The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder by a score of 98-96 in the preseason opener Wednesday night from Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you weren’t sure where this game was taking place, the livestream was there to clue you in. Christian Wood paced the Mavericks with 16 points and 13 rebounds. He shot 7-of-13 form the floor, including 2-of-4 from three. Jaden Hardy led the team in scoring with 21. Josh Giddey led the way for the Thunder, scoring 13 points and dishing out three assists.
The Mavericks struggled to score for long stretches, but kept it close throughout because they were playing the Oklahoma City Thunder in the preseason. Turnovers plagued both sides, as the Mavericks attempted to set an NBA record for giveaways on cross-court passes. A sloppy first half saw the Mavericks take a 53-52 lead into the locker room. With Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Reggie Bullock done after the half, the Mavericks struggled mightily in the third quarter and let the Thunder build a double-digit lead.
But Wood had a flurry of buckets against the Thunder scrubs to close the third, narrowing the gap and giving the Mavericks a chance going into the final period. After an ugly start to the quarter, Jaden Hardy decided that the Mavericks would not lose tonight and scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, securing the victory for Dallas. Preseason games don’t matter but it’s always more fun to win than lose, and the Mavericks were able to do that!
No one wants to be the third ball handler
After Spencer Dinwiddie exited the game, Mavs fans everywhere were on the edge of their seat waiting to see who would get first crack at running the offense. To my surprise, non-roster invitee McKinley Wright got the first chance and played very well in those minutes. In fact, Wright outplayed every non-Dinwiddie Mavericks guard on the team tonight. Frank Ntilikina got a chance to open the second half and looked horrendous. He struggled running simple pick and rolls, threw the ball away, and failed to generate anything resembling offense. Josh Green got a few possessions bringing the ball up and did the deer-in-the-headlights routine we’re used to seeing when he has to dribble the basketball. Green looked great in other areas tonight, but did little to inspire any confidence in his ability to run offense.
The third ball handler issue has dominated the discourse of the offseason, and tonight it was easy to see why; the team obviously needs help in this area. The fact that an undrafted player fighting to make the roster thoroughly outplayed the other in-house options is not a good sign.
The Christian Wood experience is here
Christian Wood had a very nice game overall. The numbers were excellent. Coming off the bench in the first half, he took some plays off on defense and hijacked a few possessions to hoist some outrageous shots, but overall looked solid enough. Wood really turned it on late in the third quarter, draining a couple threes and putting together some nice finishes at the rim. It’s important to remember that he did this against third string players, but it was still nice to see him assert himself and take over the game as the obvious best player on the court. He clearly has special talent on the offensive end.
Wood is also incredible on the glass and he’ll easily be the be the team’s best rebounder since Mavs Legend DeAndre Jordan. The question with Wood will be if can he buy in on defense and stay within his role.
Jaden Hardy is fun
Hardy had a very inauspicious three quarters tonight. He made a couple shots, turned it over a time or two, and generally looked like a rookie playing his first real NBA game. Then, the fourth quarter happened and Hardy turned into Summer League Game One Jaden Hardy. The rookie scored 16 points in the final frame, draining shots from all over the floor.
It’s easy to see why so many are enthralled with his potential; the kid can simply get buckets in bunches. I don’t think he’ll get a ton of run in the regular season, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him changing a game or two for the Mavs during the dog days of the NBA season.
Spencer Dinwiddie is healthy as an ox
One large bright spot from the starting group tonight was the play of Spencer Dinwiddie. His 9 points, two rebounds, and three assists don’t jump off the page, but he looked spry and in-control tonight running the offense. He shot 3-of-6 from the floor and 1-of-2 on threes and looked like the Mavs’ best player while he was on the floor. With how much the Mavericks are leaning on him this season, it was encouraging to see a performance like this.
Many have speculated that another year removed from ACL surgery could unlock another level for Dinwiddie, and if tonight is any indication, there could be something to that.
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