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3 things as the Mavericks soul search against Oklahoma City

The Mavs are about to show OKC that you can’t spell “rebuilding” without “losing to a team on the verge of falling into an irreversible tailspin.”

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

The Mavericks are coming off a painful loss that has the squad at perhaps it’s lowest point of the season. It was an game that ended in a loss to a team openly floating blowing up their team in which Luka Doncic re-aggravated his ankle and said he shouldn’t have played in the fourth quarter and Kristaps Porzingis finally just said what’s on every fan’s mind - “it sucks to be us right now.”

Now Dallas will try to bounce back against an OKC team that has struggled this season in the win column, but who play with a level of youth and energy that can jump up and bite you if you’re not paying attention. Any hope of finishing the month of December strong will start Sunday night in Oklahoma before the schedule ramps up in difficulty.

Who’s got Shai?

The high energy point guard is the engine of the OKC offense. He’s the team’s leading scorer, and he does so by getting to the bucket. After shooting over 40% from three last season, he’s struggling mightily with his shot so far this year – something maybe he can commiserate about with Tim Hardaway Jr – but he’s kept his scoring high by averaging the most drives per game in the league by a wide margin.

Not only does he drive it more than any other player, he earns free throws on drives more often than any other player as well. Whoever draws the assignment is going to have to do what they can to prevent easy buckets while also staying out of foul trouble; something that might be even more important is Luka is out. It could be a game where Frank Ntilikina has a moment to shine.

Brunson the facilitator

Let’s assume, based on his comments after the game against Indiana, that Luka Doncic sits out Sunday night. There’s no one player on the Dallas roster who can replace what Doncic does on the court. The brunt of the raw scoring output can easily be passed on to Porzingis, Hardaway Jr and Bullock for a night if the trio is shooting well. What’s harder to replace is the shot facilitation Doncic adds.

When Luka missed three games earlier this season, Brunson got his first chance to jump into the starting lineup. Up to that point in the season, Brunson was averaging about 4.6 assists per game. In the three games where he replaced Doncic as a starter, he dished out 9, 10 and 8 dimes. In games since then, he’s averaged just 3.3 assists per game. It is important Dallas doesn’t fall too far into stagnant iso ball in the absence of Luka, and the player best situated to keep that ball moving is Brunson.

Moses Brown revenge game?!

Dallas is too often on the receiving end of these so-called revenge games. Whether it’s dropping two games in a week to a putrid Knicks team after the Porzingis trade two years ago, watching Seth Curry score 17 while shooting a perfect 3-3 from deep while Josh Richardson went 0-4 last season against the 76ers, or just a couple games ago, when could’ve-been, should’ve-been a Maverick Desmond Bane verbally decimated the Mavericks passing over him in the draft after a season-high 29 points in a Memphis win.

Dallas has known nothing but pain.

Now, though, we have a chance for vindication! And vindication, thy name is Moses Brown. The young big man has been seeing some time in the absence of Willie Cauley-Stein, and played two of his better games this year against Memphis and Indy. His season high (9 points) came against the Grizzlies, but if ever there was a time to set a new personal best, it would be against the rebuilding team who gave up on you when your current team is in desperate need of a spark from someone – ANYONE. Might as light the Moses Brown beacon, because Brown may not be the hero we need, but he’s the hero who is next in line after every other player we’ve asked to be a hero for this team has failed miserably. Excelsior!

How to watch

You can watch the broadcast on Bally Sports at 6:00 CST.