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Mavericks vs Thunder Recap: 3 observations from a 120-109 Dallas loss to Oklahoma City

No Luka, no victory

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night by a score of 120-109. Christian Wood led the way for Dallas, contributing 27 points and 16 rebounds. Mavericks killer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander poured in 33 points, five rebounds, and five assists for Oklahoma City. Facing an uphill battle on the second night of a back-to-back with Luka Doncic in street clothes (not to mention the continued absences of Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Josh Green), Dallas looked mostly over-matched against an upstart Thunder squad.

The Mavericks actually came out of the gates guns blazing, hitting a flurry of three pointers while playing through Christian Wood, and were able to build an early eleven point lead. Things started to get sour once a call to the depleted bench had to be made, and the Thunder started relentlessly attacking the basket, drawing fouls, and kicking out for open jumpers. Dallas also became stagnant on the offensive end, and their double-digit lead was cut to just one by the end of the first.

The second quarter saw this game morph into an old fashion shootout, with both teams going crazy from beyond the three point line in the first few minutes. Unfortunately, Dallas cooled down significantly as the quarter progressed and the Thunder did not. The Mavericks struggled to manufacture anything on offense in the second half of the frame and Oklahoma City was able to build the lead to as many as 16. Nothing went right for Dallas in the final six minutes or so of the quarter, and they limped into the locker room 69-55 at the half.

Coming out for the third quarter, it looked like the Mavericks were just going to sleepwalk to a double-digit loss. They traded baskets with the Thunder for a while, unable to cut into the lead. But a mini rally saw them trim the deficit to as little as seven, and it briefly looked like a comeback may be in store. Alas, Gilgeous-Alexander steadied the Thunder and they were able to rebuild the lead to 13 points entering the fourth quarter.

The Mavericks could have rolled over and died at this juncture, but instead they kept grinding and chipping away at the Thunder lead; a long two from Frank Ntilinkina with 9:41 remaining saw them cut it to six, the smallest margin of the second half. Sadly, that is as close as Dallas would come, as poor defense and questionable officiating helped Oklahoma City re-establish their double-digit lead and cruise to a victory. It was a disappointing result, but this one felt decided last night when Luka said he would rest. Here are three observations from this effort.

The Mavericks’ guards failed to step up

With Luka Doncic and three other rotation players unavailable, the Mavericks turned to Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr. to manufacture offense. While this duo did combine for 40 points, they did so in inefficient fashion, going 12-of-34 from the floor and 5-of-15 from three as a pair. As shorthanded as the roster was tonight, that kind of performance is just not going to get it done. Frank Ntilikina was okay, chipping in six points off the bench, but McKinley Wright and Jaden Hardy failed to produce in their reserve minutes.

Hardy had nine points on nine shots in 27 minutes, and it was disappointing to see him struggle to build on his breakout performance from last night against the Pelicans. As a whole, the poor guard play from the Mavericks was a big reason why they were unable to hang with the feisty Thunder.

This defense is very bad right now

After tonight’s loss, the Mavericks have given up an average of 117.8 points per-game in their last eight contests. The absence of the teams’ three best defensive players is being felt in a big, big way. Tonight, they allowed Oklahoma City to shoot 49% from the field and 43% from three. The Thunder came into tonight’s game on an offensive tear, and it was always going to be a tall task for the Mavericks to get stops considering the state of the roster. But it was still upsetting to watch, as every comeback attempt from Dallas was stymied by their inability to contain the paint and stop dribble penetration. Their only hope was to outshoot the Thunder tonight, and they were obviously not up to that task, either.

Christian Wood continues to impress as a starter

While Oklahoma City doesn’t employ a real center on their roster, it was still nice to see Christian Wood dominate on the offensive end and control the glass. Wood went 8-of-13 from the floor and was really the only consistent source of offense for Dallas all night. His defense wasn’t great, as he failed to record a block and gave up plenty of looks at the rim, but it’s hard for me to be too upset with that considering the load he had to carry on the other end.

There’s been a ton of hoopla around the possible extension that Wood is eligible to sign, and that’s likely to keep intensifying if Wood keeps putting together performances like this.

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