For the third time this season, the Dallas Mavericks lost a game they felt they probably should have won.
On Saturday, the Mavs held a seemingly comfortable 16-point lead against Oklahoma City with just 4:14 remaining in regulation play, only to see the Thunder somehow storm back and win the game in overtime, 117-111, before a stunned American Airlines Center sellout crowd of 20,307.
Coach Jason Kidd said he took a look at a different lineup to close the game, but the results didn’t work in the Mavs’ favor.
“We had control of the game,” Kidd said. “We’ve had great opportunities. We’re just missing shots, but we’re not playing any defense.
“That’s a big part of the problem – no matter who’s closing the game. If you don’t get stops or you don’t protect the paint, it’s hard (to win) in this league.”
The loss was reminiscent of the Oct. 19 season-opener when the Mavs blew a 22-point lead in the third quarter and lost to the Phoenix Suns, 107-105. It also resembled Tuesday’s 113-111 loss to New Orleans when the Pelicans played without three injured starters.
“We don’t play with a lead very well, which obviously is concerning,” said Spencer Dinwiddie, who collected 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting. “But we’re also getting the lead.
“It’s weird man, to be honest. We’ve got to do better. We’ve dropped several leads now.”
This loss hurt because the Mavs were playing the front end of a back-to-back, and they started a period where they have 10 of 12 games at home through Nov. 20. It also was painful because Luka Doncic finished with his second straight triple-double – 31 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists – marking the seventh time in his career he’s registered triple-doubles in consecutive games.
However, after Isaiah Joe tied the game at 99 with a three-pointer with 15.8 seconds remaining in regulation, Doncic misfired on a 17-footer at the buzzer and the game went into overtime.
“I think it was a good shot,” Doncic said. “Suddenly, with shooting the ball, I can’t make nothing.
“So, I probably should get into the lane next time. But I think it was a good shot and one that I’m capable of making.”
Doncic, who was just 8-of-23 from the field, tried his best to put the loss on himself.
“It’s on me,” he said. “I didn’t lead the team. I didn’t make shots. That game’s on me. I didn’t do what (was) needed to do to win.”
Of course, the Mavs know they would not have been in position to establish a 16-point lead if not for the play of Doncic, who now has 48 career triple-doubles.
Dwight Powell started at center in favor of JaVale McGee, who sat out the game against the Thunder for some rest, considering this was the second of three games in four days. Kidd chose to start Powell while allowing Christian Wood (11 points, seven boards) to continue settling into his role off the bench, where he’s averaging 21 points and eight rebounds.
“It’s keeping (Wood) in that role,” Kidd said before the game. “He’s doing great in that role.
“(Powell has) started for us before. He hasn’t had the opportunity to play, so this is giving him an opportunity to participate with JaVale resting, and then keeping the rotation the same.”
Counting the playoffs, Powell played in all 100 games the Mavs had last season and was one of only five NBA players who played in all 82 regular season games. He was even in the starting lineup for 71 regular season games last year.
However, entering Saturday’s contest, the only time Powell played this season was seven minutes of mop-up duty during the 137-96 blowout victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Oct. 22.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander paced the Thunder (3-3) with a game-high 38 points and nine assists, Luguentz Dort had 16 points and six rebounds, Darius Bazley finished with 15 points and eight boards, Joe scored 15 points, and Jalen Williams added 13 points. Gilgeous-Alexander made a living in the paint and wound up making 15 of his 27 shots.
“He made some tough ones,” Kidd said. “But when you get some freebies as talented as he is, you know he’s going to end up with 38.”
A critical play happened with 1:04 left in the fourth quarter and the Mavs up 98-94 when replays clearly showed Dort smacking Doncic in the face. But instead of the officiating crew reviewing the play, they only assessed a regular foul on Dort, much to the chagrin of Doncic, who split the two charity tosses.
“The rule is if you get hit in the face, you should review it,” Doncic said. “We had a meeting with some ref (who) explained about the rules before the season.
“We asked this question (about this rule) and he said, ‘Yeah, they should review it.’ But they didn’t.”
A pool reporter asked crew chief Ed Malloy why wasn’t the play reviewed to see if it met the Flagrant Foul threshold and Malloy said:
“We did not review it because we felt Dort made a legitimate play on the basketball, making contact to the ball with his right hand and then making contact with his right forearm to the face of Doncic.
“That was illegal, but did not raise to the level of being unnecessary. Therefore, we did not go to replay review.”
Either way, the Mavs will be the first to admit they let another very winnable game slip away.
“I think we were having close games wire-to-wire (last season) and then coming up with big plays,”: Dinwiddie said. “The flow was that of a knockdown-drag-out game versus like, we have a 17 (point lead) or 22 (point lead) in Phoenix.
“So it’s more deflating when you have a 20-point lead and somebody comes back versus if you’re just trading blows all night and you got to come up with a couple of big stops or big plays. I think that’s probably the main different style-wise between last year and this year.”
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