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3 things we observed as the Mavericks scoot past the Thunder, 87-78

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It was an ugly win but a win nonetheless.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 87-78, in the final game before the all-star break, pushing the team’s record to 18-16. It was the first win scoring less than 90 points since 2016.

The Mavericks’ offense sorely missed Luka Doncic who missed tonight’s game with back tightness (AKA: rest) as the team clanked shot after shot for the entire first half. The team finished 1-of-19 from behind the arc through the first two quarters, but fortunately, the Thunder connected on only 35 percent from the field. The Mavericks were able to take a 49-42 lead into the break.

The Mavericks turned the corner in the third as the lid finally lifted off the basket. After shooting five percent from deep in the first half, the team connected on 40 percent of their attempts in the third quarter (4-of-10). The team kept pace in the fourth pushing the lead to as many as 20 points as an inferior Thunder squad couldn’t quite keep up. Encouragingly, the Mavericks didn’t let up, nor did they let the Thunder muck the game up late. Without their star on top of a horrendous shooting night, the Mavericks were able to collect a win. But make no mistake, this was an ugly game, so let’s get right to some observations.

The Mavericks struggled without Doncic

Obviously. But the first half of basketball was some of the worst Mavericks’ basketball I’ve seen in a long time. Missing 18 of 19 three-pointers was comically bad, and the team looked flat and sloppy. Dallas finally turned it around in the second half, but the Thunder played excruciatingly bad that it didn’t take much for the Mavericks to pull ahead.

The Mavericks desperately need a second shot creator because they weren’t getting it from players like Kristaps Porzingis or Josh Richardson in the first half. Porzingis was particularly frustrating until he canned a couple of threes midway through the fourth quarter. This was the kind of game Porzingis should have dominated from the jump, but it took until the second half for him to make his mark. The Thunder played so poorly, it ended up being ok for the Mavericks.

Josh Richardson guarded Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ... and it worked!

Rick Carlisle’s defensive allocation is perplexing. I don’t know much, but I know the Mavericks swapped a historically elite three-point shooter to acquire Richardson because the team coveted length and defensive tools that weren’t currently on the roster. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Dorian Finney-Smith has spent more time chasing the opposing team’s best perimeter player rather than Richardson, but tonight we saw the value of Richardson taking the primary assignment. In the third quarter, Richardson matched with Gilgeous-Alexander (who played the entire quarter), and the Mavericks were able to push the lead from seven to 14 points. Richardson even forced a couple of turnovers on SGA drives. Gilgeous-Alexander still scored seven points in the quarter, but it was a good sample as to why Richardson should be taking the primary defensive assignment more.

This game was a complete dud

There’s not much else to it. The Mavericks won scoring 87 points while only adding 12 points in the fourth. The team shot 38 percent from the floor and a measly 20 percent from three. But the Mavericks won because the Thunder were even worse. Hardaway and Porzingis led the way with 19 apiece, Richardson added 16, and Brunson tallied 12 points, six rebounds and four assists in a spot start. Ugly wins still count, this season especially. Two games above .500, baby.

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.