The game stayed close in the first two quarters, and the teams went into halftime tied at 51. But in the third quarter, the Mavericks of last year made an appearance, and the Thunder raced out to a nine point lead by the end of the period.
The Thunder stretched the lead to as much as 12 in the fourth quarter. But the Mavericks made a push in the middle of the quarter with Luka Doncic on the bench. Dallas went on an 11-1 run to close the gap to 89-87 with a little more than eight minutes left in the game. Momentum looked to be on their side.
The Mavericks then proceeded to not score a single point for more than five minutes of game time. That allowed the Thunder to pad their lead a bit, though Dallas did hold them in check for the most part. The teams scrapped to a 103 tie late in the game, and a Luka 3-point attempt at the buzzer hit the front of the rim. From their, Lu Dort took control in overtime and the Thunder won the game.
Here are three things from the game:
The Mavericks’ luck may have run out on opponent 3-point shooting
The Thunder shot 45% on 3-pointers tonight. They are the worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA, hitting only 31% of their shots from deep on the year. They got hot and outshot the Mavericks tonight. That’s going to happen during a long season. That’s the thing about luck. Sometimes opponents who are great at shooting 3-pointers can’t hit any when you play them. Sometimes the worst 3-point shooting team in the league hits almost 50% of their shots behind the arc against you.
The point is, the Mavericks got a lot of the former and none of the latter in January. They were due for a game like this. They still could have won if they executed some other aspects of the game better (defense?), but sometimes an opponent just shoots you out of a game.
Maxi Kleber (and the rest of the Mavericks’ shooters) have to pull the trigger
This is not exclusive to Kleber, but he’s perhaps the most egregious offender. I have recurring nightmares of watching Kleber pump fake an open 3-pointer and then do nothing with the possession. The end of the second quarter was a perfect example, where Kleber received a pass with room to shoot, pump faked a rotating defender into the air, took one dribble inside the line, and hoisted a 21 foot midrange jumper at the buzzer. Of course he missed, because that is not a shot he should take.
Most of the Mavericks do this, passing up a good shot in search of a perfect shot. You know how the old adage goes—perfect is the enemy of good. Maybe the reason the Mavericks’ 3-point shooting has regressed so much is the fact that Jason Kidd or some other coach on the staff has told players who are best suited to shoot open 3-pointers to do more than just fire away. That’s obviously a mistake. I can say that because the Mavericks offensive rating is available online, and it’s in the lower half of the league, despite having Luka Doncic, who puts up 30 point triple-doubles with the ease of someone loading a dishwasher.
Luka and Brunson put on a show, but it went to waste
Tale as old as time—Luka scored 40 points and dished out 10 assists. Brunson scored 20 points to go along with four assists. 60 points from two starters! That’s usually a recipe for a win. The other three starters—Dorian Finney-Smith, Kleber, and Dwight Powell—scored a combined 17 points.
The suddenly resurgent Reggie Bullock, who seems to be turning a corner, put up 23 points from the bench. The rest of the bench combined for 14 points. With Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis out, someone needed to step up to replace their production. No one did.
This happened so many times last year. It’s rarer this season. But when Lu Dort scores 14 points in just the overtime period, and three-fifths of your rotation scores 17 for the entire game, you’re probably going to lose. It’s an unfortunately familiar feeling.
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.