Final: Thunder 116, Mavs 103
Box Score | Highlights
Behind the Box Score
The Mavs defense forced 10 deflections in the first half alone, matching their second-highest total in a game since Jan. 10. Positive activity is a positive, and Dallas was able to turn that activity into easy points the other way. More importantly, even if a deflection doesn’t lead to a turnover, it at least disrupts the possession to the point where the opponent can’t find a good shot.
Dirk Nowitzki put on a majestic performance tonight, scoring 33 points, his most in a game all season. He did it efficiently, too, and in a variety of ways, including the three-point line, the free throw line, the mid-range, and in the post. Nowitzki might be 37-year-old, 18-year vet in this league, but he can still absolutely exploit mismatches on the offensive side of the ball, punishing smaller players down low and moving right past bigger players on the perimeter.
The Mavs opened the game (and returned to the strategy throughout) with Wesley Matthews guarding Russell Westbrook and Chandler Parsons guarding Kevin Durant. Parsons is an underrated defender, while we all know what the Iron Man is capable of on that side of the ball. It takes to very, very good perimeter defenders to slow down the Thunder stars, and even then you might not be able to contain them. But Dallas has the versatility on that side of the ball to at least hinder them, while also taking advantage of mismatches on the offensive end of the floor. There’s a reason these two teams always seem to play extremely competitive games: Dallas has the type of team that can keep up with the mighty Thunder attack.
David Lee made his much-anticipated debut with the Mavs tonight, and he provided an instant impact on his first offensive possession of the game. Lee pulled down an offensive rebound to give Dallas another crack at getting a bucket, and then drew a foul and converted on the layup to secure an and-one. He also drew a charge late in the third quarter. It’s going to be a process getting Lee completely initiated into the system and figuring out the best combination of players to use him with, but we already know what he’s capable of. He’s a good rebounder and passer, and he plays a very smart game. He should fit in well with the pass-happy Mavs second unit featuring the J.J. Barea/Nowitzki pick-and-roll.
Salah Mejri must really enjoy playing against the Thunder. He scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a game against the team earlier this season, then made a massive impact in a late comeback attempt in January. Tonight, Mejri swatted four shots in the first half and threw down a dunk on offense, dominating the paint on both sides of the ball against another very good international center in Enes Kanter. Mejri has proven he has what it takes to impact the game positively on both sides, and that ability was on display in this game.
The Mavs (30-28) play the Denver Nuggets (22-35) Friday at American Airlines Center. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. Central.