Of the few bright spots for Oklahoma City, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued to show positive signs for the Thunder. He had an efficient 16 points to go with 8 rebounds while playing solid defense; a close to ideal preseason showing for the highest upside player that landed in OKC by way of the Paul George trade.
For the Mavericks, their two stars filled up the box score with some impressive numbers. Doncic finished with a line of 19/7/10 and Porzingis contributed a double-double of his own, scoring 17 points and grabbing 13 boards. All that to say, the stars did what you want your stars to do. But perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the absence of Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams was Maxi Kleber.
With Dwight Powell sitting out the preseason, Maxi got the start and showed another glimpse of his offensive versatility to add 14 points of his own. He went 2/6 from behind the arc and was also able to convert a couple of alley-oops, courtesy of Luka Doncic, as an athletic rim roller. Amazing how much easier it is for bigs to operate when there isn’t a giant wall of a man on the opposing team.
Luka’s free throws are falling
It’s tough to take away too many concrete findings from the preseason. The lineups, play calls and even shooting performances are all subject to change come regular season. But, preseason or regular season, a free throw is a free throw. And one thing that should be cause for a sign of relief from Dallas fans is Luka’s free throw over the past two games. Not only is he drawing a ton of them, but he’s converting on those chances.
Luka followed up going 10/11 in the game against Detroit with a 9/11 performance tonight. His free throw percentage was the only thing that left fans wanting in an otherwise spectacular rookie campaign, and after a rough night at the line in his first preseason action, Luka has seemingly settled into a rhythm. Maybe Dirk finally taught him the words to a Hasselhoff song.
Seth Curry leaves early with a knee contusion
While there doesn’t seem to be any reason to think his exit is anything more than precautionary, it’s irksome that it feels like we’re being denied seeing a Luka/Seth Curry lineup.
Curry’s career history gives him the credentials called the best pure shooter on the team. If Curry is taking an open 3-pointer, more often than not, you can just go ahead and put those points on the board. And you know who’s better than anyone else on this team at generating open looks for his teammates? That’s correct, it’s Luka Doncic.
Among other lineup wrinkles that will likely go unseen until the games start counting again, the Seth/Luka connection has potential to be the most beneficial.
Justin Jackson looks consistent
In the race for the 5th and final starting spot, Justin Jackson had himself another respectable, but not eye popping, game. (Then again, if there was someone having eye-popping games, we wouldn’t be spending this much time racking our brains trying to divine who the fifth starter would be.)
With Dorian Finney-Smith sidelined, and already a bit of a known commodity anyway, Justin Jackson and Tim Hardaway Jr. both put in solid efforts in the blowout win. Looking at the box score for just this game, neither of them pulled ahead of the other, as both were solid (12/0/3 and a +22 for Jackson, 13/3/4 and a +21 for Hardaway Jr.), but my gut feeling is Jackson’s slashing and ability to finish at the rim fits as a starting piece, while Hardaway Jr feels like a prototypical microwave bench scorer. You just have to hope that Tim embraces the role, despite his stated feelings on being a starter.
One last thing before you go... we’ll be podcasting right after a good number of games this season. We’ll try to keep it short, but if possible, go to your favorite podcast feed and subscribe to the Mavs Moneyball Podcast. Here’s MMB After Dark