The Dallas Mavericks started off the new year right in Oklahoma City with a 95-86 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night.
The Thunder were missing key players like Shia Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, and Darius Bazely, and the Mavericks were integrating players from the health and safety protocols list like Luka Doncic, Maxi Kleber, and Tim Hardaway Jr., which resulted in some fairly sloppy basketball in the first half.
Still, the Mavericks moved the ball well, getting 16 assists on their 21 first half baskets. After surviving an initial bout of hot shooting by the Thunder, the Mavericks tightened their defense and ground out the Thunder’s offense. They went into halftime up 51-39.
The Thunder stayed in the game throughout the second half, but between their poor shooting and the competent Dallas defense, the Mavericks stayed in control most of the game. Josh Giddy did put on a show, however, becoming the youngest ever to get a triple-double in an NBA game. He orchestrated a late run that pulled the Thunder within four with a minute left in the game, but a 3-pointer by Kleber sealed the game with 22 seconds remaining.
Here are three things from the game:
Marquese Chriss was the best player on the Mavericks tonight?
Giddy probably had the best overall game, but Chriss was pretty incredible for the Mavericks. He led Dallas in scoring with 15 points, going 3-of-3 from deep, and grabbed seven boards. He also played solid defense, especially in the interior. He didn’t record a block, but had several great challenges in the paint.
His energetic play is a stark contrast to some of the players we’ve seen for the Mavericks this year. If he can shoot at league average, he’ll be an key piece down the stretch for Dallas...if they can find a way to keep him on the roster, that is.
Luka Doncic was rusty
Doncic looked like someone who hadn’t played basketball in almost three weeks. He went 6-of-14 from the field, and 2-of-6 on 3-pointers, scoring 14 points. He had seven turnovers, some of them in a pretty careless manner. But it’s Luka, so of course his rusty game almost ended in a triple-double. He had 10 assists and nine rebounds, and even got a steal.
We’ve yet to see a week long stretch of excellent basketball from Luka this season, where he takes over game after game and destroys opponents on his own. But as this game shows, even his mediocre games raise the floor for Dallas. Hopefully his time off has him rested and in a position to play like an all-star again.
The Mavericks moved the ball well
Dallas had 28 assists on 38 field goals made. That’s a good number. With Luka out, the Mavericks have been less reliant on isolation scoring from one player. Luckily tonight they didn’t fall back into old habits. There was even quite a bit of action with Luka off ball and Jalen Brunson initiating.
Luka and Brunson combined for 17 assists, and even Hardaway, notorious gunner, dished out three dimes. All five starters had at least one assist, and three guys off the bench had at least two each. When the ball moves like that, there’s a good chance you’ll win, even if your shooting is just average.
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.