LAS VEGAS – Celebrating his newly signed two-way contract, Eugene Omoruyi gave a take-charge performance Saturday afternoon.
Unfortunately, it didn’t result in the Mavericks’ first summer-league victory.
The 6-6 forward bulled his way to 20 points, but the Mavericks suffered their second consecutive overtime heartbreaker, dropping an 89-85 decision to the Denver Nuggets at Cox Pavilion in the MGM Resorts Summer League.
The loss dropped the Mavericks to 0-3 going into Sunday’s 2 p.m. game against Sacramento (ESPN2).
Zyland Cheatham, whose potential game winner in regulation came a fraction of a second after the buzzer, got an offensive rebound and dunk for an 87-83 Denver lead in overtime. The Mavericks couldn’t pull off a comeback.
They were down to nine healthy players with Tyrell Terry (groin) and Tariq Owens both out. Terry (groin) will not play Sunday against the Kings, either, coach Greg St. Jean said.
But the manpower shortage has also meant more opportunities for the players left. Omoruyi has taken advantage of that. He went undrafted last month, but he has quickly made an impression on the Mavericks’ staff.
Of signing the two-way deal, he said: “I’m grateful. I just want to keep my drive (going) and I’m excited about (the future).
“I feel like my game is very versatile. To me, height doesn’t matter. I just want to do whatever it takes to win – dive on the floor, take charges – whatever it takes.”
St. Jean said that versatility, along with a strong motor, helped earn Omoruyi the two-way contract.
“One of the biggest things that stands out about Eugene is his versatility and athleticism,” St. Jean said. “It’s very difficult to identify what position he plays. That’s something that’s unique. It used to be a bad thing, but now it’s become a positive – his versatility where you can guard multiple positions. We’re excited to have him.”
During the second quarter Saturday, Omoruyi had a nice reverse layup that put the Mavericks up 30-20 as they led virtually the whole way — until the end. Omoruyi had help. SMU product Feron Hunt was a factor at both ends of the floor and finished with 13 points, making six of his eight shots. He also had three of the Mavericks’ 14 steals. They forced 24 Denver turnovers.
Nate Hinton had 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Hinton and Omoruyi now are the Mavericks’ two-way contract holders.
Hinton said he will spend some time with Omoruyi. There’s a camaraderie of sorts with the two guys working on two-way contracts, which allows players to freely go from the NBA to the G-League without any serious limitations.
“I definitely will give him some insight,” said Hinton, who is going into his second season. “He’s a great kid and a hard worker like me. So we’ll be in this thing together and keep getting better.”
The end of Saturday’s game was wild, to say the least. The Mavericks had led by 11 after three quarters, but the Nuggets went ahead with 15 seconds left 81-79. Guard Carlik Jones, who had 17 points, was fouled and made two free throws with 9.1 seconds left. Cheatham appeared to win the game at the buzzer with a floater from the paint, but an officials’ review showed that the shot was not released before the buzzer.
In the overtime, the Mavericks never led.
The game came in front of an impressive entourage of Mavericks, including Tim Hardaway Jr. He was joined by CEO Cynt Marshall, GM Nico Harrison and assistant GM and vice president of basketball operations Michael Finley.
What they saw was a vastly more competitive summer team than what the Mavericks showed in their opening game on Monday. After that blowout loss, they have had two overtime games that could have gone either way.
“I think our defensive intensity and focus compared to game one has taken a big uptick,” St. Jean said. “I think you can tell just by our ball pressure. We have an athletic group. We’re a little undersized but we try to make sure that we are making them feel us. They had 24 turnovers, so we feel good about that, our disruptiveness. Offensively, game by game, we’re just getting more comfortable with each other.
“Obviously, the results are tough. But at the same time, we’re here for evaluation, development and for guys to continue to get opportunities to get better. And we’ve seen that thus far.”
And it’s helping them survive what has become a war of attrition.
“We only had nine players dressed,” St. Jean said. “We lost our starting point guard and our starting center. We got hungry players. Eight of those guys playing, none of them have been drafted. Our controllables – effort and attitude, those things, have been great. And we also got guys who are intrinsically motivated to go out and have an impact on the game.”
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