OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (15-34) at MAVERICKS (29-22)
Time: 7:30 p.m., Wednesday.
Place: American Airlines Center, Dallas.
TV: Bally’s Sports Southwest.
Radio: The Eagle 97.1 FM; Univision Zona MX 99.1 FM (Spanish)
About the Thunder: Their best player, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, is out until after the All-Star break with an ankle injury. But the Thunder are lining their ducks up for the future. They have a slew of first-round draft picks in the upcoming three drafts and already have a young, promising nucleus. Their top four scorers are all 23 or younger and 19-year-old Josh Giddey has already shown signs that he has the potential to be a star, averaging 11.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. He had a triple-double in the Mavericks’ visit to OKC in early January . . . All of that said, the Thunder had lost seven in a row until finally notching a 98-81 victory over Portland on Monday at Oklahoma City . . . In that game, Giddey had 14 points and 12 rebounds as the Thunder outrebounded the Blazers 50-41, which is a significant number considering the Thunder have allowed more rebounds to opponents than any other team in the NBA . . . That failure to retrieve the basketball is a major reason why the Thunder are last in the league in both scoring (100.7 points per game) and overall offensive rating . . . Luguentz Dort had 18 points and seven rebounds in the Thunder’s two-point loss to the Mavericks two weeks ago at AAC. In his third season, the 6-3 Dort has slowly blossomed and is averaging 16.4 points this season.
About the Mavericks: They finished January with a speed bump in Orlando when they were upset by the Magic 110-108 on Sunday. That concluded a 12-4 January that launched them into contention for a top-four spot in the Western Conference . . . This is the start of a six-game home stand, the season’s longest stay at AAC. They then have a quick trip to Miami and New Orleans before the All-Star break. Said Jalen Brunson: “It’s a big stretch for us. For us, we got to run through the break. We can’t ease up to the finish line. We got to run through it. Most of that is going to be mental. How mentally ready are we going to be for every game coming up . . . knowing that we have a break coming up. Our coaches are going to hold us accountable. Players are going to hold each other accountable and do the best we can.” . . . The Mavericks are hoping to have Kristaps Porzingis, who is day-to-day with a bone bruise on his right knee . . . January was a particularly sharp month for Luka Dončić, who averaged 25.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and 9.6 assists per game. He did all that without shooting the ball particularly well, making just 28.2 percent of his 3-pointers in the month . . . Despite giving up 105 points or more in the last four games (going 2-2 in those games) the Mavericks remain in the top five in overall defensive rating and are surrendering an average of 103.4 points, third fewest in the NBA.
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