Here’s our five takeaways from the Mavericks’ 107-97 victory at Oklahoma City on Monday night.
Tough conditions: The Mavericks (and the Thunder, too) found out that it’s just as hard to play with a heavy heart as it is to play with heavy legs. The NBA is a fraternity and when a legend, an icon and a friend to so many of his colleagues like Kobe Bryant dies in shocking fashion, it’s going to have an impact. These are men, not machines that we’re talking about. And so, the Mavericks and Thunder trudged on. It wasn’t always pretty, but we should all give both teams a lot of credit for being professional in a difficult, emotional situation. Both teams played exceedingly hard and the Mavericks may have played one of their best defensive games of the season. Bravo. As Rick Carlisle said, it’s a process: “I was more focused in on the crowd’s reaction, and their involvement, which was an amazing thing to be a part of. It’s an ongoing challenge with the emotions of that whole situation. We just try to move through it.”
The meaning of 26:27: It really doesn’t have a meaning. It’s how long Kristaps Porzingis was on the court Monday night. The Mavericks are being very cautious with the Unicorn’s minutes since he came back after missing 10 games with right knee soreness. And it’s going to be a point of contention, or at least an annoyance, for the 7-3 Porzingis for a while. “He’s doing great,” Carlisle said of Porzingis in his four games since returning from the injury. “As you can tell, I’m watching his minutes very closely. It’s a little frustrating for him, I think, because he’s used to playing 30 or 35 minutes or whatever it was. But we’ve got to handle this thing the right way. I just love the way he’s playing. He’s playing well both with the starters and the second unit. It’s fun to watch.” Porzingis has not shot the ball particularly well since his return, but he did have a double-double against the Thunder. He’s averaging nearly 15 points and nine rebounds since returning.
It’s working: The Mavericks built this team to have supreme depth. And so far, that’s been one of their most consistent calling cards. On the three-game road trip, they got periodic production from Maxi Kleber, Jalen Brunson, Justin Jackson and Boban Marjanovic. And of course, Delon Wright, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dorian Finney-Smith were very productive in support of Luka Doncic, Porzingis and Seth Curry. It’s been a good mix.
A quick stop-off: The Mavericks are just 12-11 at American Airlines Center. The entire organization is waiting to see when the team will catch fire on the home court. This would be a good time to start, even though they are home for just one game before visiting Houston on Friday. They then return for the second half of a back-to-back (again) against Atlanta.
Defense rules: The Mavericks shut down the Oklahoma City offense, which came into the game fifth in the NBA in field-goal percentage at .472. They shot just .395 against the Mavericks and scored 13 points below their average of over 110. Yes, the Thunder did not have Chris Paul and the referees were letting both teams play. The Mavericks got only nine free throws and the Thunder 19. Bottom line is that it was a good defensive game.