Image Credit: @MavsPR Twitter
On Wednesday, the Dallas Mavericks played the Oklahoma City Thunder in the final game of the first half of the season. Having won 8 of their last 10 games, the Mavericks will try to close out on a high note as they take on the Thunder, who visits the American Airlines Center for the first time since December 30th, 2018. The Mavericks are also trying to get to 2 games above .500 for the first time since January 13th, 2021 when they were 6-4 after a win against the Charlotte Hornets.
On Monday, the Mavericks played the Orlando Magic in the final road game of the first half of the season. The Magic had tied the game early in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Evan Fournier but would leave the game for several minutes as he sustained a groin injury. The Mavericks took advantage of the opportunity as they would extend their lead to 13 points in the quarter. The Magic were threatening in the final minutes of the game but the Mavericks were able to hold to win 130-124. With the win, the Mavericks record improved to 17-16 as they were once again above .500 on the season. Luka Doncic finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists but the help would come from Jalen Brunson as he scored a career-high 24 points, with 17 of it coming in the second half. The Mavericks have now won four of its last five and nine of 12 as they stand two games from the fifth seed in the western conference.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are coming into this game by going 4-6 in their last 10 games. They are recently coming off a 126-96 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday to see their record drop to 14-20 on the season. The Thunder are coming into this season after completing a massive overhaul to their roster that featured multiple trades. Some of the players that they dealt include, Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder and Steven Adams. While trading away key players, they were able to acquire players that include Al Horford, George Hill, Ty Jerome and Justin Jackson on top of the multiple draft picks they now have for future seasons. Despite the massive overhaul, they are still in contention for a playoff spot as they sit 4.5 games from the eighth seed in the western conference with a record of 14-20. The Thunder are in the “rebuilding phase” as they now have tons of draft picks in their possession. The Thunder don’t mind if they make the playoffs this season but also don’t mind landing a top pick in the draft either, as they seek their next “franchise player”.
Coming into this game, the Mavericks split their regular season series last season 1-1 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Mavericks are 19-23 all-time against the Thunder since they moved to Oklahoma from Seattle in 2008, including 8-14 in games played in Oklahoma. Overall, the Mavericks lead the all-time series against the Seattle/Oklahoma franchise, 83-77.
The Mavericks started this game with having Luka Doncic sit out with “lower back tightness” therefore ending his first half of the season. This will only be the second game that Luka Doncic has missed this season. As a result, the Mavericks went with Brunson, Richardson, Finney-Smith, Kleber and Porzingis as their starting five in this game. The first points in the game would belong to Jalen Brunson as he nailed a jump shot for the Mavericks to get this game underway. The Thunder wouldn’t get their first points until the 11:17 mark as Al Horford nailed a two pointer to tie the game at 2-2. The Thunder would have their first lead in this game by having Al Horford make a 4-foot shot to give the Thunder a 7-6 lead. The Mavericks would reclaim the lead on the following possession as Dorian Finney-Smith nailed a jump shot with 9:25 left in the quarter to take a 8-7 lead. The Mavericks would keep their lead as they extended it to 13-10 as Rick Carlisle would call a timeout with 6:59 left in the quarter. Prior to this timeout, the Mavericks were shooting the ball like it was sunny outside with no “thunder” in sight as they made five of their first nine attempts taken thus far. Coming out of the timeout, the Mavericks played good defense as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed a two pointer to keep their lead at 13-10 with 6:49 left in the quarter. The Thunder would eventually reclaim the lead again as Darius Bazley drilled a three pointer with 5:52 left in the quarter to take a 15-13 lead. The Mavericks would soon be able to tie the game at 15-15 with 4:35 left in the quarter as Trey Burke nailed a jump shot to tie it. Kristaps Porzingis was tired of this game being tied to he decided to do a thunderous slam dunk to give the Mavericks a 17-15 lead, that forced the Thunder to call a timeout with 3:00 minutes left in the quarter. Prior to this timeout, the Mavericks were on a 4-0 run, as the last made Thunder basket came at the 5:52 mark. Coming out of the timeout, the Thunder turned to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander off an offensive rebound that resulted in a two pointer with 2:40 left in the game to tie the game at 17-17. In the final minutes of the quarter, the Mavericks were able to take a 25-23 lead into the second quarter. The game leading scorer after one quarter of play would belong to Jalen Brunson as he scored 7 points. The Thunder were led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley as they both scored 5 points. The Mavericks struggled massively on shooting the 3-ball as they made 1-of-12 from behind the arc.
