OKLAHOMA CITY – Count the Dallas Mavericks among the legion of folks who are very happy 2018 is in their rearview mirror.
While the Mavs may be celebrating that 2019 has arrived, they were not in a joyful mood after what happened to them Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Oklahoma City Thunder jumped on the Mavs very early and very often and wouldn’t let go until they walked away with a 122-102 victory in the final game of the year 2018.
It was indeed a December to forget for the Mavs, who started the month winning five of their first six games, but ended it by uncharacteristically losing eight of their final 10 games. Overall, the Mavs are 17-19 and a dismal 2-16 on the road.
On Monday, holding onto the ball became a huge problem for the Mavs, who committed eight turnovers in the first quarter, nine more in the second quarter and a season-high 29 turnovers for the game.
“It was a world’s record,” coach Rick Carlisle said, alluding to the turnovers. “They had a lot to do with it, but we can do better and we’ll keep working at it.
“The level of force was clearly in their favor, and that put us behind the eight-ball early. We were on our heels early and never really got our bearings, and that kills you on the road.”
Actually, the turnovers were three shy of the Mavs’ franchise record of 32 turnovers. But at least they were able to gain a split of the home-and-home series with the Thunder after defeating OKC on Sunday in Dallas, 105-103.
Apparently, Sunday’s loss was a sore spot for the Thunder, who were relentless on Monday as they blasted out of the gate and compiled an 18-5 lead with 5:13 remaining in a first quarter that saw the Mavs miss eight of their first nine shots. OKC went on to mount a 29-12 lead late in the first quarter before the Mavs knew what hit them.
“You can’t win the game when you have 29 turnovers,’’ said Dorian Finney-Smith, who came off the bench to score 10 points and grab eight rebounds. “We shot ourselves in the foot, but you got to give them credit — they came out ready to play tonight.
“They pressure you out of your actions, so you just got to attack the rim. You can’t really run too many plays. You just got to be aggressive and attack them, but tonight they came out with an edge and you can tell.”
With Russell Westbrook registering a triple-double – 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists – the Thunder led from wire-to-wire. For Westbrook it was a stark contrast from Sunday when he was just 4-of-22 from the field and finished with nine points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
“He was very aggressive,” Carlisle said. “He’s a great player, he’s going to attack and tonight was a situation where overall we just needed to do a better job on him as a team.”
OKC led 60-43 at intermission, then Harrison Barnes caught fire and made six 3-pointers in the second half, including four in the third quarter when the Mavs got to within 13 points of the Thunder. But things got so bad that the Mavs used their final timeout with 6:45 left in the third quarter.
“We knew tonight was going to be tough no matter what,” guard J. J. B area said. “The way we won the game (Sunday) night, they were going to come out ready.”
Barnes led the Mavs with 25 points. He made a career-high tying seven 3-pointers on nine attempts, and also grabbed five rebounds.
“He got on a great run and guys were finding him,” Carlisle said of Barnes. “So, when that happens you milk the hot hand, and our guys did.”
Also for the Mavs, Luka Doncic finished with 17 points and six rebounds, Dennis Smith Jr. had 10 points and DeAndre Jordan added 10 rebounds.
Now the Mavs will flip the calendar to 2019 and open the new year with a game in Charlotte on Wednesday. By the end of that game they hope they’ll have something to celebrate.
“I’m not into the sentimentality of year changes,” Carlisle said. “This is one NBA season.
“I really like our group, I like the possibilities, I’ve seen growth. We’ve had setbacks – tonight being one of them – but we’ve got to grow from it. We’ve got to make 2019 a helluva year and it’s going to be work to do it.”