The Dallas Mavericks returned to basketball after two days rest and looked...not bad? The first quarter was sluggish as the refs blew the whistle on seemingly every bump and collision. Both teams combined for 15 personal fouls, and Harrison Barnes picked up three in the first quarter alone. The Dallas defense started a bit slow allowing the Thunder to score 12 points in the paint, but behind J.J. Barea’s 11 points, the Mavericks took a 23-22 lead after one.
Barea picked right back up in the second quarter and propelled the Mavs to a 7-0 run in the opening minutes. The highlight play occured at the 10 minute mark when Barea lofted up an alley oop to Dwight Powell who threw down on former Maverick - yep, you guessed it - Nerlens Noel. After the bench unit did its part, Rick Carlisle inserted the starters back in and kept the foot on the gas to push the lead to 24. Unfortunately, the Thunder was able to put together a 12-0 run of its own in the final few minutes of the half. Led by Barea’s 16 first half points, the Mavericks held a 57-45 lead into the break. As a team Dallas shot 55 percent from the field while the Thunder connected on 37 percent of its attempts.
The Mavs were able to keep pace in the third by hitting three shots from behind the arc in the opening four minutes of the quarter. However, the Thunder also came out of the break firing, hitting a few threes as well to stay within striking distance. Both teams traded blows through the majority of the third quarter. Anytime the Mavericks looked to pull away, the Thunder answered with a run. The sour note on the quarter happened with around 2:30 left when Luka Doncic banged knees with a Thunder player. Before that he was having a brilliant quarter. He was apparently ok after checking out. The Mavericks weren’t able to extend their lead as both teams scored 25 in the frame as Dallas held an 82-70 lead into the fourth.
The fourth quarter started ominously for the Mavericks, like a story we’ve read before. The Thunder were able to trim the lead to nine points with 8:40 remaining, but the Mavericks responded with a quick 7-0 run that included a Barea three pointer that touched the entire circumference of the rim before dropping through the net. That response was enough to keep the Thunder at a distance for the remainder of the game. Carlisle subbed the starters back in (including Doncic) and they were able to keep the momentum going. Doncic posted another all-around performance, scoring 20 points to go along with six rebounds and eight assists to give the Mavericks their second win in three games, 111-96. Although the Thunder were playing its third game in four nights, the Mavericks were still able to put together a complete game and end the Thunder’s seven game win streak.
The bench won this game
It started when Barea checked into the game in the first quarter, and from there, the Mavs bench dominated the Thunder bench outscoring them 53-22. The aforementioned Barea was masterful, scoring 21 points and dishing 5 assists. Dorian Finney-Smith continued his strong start to the season. He pumped in 11 points and showed off his improved stroke draining both of his three-point attempts. Kleber only scored 8 points, but his defensive energy was instrumental in the Mavericks colossal run in the second. He was also a team high plus-20 He totaled three blocks on the night and canned two threes (on six attempts however). It was a dominant performance from the bench, and it was a performance that resembled last year’s bench.
Dallas rained fire from deep
It seemed like every time the Thunder made a run, or cut the lead to right around 10 points, the Mavericks answered with a three. On the night Dallas connected on 14-of-29 triples and outscored the Thunder by 15 from behind the arc. The Mavericks will certainly live and die by the three this season. Tonight, they lived.
That Luka guy is good
I wasn’t originally planning to write about Doncic because it seems like we’re writing about him after every game, but the guy is so good it’s worth discussing again and again and again. Nights like tonight, when Luka scores 22 on defenders like Paul George, Terrance Ferguson and Jerami Grant, make me reminisce on the time before the season when critics questioned his ability to score against NBA defenders. Now it’s funny watching Doncic pulverize defenses with his methodical approach. He doesn’t blow by defenders with a lightning quick first step. Over and over tonight he displayed such control with deliberate moves to the basket. He’d absorb contact or stop on a dime and quickly pull up on the break and lift the ball right over the rim into the basket. He’s the real deal and it’s only game 12.