The Dallas Mavericks squeaked by the Oklahoma City Thunder in Dallas 104-102. A hot start from Kristaps Porzingis allowed him to score the first seven points of the game for Dallas and gave the Mavericks a 33-24 lead after one. The Mavericks extended this lead to 11 at the half and eventually 22 in the third quarter before the Thunder came storming back and kept it close down the stretch. The Mavericks got a final stop and steal on the last Oklahoma City possession to seal the win.
Luka Doncic led the way for the Mavericks with 20 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists, and three blocks. Porzingis chipped in 13 points and four blocks as well. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 34 points.
Maxi Kleber left the game with left knee soreness.
Luka Doncic’s shooting trends continue
Since the start of the calendar year, Doncic has shot just over 40 percent from the field and 19 percent from three, which are both down from his season splits of just under 44 and 30 percent, respectively. Strangely enough, Doncic’s free throw percentage has skyrocketed from 73 percent to nearly 82 percent in the month of January. This upward trend of free throw shooting and downward trend of shooting everywhere else continued in extreme fashion against the Thunder.
Doncic was 4-of-17 from the field and 0-of-6 from three, while shooting 12-for-14 from the charity stripe. On one hand, Doncic’s struggles are concerning and certainly the Mavericks would like him to shoot far better. However, the Mavericks are 7-1 in January during his struggles and despite Doncic’s sub-par shooting, Dallas has improved significantly as a team.
Kristaps Porzingis takes the Mavericks’ defense to a new level
The Mavericks owned the league’s fourth-best defense (in terms of defensive rating) going into the game against Oklahoma City. They were first in the month of January allowing an absurd 97.1 points per 100 possessions. The most impressive part: they did this without Kristaps Porzingis in all but one of those games. Porzingis played his second game back after leaving health and safety protocols, and after he looked good against the Magic, he looked dominant defensively against the Thunder. He tallied four blocks, and altered several other shots at the rim. The Mavericks defense is good, and with Porzingis manning the middle, the Mavericks defense is elite.
The Mavericks are good, but we caught a glimpse of what would make them great
There was a point in the third quarter where it looked like Dallas was going to run away with the game. They stretched an 11 point half-time lead into 22, and much of this was because they started hitting threes. After Porzingis missed the first three of the quarter for Dallas, the Mavericks made their next three and were clicking on all cylinders. Defensive stops and made shots from long distance propelled them into a 70-48 lead.
That five minute stretch to open the third quarter is a microcosm of the potential the Mavericks have. They have not shot well as a team the whole year, but have been recently getting wins on defense without shooting the ball well. Once they start hitting shots, as has been the case all year, this team’s ceiling raises multiple levels.
Here’s our latest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.