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Mavericks fall to Thunder in final minutes, 106-101

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was an ugly game. Exciting, but ugly.

The short-handed Mavericks had just three players finish with double-digit point totals and lost the lead in the final minutes of the game. Maxi Kleber and Luka Doncic each had an open look at a three to tie in the last offensive play for Dallas, but both clanged off the rim, sealing the loss.

‘Tis but a scratch for Luka

Since returning from his ankle injury, Luka Doncic has gone right back to taking a beating from opposing defenses. Questionable to play this morning and sporting KT tape on the back of his neck at tip-off, Luka was again battered by Oklahoma City Thunder defenders (including a typically dramatic Chris Paul) and still managed to carry almost the entire offensive load for the Mavs.

Playing in his third game in four nights, Luka put up 35 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists on an astonishing 40 minutes. What’s less impressive is the 3-for-16 shooting from deep.

Missing pieces

In addition to Luka playing through injury, the Mavericks were without Tim Hardaway Jr., Ryan Broekhoff, and Kristaps Porzingis. All were certainly missed for their contributions to the offense and defense, but also for the depth that their existence offers Dallas on a nightly basis.

Without Hardaway, the Mavs really struggled to match up against a Thunder team that likes to always keep two guards on the floor that can pass and score. Instead of bringing in J.J. Barea or Courtney Lee off the bench, the Mavericks stuck with their regular rotation and it resulted in a lot of plays where Dwight Powell or Maxi Kleber were asked to stay in front of Chris Paul or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the perimeter. (If you’re wondering how Dennis Schroder scored 20 points, this is your answer.)

That being said, Powell and Kleber both played well. They were both efficient with the ball in their hands and tenacious on the glass. Their timely offensive rebounding really felt like it was swinging the game each time they came up with the ball, and likely would’ve been the key to victory had the Mavs made at least 30 percent of their three-point shots.

Bench minutes

The Mavericks’ magical bench really struggled in the first half, the result of a 0-10 shooting spree from Justin Jackson and Seth Curry. Their run in the second half looked more like what we’re used to, with Boban getting a run started with some effective rebounding and passing before Curry and Jackson started hitting their threes and Dallas built a lead.

Once again, a missing player in the starting lineup (Porzingis) affected the bench more than the bench itself. With Maxi Kleber forced into a starting role and minutes, Nerlens Noel was able to dominate the offensive glass off the bench for OKC.

In the end, Dallas’ bench was outscored 40-28 in this one.

The Mavericks return to Dallas with a 1-2 record on this road trip, ready for the start of a six-game homestand.

Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball”, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.