The Dallas Mavericks have struggled with consistency all year, and against good teams two and a half quarters of good basketball just isn't going to cut it.
The Mavs hosted the OKC Thunder in a potential first round playoff preview and OKC won -- again -- to make it a clean season sweep. Yikes. It's sad to see it in a loss, but Dirk Nowitzki led all scorers with 33 points and looked as good shooting the ball as I've seen in a while. The rest of the starting lineup shat the bed.
LEE'S DEBUT GOES WELL, DESPITE FINAL SCORE
Newest Mav David Lee checked in fairly early and got 15 minutes of game action. In typical Carlisle fashion, the Mavs head coach wanted to see what a veteran like Lee could do, and for the most part it was positive. Lee managed 4 points, 4 boards, and 2 assists, and was a team-high +4. We saw Lee spell Dirk initially, then share the floor with the Big German, which scares me, but on a night where you were just hoping to find some combination that could slow down the OKC attack, I won't get too worked up. Going forward you see the areas where Lee can help most: rolling to the basket, making well-timed baseline cuts, and moving the ball from the high post to the right man. Lee even got out in transition and made a nice play in the open floor.
MEJRI PUTS ON BLOCK PARTY EARLY
In the first half, it was Salah Mejri who was the spark off the bench, not Lee, as the Tunisian big man set a new career high with four blocks -- and it only took five minutes! Tim MacMahon alluded to this on twitter, but it would seem that Mejri has separated himself from Javale McGee in the depth chart. Mejri might not be the video game-like athlete McGee is, but Mejri did have a couple of nice rolls to the basket, and I'm hoping he and Lee can bring some stability to Dallas' big man rotation.
MISSED LAYUPS AND SECOND CHANCE POINTS KILL MAVS
The 52-42 rebound margin really isn't that surprising, given OKC's dominance on the glass. What really hurt, however, were the outrageous number of missed layups by Dallas, who then turned around and gave uncontested dunk after uncontested dunk to the likes of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. This is probably as good a time as any to mention that the Mavs went from a minute left in the third to just under seven minutes left in the fourth quarter without a single point. The Thunder used this to turn a three point deficit into a 21 point lead, and though Dallas fought back to get within seven, it was really too big a hole to climb out of against a playoff caliber team.
I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised at this outcome. The Mavs just clearly aren't in the Thunder's class right now, and in my mind nothing cemented how bad a matchup OKC is for Dallas than the stretch when Carlisle went to his favorite three guard bench lineup and left Devin Harris on Kevin Durant for several possessions, which Durant naturally dominated. I mean, I know the guy's tough to stop in general, but Dallas' dearth of viable wing options gets exposed badly in this situations.
Anyway, Nuggets come to town next, on Friday. This loss aside, the Mavs are still in position to make a run, with four more home games in a row coming up and all against non-playoff teams. Let's see if Dallas can turn things around.