The Dallas Mavericks fell on the road to the Oklahoma City Thunder Thursday night, 116-108. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander lead the Thunder, pouring in 32 points while dishing six assists. Josh Richardson was the high point man for Dallas with 27.
The Mavericks, missing Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis due to rest or some excuse, got blown off the floor by an energized Oklahoma City squad. After trading baskets early, the Mavericks went cold from the field and the Thunder took advantage. Energy resulted in six offensive rebounds for Oklahoma City which turned into second chance points. At one point, the Thunder played a line up of players who all had three years or less experience and they managed to extend the lead. The Thunder lead 35-19 after one frame.
In the second quarter, it appeared things might even out as the Thunder really shot the ball well in the first quarter. Unfortunately, the famed Dallas defense of recent games remained in Dallas for much of the period. The Mavericks actually chipped into the lead repeatedly, getting it to 11 and building some momentum late in the quarter. But a Josh Richardson offensive foul lead to a Thunder three and Oklahoma City took control right back. Dallas trailed at the half 62-47.
Dallas started the third looking good again, working the Thunder lead down to eight. Then a series of turnovers and bad defense resulted in Oklahoma City scoring at will and rebuilding the lead all the way up to 21 points. Of course, the Mavericks rose from the dead again, cutting the lead to 10. And, of course Dallas lost those gains immediately because Trey Burke was on Gilgeous-Alexander, then Willie Cauley-Stein thought it was his turn to shoot a three, so the lead shot right back up to 17 within a minute. The Mavericks found themselves still down by 15 points heading into the final quarter, 89-74
The final period was, of course, the chaotic fever dream we all needed to close the evening. The Mavericks went on an incredible run in the final six minutes, closing what was at one point a 19 point Thunder lead to single digits. This included a coaching challenge from Dallas which over turned a key foul on Richardson and a lost challenge from Oklahoma City on a Tim Hardaway Jr. three point foul. The Mavericks were terrible from the free throw line though, missing six in the quarter and it eventually caught up with them as the Thunder found some offense late to break the seal. After trying to foul to catch up, the Mavericks eventually fell to the Oklahoma City, 116-108.
The hubris of the Dallas Mavericks never fails to surprise
Understand that this is being written before hearing any of the post-game presser, before any of the narrative from the team gets passed around and reasoned away.
Make no mistake: the Mavericks think they are a much better team than their record currently shows. And maybe they are! Heck, I’m willing to give some ground here because it’s been a complicated season. But look ahead at the schedule. The Nuggets, two Clipper games, and two Portland games. Trying to get cute and notch a win over a hard fighting Thunder team was a mistake. It was likely a mistake to rest both Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Between the All-Star game and the unscheduled hiatus due to the terrible winter weather in Texas, these Mavericks have had enough time off. Does anyone think the Thunder have a chance if Luka Doncic plays this game? Play your stars.
Rick Carlisle doubles down
Not only was the organizational decision to sit Doncic and Porzingis questionable, the end result of a loss with a nine man rotation featuring precisely two rookie minutes for Josh Green looks absolutely insane in hindsight.
The role players might need some rest after playing serious minutes and losing to a Thunder squad that isn’t not tanking, if you get my drift.
This game was a double digit contest for most of the night and while I understand that the Mavericks can and did work themselves back into it on the strength of the three point shot, I fail to understand how the rookies didn’t get any minutes. It was a 15-plus point game for significant stretches and Carlisle continued to roll out Dwight Powell, James Johnson, Trey Burke, and Willie Cauley-Stein. If there’s a time for those rookies to get minutes, it’s a game like tonight when it seemed as if the Mavericks ceded the game by the end of the first quarter. Hell, they probably ceded it before tip-off.
I understand Josh Green looks unfamiliar with how to play basketball, in fact, and at this point I feel pretty over him too, so I understand Carlisle’s reluctance. But playing Green or Tyler Bey cannot be worse than what we just witnessed for stretches.
Make your free throws
My previous two points might have never made it to print if veteran Dallas players could hit their free throws. There were 10 misses in an eight point game, including six in the fourth quarter. Nine of the 10 came from Jalen Brunson, Josh Richardson, and Tim Hardaway Jr. too. Not great at all.