This was a scrappy, fast-paced, back-and-forth game, at times more fun than a loss had any right to be. In fact, there were a few throwbacks to last year's incredibly fun team, including (at times) better than 60 percent field goal percentage, athletic feats by springy young big men, and dramatic third quarter swings.
Unfortunately, Zaza Pachulia missed three of four free throws in the last three minutes, Dion Waiters did some very un-Dion Waiters things, and despite Wes Matthews' best late-game efforts, the Thunder were able to put the game away.
But still, this was a November game with no Kevin Durant, so who cares, let's talk about JaVale McGee.
McGee was active for the first time as a Maverick. He played five first-half minutes, and in the very first one of those, he scored six points on three field goals. Six points in one minute! It was almost four-for-four but on his fourth shot he was called for goaltending because, well, JaVale still gonna JaVale (he also missed both of his free throws).
As I've argued before, you have to take the bad with the good, and when it comes to McGee, the bad is more often than not pretty frustrating, but sometimes you get six points in one minute. In fact, I was so excited about JaVale that I inexplicably believed the Mavericks were winning until they were down 10 in the second.
JaVale McGee: 5 minutes. 8 points. #DALatOKC pic.twitter.com/1bEYSr0ct5— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) November 23, 2015
He ended the night with eight points (on 4-5 shooting) and six rebounds. Not a bad start to the season! JaVale's back, y'all.
The Mavericks' front court is both good and fun
As important as Zaza (who earned his eighth double-double of the season tonight) is and as amazing as Dirk has been this year, the continued development of Dwight Powell and the potential resurgence of a healthy McGee are a big deal for this team's front court. There were some genuinely fun moments in the game watching these guys take advantage of Dirk's ability to draw out defenders.
As Bobby Karalla pointed out, this led to some impressive points in the paint for the Mavs, who had 50 for the night:
The Mavs are taking advantage of OKC's defense right now, with Dirk pulling Ibaka from the rim. Everything is a layup or dunk.— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) November 23, 2015
Deron Williams was the best point guard in the game tonight
Okay, fine, that's probably not true. But after a great game against Utah, he certainly held his own tonight. When this game occasionally threatened to get out of hand, Williams played a big part in keeping the Mavericks in it.
His 20-6-6 (plus a block and a steal) led all Mavs for the night, which was huge for Dallas considering how little help he got from the team's trio of back-up guards.
Three-point shooting is back
As Kirk predicted, the Mavericks' bad three-point shooting was destined to improve, and it saw a huge swing tonight. There was a moment late in the fourth when the team's three-point percentage was better than it's two-point percentage, and it was still pretty close at the end of the night: 52.6 percent compared to 53.1.
All five of the Dallas starters were in double digits, but both Williams and Chandler Parsons were perfect from deep. Wes Matthews, who has struggled with uncharacteristically poor shooting this season, in particular looked like he'd finally found his stride, sinking four of his 10 three-point attempts