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3 things we observed as the Mavericks outlast the Thunder, 106-103

Dallas started strong and held on as the Thunder failed to overcome a short-handed Mavericks team.

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

The Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder tipped off for Sunday matinee hoops with a future implications on the line for both teams.

For the Mavericks, the lottery race narrowed when the Atlanta Hawks beat the Milwaukee Bucks, settling the Mavericks only two games behind the Hawks coming into this afternoon’s game.

The Thunder, who were 2-6 coming into Sunday’s game, are currently jockeying with the San Antonio Spurs for seventh and eight place in the standings.

Even without Luka Doncic, the Mavericks were able to steal one on the road. Here’s what we observed:

Mavericks’ backcourt shined

At this point in the season it’s anyone’s guess which Maverick is going to pop off and lead the way, but this afternoon both Trey Burke and Devin Harris led the charge. Harris had a strong second quarter that helped the Mavericks take a lead at the half. He finished with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting including 4-of-8 from three.

Burke played arguably his best game as a Maverick scoring 25 points and dishing eight assists with zero turnovers. He shot an efficient 10-of-18 from the field (4-of-8 from three) and seemed virtually unguardable at times. Burke has bounced around the league, so these games are supremely important for him. The 31 minutes are the most he’s played with the Mavericks, so good for him to take advantage of the opportunity.

Dirk cleaned up nicely

Dirk Nowitzki is a certified bucket getter. At 40 years of age he has opposing fans standing on their feet in awe of his ability in every arena he visits. But this afternoon he struggled to find his stroke. He shot 2-of-10 from the field and knocked in only one of his five threes. No matter because Dirk dominated on the glass in the year 2019. The Big German pulled down 13 total boards including one mighty offensive rebound. The baker’s dozen of rebounds was by far the most this season for Dirk, and the last time he pulled down that many was March 5, 2017 against the Thunder.

Jalen Brunson makes winning plays

What a final few minutes from the Mavericks’ second round pick. With just under a minute to go, the Mavericks had the ball under the Thunder basket down 101-100. Brunson inbounded the ball to Dwight Powell, received the ball immediately and set up the offense from the top of the key. From there, he essentially called his own number, broke down Jerami Grant off the dribble and confidently rose up for the go ahead jumper:

But the Villanova grad wasn’t done. After the Thunder took a one possession lead, the rookie was tasked with getting the Mavericks another good look, and boy, did he do just that. With 25 seconds, Brunson took Paul George to the lane (with the help of a Burke brush screen), drew the help defense from Steven Adams, and calmly dumped the ball to Powell for the two-handed flush that proved to be the game winner:

Brunson finished the game with 18 points and four assists. It wasn’t his best shooting performance, but he did earn 10 free throw attempts which was a season high. I feel bad for whoever Dallas selects in the second round this year because Brunson has set an unfair standard.

The Mavericks move to 30-46 and are back in action tomorrow night at home against the Philadelphia 76ers.