The second quarter would begin by having Maxi Kleber nail a floating jump shot for the Mavericks to get this quarter underway. The Thunder wouldn’t get their first points until the 10:18 mark as Kenrich Williams nailed a two pointer to come within 27-25 of the Mavericks. The Mavericks were able to capitalize on Jalen Brunson’s hustle as the steal led to Josh Richardson nailing a jump shot to extend their lead to 30-25 with 9:24 left in the quarter. The Thunder would call a timeout with 9:00 minutes left in the quarter as they saw the Mavericks gaining momentum to take a 32-28 lead. Prior to this timeout, the Mavericks were on a 5-3 run as they were able to get their offense going. Coming out of the timeout, the Thunder turned to Theo Maledon as he was able to convert on a 10-foot floating jump shot to come within 32-30 of the Mavericks with 8:48 left in the quarter. The Mavericks were able to increase their lead to five points as part of Josh Richardson completing the “three point play”, as he nailed the shot while being fouled and hitting the free-throw with 7:52 left in the quarter to extend their lead to 35-30. The Thunder would soon come back and tie the game 35-35 with 6:33 left in the quarter as Theo Maledon nailed a jump shot to tie it. The Mavericks broke the tie as they were able to take a four point lead, that featured Josh Richardson making a breakaway slam dunk with 5:37 left in the quarter to take a 39-35 lead. The Thunder would come within two points before Rick Carlisle decided to call a timeout with 3:53 left in the quarter as the lead shrunk to 41-39. Prior to this timeout, the Thunder were on a 4-2 run as their offense started to click. Coming out of the timeout, the Mavericks turned to Kristaps Porzingis as he was able to make 1-of-2 free-throws as a result of being fouled to extend their lead to 42-39 with 3:42 left in the quarter. In the final minutes of the quarter, the Mavericks were able to maintain their lead and took a 49-42 lead into halftime. The game leading scorer after two quarters of play would belong to Josh Richardson and Tim Hardaway Jr as the both scored 11 points for the Mavericks. The Thunder were led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kenrich Williams as they both scored 8 points. For some odd reason, the Mavericks continued to shoot three points, even though they’ve been struggling to make them, as they shot 5.3% on 1-of-19 shooting from behind the arc. The Thunder were shooting the ball enough to keep within range of the Mavericks, as they shot 35% on 14-of-40 shooting from the field. The Mavericks would need their three pointers to clear up as apparently there was lightning over the rim that was zapping the ball. Hopefully in the second half, there would be a 100% chance of sunshine with 0% of “thunder” over the rim, that way the Mavericks could nail their three pointers.
Coming out of the final half before the All-Star break, the Thunder were able to get on the board first in the third quarter by having Shai Gilgeous-Alexander nail a two pointer to come within 49-44 of the Mavericks. Kristaps Porzingis was able to score the first points for the Mavericks as he nailed a jump shot with 10:54 left in the quarter to extend their lead to 51-44. The Mavericks continued to struggle on their three pointers as they still were trying make them, hoping they start to fall in the hoop but luckily they were still able to manage onto their lead. The Thunder were able to hit the 50-point mark as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander made a finger-roll layup for their 50th point in the game with 8:02 left in the quarter as they trailed 55-50. Rick Carlisle would call a timeout with 7:36 left in the quarter as the Mavericks saw their lead evaporate to three points with the Thunder coming within 55-52 of the Mavericks. Prior to this timeout, the Mavericks were struggling shooting the ball as they made three of their first eight attempts taken thus far. Coming out of the timeout, the Mavericks turned to Tim Hardaway Jr as he was able to convert by hitting a jump shot to extend their lead to 57-52 with 7:06 left in the quarter. The Mavericks would soon build the first 10-point lead in the game by having Tim Hardaway Jr drill a three pointer to extend their lead to 62-52, that resulted in the Thunder calling a timeout with 5:58 left in the quarter. Prior to this timeout, the Mavericks offense would catch fire as they would build a 7-0 run. Coming out of the timeout, the Thunder turned to Al Horford but couldn’t convert as Dorian Finney-Smith was there to steal the pass to keep the score at 62-52 with 5:34 left in the quarter. The Mavericks would continue to build off their good shooting in the quarter as Trey Burke drilled a three pointer to give the Mavericks the largest lead of the game at 11 points by taking a 65-54 lead with 4:05 left in the quarter. The three-ball was starting to fall for the Mavericks as Kristaps Porzingis drilled the fourth three pointer for the Mavericks with 3:05 left that resulted in extending their lead to 68-54. In the final minutes of the quarter, the Mavericks were able to separate from the Thunder as they were able to take a 75-61 lead into the fourth quarter. The game leading scorer after three quarters of play would belong to Tim Hardaway as he scored 18 points. The Thunder were led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as he scored 15 points. The Mavericks were able to solve their three point shooting a little bit by draining four of them in the quarter to shoot 17.2% for the game on 5-of-29 shooting from behind the arc.
