Final: Mavs 111, Thunder 96
If you were to make a team of players who always have season-high performances against the Mavericks, you’d start with Dennis Schroder. The German got the start at point guard tonight for OKC, as Russell Westbrook was sidelined due to injury. Any seasoned Mavs fan would feel a few nerves at that news before the game, and he was the focus of the team’s defensive gameplan. Whatever Dallas did managed to work, of course, as the Mavs kept an opponent under 100 points for the first time this season and notched another double-digit victory at home. Schroder scored 19 points, but it took him 21 shots to get there, and he only handed out three assists. He was able to get into the paint at times, but for the most part Dennis Smith Jr. and the other Mavs guards were able to keep him out of the lane, where he could either finish himself or kick it out to a shooter. Tonight was a step forward for a Mavs defense which sorely needed one after a tough night in Salt Lake City earlier this week. Next up is a trip to play the Bulls, who currently rank 25th in the league in offensive rating. It’s another opportunity for Dallas to play a good defensive game. We’ll see what happens.
Luka Doncic makes three or four plays per game that make you shake your head and wonder 1) how the heck this guy is only 19 years old, and 2) why he wasn’t the No. 1 pick in the draft. This was just a casually sensational play against Paul George, one of the best perimeter defenders in basketball.
Doncic dropped 22 points, eight assists, and six rebounds in this game. He is the third-youngest player in NBA history to achieve that stat line, according to Basketball-Reference, behind only LeBron James and Kevin Durant. He scored 20+ for the seventh time this season; no other rookie has done that more than four times. He’s still averaging 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists per game, which puts him in some of the most elite company historically that you can find. Of course, he’s still only a rookie, it’s very early in the season, and the Mavs would rather win games than put together fancy box score lines, but goodness gracious this guy can play.
The Mavericks came into this game as the No. 1 team in the league in defensive rebound percentage, but OKC pulled down a whopping 26 offensive rebounds, the most by any team since the 2016-17 season. This game alone was enough to drop Dallas from first to fourth. It’s difficult to fault any specific players for this, for many reasons. First, Steven Adams is a beast. Second, OKC is a fantastic offensive rebounding team with or without Westbrook, and Paul George in particular was a menace on the glass in this game. Finally, the Thunder missed so many long shots that the ball was flying off the rim, leading to a lot of long rebounds for both teams. Things like this happen. The Mavs’ next opponent, Chicago, ranks 30th in offensive rebound percentage, so it’ll be a chance for Dallas to right the ship on the boards and climb back up the rankings a little bit.
The Mavs were on fire from beyond the arc in this game, sinking 14 of 29 3-point attempts. Doncic was surprisingly the only high-volume shooter to not have it going, as he made just 1 of 4. But Dennis Smith Jr. hit two, Dorian Finney-Smith hit two, and Wesley Matthews made 3 out of 4 to keep the offensive machine humming through an impressive first half. It’s the first time this season that the Mavs have shot above 40 percent on 3s while their opponent shot below 30 percent. Before tonight, it seemed like every time the Mavericks were hot, their opponents were hotter. They finally got to be on the right side of things tonight, though, and it led to a 15-point win. There’s no consolation prize for missing the playoffs while having a good home record, but Dallas improved to 4-2 at home tonight. If they can turn the AAC into a fortress, that will go a long way in turning this season around. However, their home games don’t get any easier — three of their next four at home include games against the Jazz, Warriors, and Celtics.
The Mavs (4-8) head north to play the Bulls on Monday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.