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3 things as the Mavericks down the Thunder, 127-106

Dallas beat up on an inferior opponent and picked up a needed win after two straight losses.

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

The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 127-106 as the team returned to full strength with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis back on the court.

The Thunder, however, were without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Al Horford and trotted out a lineup that would suggest the organization is very invested in an early draft pick.

Being the better team, the Mavericks looked the part for the entire first quarter and even won the opening frame for the first time in 11 games. But the Thunder bench took over in the second to keep Oklahoma City within reach. Midway through the second quarter, the Thunder reserves scored 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting.

However, behind the Mavericks’ impressive 10-of-22 shooting from deep, Dallas took a 71-63 lead going into the break.

The Mavericks imposed their will in the second half and put the game away by the third quarter. Doncic and Porzingis rested in the fourth and the rookies got to play late. It was an ideal finish against an inferior team, and the Mavericks handled their business to move to 24-21 on the season.

Here are some observations:

Porzingis looked unicorn-ish

The struggles from Porzingis were well documented early this season, and the frustrations linger when he sits back-to-backs, but he looked fluid and smooth for most of the game. He carried the Mavericks with 12 points and five rebounds in the first quarter, starting the game with a beautiful long ball, a silky pull-up jumper, and a ferocious dunk in traffic. He finished the game with 20 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and two blocks even though he sat most of the fourth quarter with the game put away.

Mind you, the Mavericks were playing the least talented team in the league, so the performance should be viewed under that lens, but he made the plays that earned him the Unicorn monicker. Most notably, he had back-to-back stuffs of Moses Brown in the third quarter and held the Thunder’s big man to 1-of-5 shooting. If I had to pick at his game, Porzingis scored 12 points in a terrific first quarter but scored only eight the rest of the way.

Tim Hardaway Jr. was fantastic

After scoring 30 points (57 percent from the field, 50 percent from three) on Saturday, Hardaway followed up with 19 points while shooting 50 percent from three once again. Hardaway is essentially the X-factor each night (as long as Doncic is playing to give the Mavericks a chance), and his 11 second-quarter points helped steady the ship as the Thunder reserves kept the game within reach.

The Thunder just aren’t very good

This isn’t groundbreaking analysis by any means, but with their best players on the shelf, the Thunder barely deployed a competitive lineup. On one hand, the Mavericks did what they needed to do. The game was put away in the third quarter with Doncic, Porzingis and Hardaway combining for 64 points and the team shooting 53 percent from the field. The Mavericks won three out of four quarters (the Thunder outscored the Mavericks by one point in the second), and the rookies got burn without collapsing under pressure.

On the other hand, there’s not much to glean from the game. The Mavericks made their shots and the Thunder couldn’t keep up. That’s about it. It was a fine game for Doncic to shake off two games of rest before the Mavericks face a much stiffer test on Wednesday against the Celtics.

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.