Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons last-ditch three-point attempts both clanged off the rim, as Dallas' comeback came up just short in a 109-106 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The back-and-forth affair was absolutely thrilling throughout, as Dallas went haymaker for haymaker with one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
The first quarter saw the Mavericks jump out to a quick 23-12 lead, before the Thunder went on a 20-4 run to take a five point lead early in the second quarter. Dallas would surge back though, taking a ten-point lead in the final minute of the half, before going into halftime up 56-48. Parsons and Dirk had 11 and ten points, respectively, to help Dallas claim that halftime lead.
The third quarter was a different story altogether, though, as the Thunder came out on fire and didn't look back, outscoring Dallas in the frame 37-18. Kevin Durant scored 12 points in the frame, while Serge Ibaka scored ten, flashing some range in the process. The fourth quarter started on a similar arc for the Mavs, as Oklahoma City got out to a 95-80 lead with about seven and a half minutes remaining.
That's when Salah Mejri came into the game. It's also when things started to turn a corner. The Mavs began to battle back, getting to the rim and the foul line, playing scrappy defense, and going on a 19-5 run to cut the deficit to six at the 3:31 mark. A Chandler Parsons bucket forced the Thunder into a timeout, after which Mejri absolutely obliterated a Russ Westbrook layup attempt.
Mejri wasn't finished, though, as he'd later meet Kevin Durant at the rim and send him away full of shame. Unfortunately, OKC would come away on top, after Dallas had three looks in their final possession but couldn't make the game-tying shot.
Coming back after missing a game with knee issues, Dirk finished with 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting.
All in all, here are four things we can take away from this game.
It seems like Mejri has earned more minutes than he's seeing in his two games against the Thunder, as he had five points, two rebounds, and two blocked shots in just seven minutes of playing time on Friday night. This is after a 17-point, nine rebound game the last time these two teams met.
Of course, JaVale McGee had a solid night as well, with 11 points and four rebounds, but his defense was lacking throughout the night.
I'd like to see more Mejri in the coming weeks, to see if he really is the budding impact player his potential indicates he could be.
Dallas needs to figure things out on defense
I understand that Oklahoma City is a good team, but the Mavericks allowed OKC to shoot 49.5% from the floor on the night. Yes, they clamped down a bit in the final minutes, but Dallas consistently got beaten in the paint, allowing the Thunder to play exactly the way they wanted to.
The third quarter woes of late need to get fixed
As noted above, the Mavs were outscored in the third quarter 37-18, which turned an eight-point lead into an 11-point deficit heading into the fourth. It was the fourth straight game Dallas has been outscored in the third quarter, which has seen Dallas be outscored 120-71.
Parsons is almost all the way back
Parsons managed 26 points on 50% shooting from the floor, to go with five rebounds, three assists, and a steal, in one of his most efficient nights this season. He attacked the rim with ferocity in the final minutes, and was one of the keys to Dallas' almost-comeback.
He's coming off of a 30-point performance against Minnesota, and has simply looked more comfortable on the court the last few weeks. It's absolutely incredible that he's recovered as quickly as he has from microfracture surgery, a procedure known more for destroying careers than anything else.
Next up, the Mavs head to Houston to take on the Rockets on Sunday afternoon.