The Dallas Mavericks decimated the Oklahoma City Thunder 146-111 Saturday afternoon in Dallas. Luka Doncic led all scorers with 32 points, and new Mavericks Daniel Gafford and PJ Washington made an immediate impact, combining for 33 points off the bench.
Dallas punched Oklahoma City in the mouth early and never really relented. The Mavericks made 11 of their first 12 shots, racing out to a 47-30 first quarter lead. The Thunder gave the Mavericks their best shot in the second quarter, cutting the lead to single digits with hot three point shooting and dubious referee calls, but it wasn’t enough.
The Mavericks controlled the game after halftime, cruising behind Doncic and everyone else, really. Dallas continued to build the lead throughout the second half and the final deficit of 35 points was also the Mavericks largest lead of the game. The Mavericks shot a stunning 58.2 percent from the floor overall and 39.5 percent from three against one of the best defenses in the NBA.
Gafford and Washington, debuting just a little over 48 hours after the trade deadline ended Thursday, came off the bench and contributed right away. Gafford had 19 points and nine rebounds in 17 minutes, while Washington had 14 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes. Dallas ended the game with six players in double figures.
Dallas also played well defensively, holding the Thunder to 38.8 percent shooting, a rarity for this Mavericks defense.
Here are the main thoughts from what is easily the most impressive win of the Mavericks season so far
The new faces brought new energy
Not only did new Mavericks Daniel Gafford and PJ Washington play extremely well, which is impressive considering both didn’t get into Dallas until midnight on Thursday, but it was also very clear that they not only brought production, but an energy the Mavericks desperately needed.
It’s no secret the Mavericks vibes looked lousy in the last month or so. Injuries have zapped the team of its true potential, and Luka Doncic was forced to put up two herculean months in a row just to keep the Mavericks above water. Doncic had played 40 minutes or more in five of the previous six games entering today’s matchup. Dallas was losing games and sinking closer to the lower bracket of the play-in tournament, and while we don’t know exactly what was going on behind the scenes in the locker room, on the court the team just didn’t look happy.
That’s probably the most notable thing from today’s win — the Mavericks look refreshed and reenergized with the the new players in the fold. Both Gafford and Washington did things Saturday that Mavericks fans have been thirsting for in role players next to Doncic since he was drafted in 2018 — athletic, fast, fun. Both threw down multiple dunks, got out in transition, and made plays in the halfcourt that the Mavericks need, with Gafford grabbing four offensive rebounds in less than 20 minutes of game action, and Washington finishing plays against a closeout after either Doncic or Kyrie created an opening.
It’s only one game, but this is exactly what the Mavericks envisioned with these moves. The newest stage of Mavericks basketball is off to a good start.
Winning in new ways
For most of the last two seasons, the Mavericks have been defined by their three point shooting. The team only won games, for the most part, when they outshot their opponents from the three point line and lost miserably whenever they went cold. It was the only formula Dallas could follow, since the roster was built with mostly standstill, spot up shooters that were limited elsewhere.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign of this Mavericks win was not only did they dominate a good team, but they dominated a good team without scorching hot three point shooting. Dallas did shoot the three well (15-of-38, 39.5 percent), but the three pointer wasn’t a crutch like it had been lately. The Mavericks outrebounded the Thunder 54-40, grabbed 11 offensive rebounds, and scored 66 points in the paint. Considering Dallas’ meager paint scoring totals, 66 against one of the best defenses in the league is staggering.
The new faces helped, but they also helped bring some balance to the Mavericks rotation. Dwight Powell was a victory cigar instead of a crucial backup, Tim Hardaway Jr. was more floor spacer than needed scorer, and Maxi Kleber didn’t feel the weight of the defense solely on his shoulders. With Gafford and Washington, the rest of the Mavericks role players slotted better into their optimized roles and that allowed the team to do things it just hasn’t in the past.
Doncic and Irving are dynamite
Regardless of what new faces the Mavericks put around their star duo, at the end of the day the team revolves around how good that star duo is, and Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving played another terrific game together.
Irving has been a sight for sore eyes since returning from injury, and in the four games he’s played since coming back he’s averaged 25 points per game on 55.2 percent shooting and 52.6 shooting from three. Dallas is 4-0 with Irving back in the fold, and it’s made Doncic’s life much easier.
Doncic only took 14 shots on Saturday, and he took only 15 in the win against Philadelphia on Monday. Before the 76ers game, the last time Doncic attempted less than 20 shots was Nov. 19 against the Kings in a blowout loss. Now Doncic has two such games in the last week.
It’s clear the Doncic-Irving duo works, the numbers have been good despite the record looking shaky. All that’s needed now is good health — if Irving and Doncic can stay on the floor, the Mavericks can start to play consistent, winning basketball. They showed it again Saturday against an elite team.
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