing, and an equally large yawn occurs picturing the Mavericks fans certain that Westbrook overreacted. Look, they’re probably both assholes, alright? Everyone knows Westbrook is an emotional little fuck, but most people are okay with it because he’s very good and his fiery nature sets him apart even more. As for Barea, well, he just has that puffed up swagger to him, and that isn’t a compliment.

Considering the game was almost immediately ushered into blowout territory by a razor-sharp Thunder offense and a peak-form Kevin Durant, I had all but checked out of this contest when the following took place:

It may have ended up blowing over pretty fast if Charlie Villanueva hadn’t lost his shit and tried to take on the entire Thunder team. Derek Harper was insistent that Charlie’s actions were laudable, and that he was simply sticking up for his teammate.

I’m not so sure. Villanueva could have stuck up for J.J. without getting so enraged that he single-handedly extended the melee for an extra round. To me, his involvement was in no way helpful to anyone, and I think the officials got it right in issuing him two technical fouls for an immediate ejection.

Westbrook and Barea were each issued one, and of course it wasn’t much later at all that Westbrook got mad at J.J. again and was given his second. He left the game having failed to score despite getting three shots from the field and four free throws, and the Mavs announcers felt like his rough shooting performance may have contributed to his short fuse. If that is true, maybe that’s why Charlie got so upset. I mean, I get filled with rage every time I see his 25 percent three-point percentage myself.

So all that happened, and when it wasn’t happening, the Mavericks’ bench players were getting thoroughly destroyed by a very good Thunder team — a foregone conclusion, of course. I don’t mind the bench-centered games because I’m one of those people who actually enjoys seeing the players who don’t normally get much action, but you’re pretty much conceding when you run a lineup like that out there against a top-five team like Oklahoma City.

Really, the only stat-minded topic worth even bringing into this recap is the exciting performance by Tunisian-born Salah Mejri, who put up a beautiful 17-point, 9-rebound performance. Mejri hadn’t played since November 11 and was actually scoreless on the season until last night, so good for him. The Mavs obviously have no room for Mejri in their rotation, but he’s surprisingly smooth for such a big guy, and he showed impressive athleticism on several authoritative dunks and one nifty chase-down block. Maybe we’ll see him again some time in March.

Two games into the rough stretch of schedule every Mavs fan has been dreading, the results are about as bad as one could have expected. Dallas has now dropped two straight, bringing their record down to 22-18. With tough matchups against the Bulls and Spurs coming up before the weekend even draws to a close, it may get even worse from here.

Now is the time to go back through all the unexpected wins from earlier in the year and be very grateful. It’s also a good time to get really mad about the dumb losses, such as that really recent one against the Bucks where the team didn’t even bother playing until the third quarter.