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Makeshift Mavericks Defeat Thunder, 103-93

After a long five-day break during the holidays, the Dallas Mavericks began a stretch of five games in seven nights with the match-up against the Oklahoma City Thunder.  To start the day, the Mavericks knew they were already going to be without Rick Carlisle.  They didn't know they were going to lose Brian Cardinal to an illness and then lose Dirk Nowitzki to a sore right knee in the second quarter.  Nowitzki went down at the 9:10 mark of the second quarter and was unable to return to the game.  His status for the game against the Toronto Raptors remains questionable.  Despite those surprises, the Mavericks had a top-to-bottom team effort in the 103-93 victory.

The Mavericks had a sluggish start to the game but got their footing and shot the lights out with 54% shooting in the opening quarter.  The three-ball didn't get any rust over the holiday break as they shot 50% (5-10) in the opening quarter.  They finished the game shooting 48% from the field and 47% from the three-point line.  The Mavericks held the Thunder to 43% shooting and 35% from the three-point line.

With the injury to Dirk Nowitzki, a team effort was necessary in order to pull out the victory.  As Rick Carlisle has preached, this team is dependent on depth and balance; they got that in spades against the Thunder.  Caron Butler led the charge in the first half with his scoring.  Shawn Marion took over in the third quarter scoring 12 of his 20 points in the third quarter.   Dallas even got a rare three-point shot from Alexis Ajinca.  Caron Butler led the Mavericks with 21 points.

It's almost a given now that when the scoreboard goes from the 3rd to the 4th quarter, Jason "The Closer" Terry will take the game over.  Terry was 1-9 from the field with 2 points entering the final frame, he finished with 5-8 from the field with 11 points in the last quarter.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 28 points.  That marked the second game against the Mavericks where Durant was able to break through the struggles he had against Dallas.  Durant, the league's leading scorer, got his points but he had to work hard to get those 28 points.  In Kevin Durant's career, he's averaged fewer than 20 points/game against just two teams -- Dallas (18.7) and the Orlando Magic (17.6).  A product of conference alignment, Durant has played more than twice as many games against the Mavericks (11) as the Magic (5).  Durant's career field goal percentage is below 40 percent against only two teams, the same two: 37.4% (68-of-182) against the Mavericks; 37.0% (30-of-81) against the Magic.

In the first match-up against the Thunder, the Mavericks had a surprising advantage in the free throw department.  Dallas was plus-11 in free throw attempts (34-23) and plus-13 in free throws made (30-17) in their last game against the Thunder.  Tonight, the Mavericks were minus-12 in attempts (23-11) and minus-9 in free throws made (19-10).  The Mavericks were fortunate that it didn't come down to the disparity at the free throw line.  

The defense was stellar in the final quarter.  The Mavericks held the high-powered Thunder team to 12 points in the 4th quarter.  Oklahoma City missed their first nine field goal attempts in the quarter and didn't have their first made field goal until the 5:36 mark left in the quarter.  Dallas used that stretch to create a 12-2 scoring run which helped break the game open for the Mavericks.

The Mavericks don't break, even when they're losing going into the final quarter.  They were trailing 79-81 going into the final quarter and found the pieces to pull away for the victory.  The Mavericks are now 7-2 when they're trailing going into the final quarter.  Despite all of the moving and missing pieces for the Mavericks, Dallas continued to do what they do best: Win.  The Mavericks have now won 17 out of their last 18 games.


Quick Notes:

- Before tonight's tip with the Thunder, the Mavs have played the 4th hardest schedule (opponent win pct of .535). The Spurs are 24th (.487), Lakers are last (.422).

- The Dallas Mavericks lead the NBA in wins over teams with winning records with 13.  The Oklahoma City Thunder are 4th in the league with 8 wins.

- Dallas is an NBA-best 11-1 on the road. The Mavericks have won eight straight on the road. That record matches a franchise accomplishment not reached since mid-2002.

- Now, Dwane Casey has a 44-59 record as an NBA head coach.

- With the 103 points scored against Oklahoma City, Dallas now moves to 16-0 when they score 100 or more points.