The final quarter before the All-Star break would begin by having Isaiah Roby nail a two pointer for the Thunder to get this quarter underway. The Mavericks weren’t able to get their first points until the 11:13 mark by having Maxi Kleber drill a three pointer to extend their lead to 78-63. The Mavericks were in well control of this game as they were in driver’s seat just as long as they play good defense the rest of the way. The Thunder would need to generate some momentum in order to have a chance and by having Isaiah Roby hit 1-of-2 free-throws with 8:54 left in the game that would help just a tiny bit as they still trailed 78-64. The Mavericks would hit the 80-point mark as a result of Kristaps Porzingis drilling a long three pointer to give the Mavericks their 81st point in the game with 8:09 left in the game. The Thunder would call a timeout with 7:39 left in the game as they saw their deficit grow to 20 points in part of the Mavericks taking a 84-64 lead. Prior to this timeout, the Mavericks had a personal 6-0 run by Kristaps Porzingis as he was able to drill back-to-back three pointers. Unless the Thunder could make a serious crack at coming back, this was all in the Mavericks favor of ending it with a win. Coming out of the timeout, the Thunder turned to Darius Bazley but couldn’t convert as he missed a 26-foot three pointer to keep the score at 84-64 with 7:21 left in the game. With the Thunder desperately looking for any sort of points, they eventually got it from Al Horford as he nailed a two pointer with 6:37 left in the game to snap their scoring drought. Rick Carlisle would call a timeout with 4:25 left in the game to remind the Mavericks to not blow this enormous lead, as they saw Ty Jerome make a three pointer to give the Thunder their 69th point in the game but still trail 86-69. Coming out of the timeout, the Mavericks turned to Kristaps Porzingis but couldn’t convert as he missed a three pointer to keep the score at 86-69 with 4:05 left in the game. The Mavericks appeared to be heading towards the finish line with a win as the time was in their favor.
This team looked like they couldn’t hit three pointers as they missed one after the other and they still continued to take them, hoping one would fall. The Mavericks were nailing enough shots from the field to take a 49-42 halftime lead. That allowed the Thunder to remain in this game as they were just playing with house money because this was the Mavericks’ game to lose. The Mavericks were able to pick up the pace and separate themselves from the Thunder in the third quarter as their offense was starting to click.
In the end, it was the Dallas Mavericks defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 87-78. The Mavericks record would improve to 18-16 on the season as they are now 2 games above .500 for the first time since January. Kristaps Porzingis finished the game with his eighth double-double of the season as he finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds in the win. The Thunder were led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as he finished with 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting from the field. The Mavericks also got production from Tim Hardaway Jr as he too scored 19 points off the bench on 6-of-15 shooting from the field. Despite not playing in this game, Luka Doncic finished the first half of the season with 28.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.0 assists per game.
The first half of the season has come to a close as the Mavericks finish the first half with a record of 18-16 on the season while on a three game winning streak as they currently sit ninth in the western conference. The Mavericks will now head into the All-Star break where Luka Doncic will compete in the “Taco Bell Skills Challenge” on Sunday, March 7th while also starting in his second consecutive All-Star game. The next game the Mavericks will play will be on March 10th as they host the San Antonio Spurs at the American Airlines Center.