The Oklahoma City Thunder saw their seven game win streak snapped on the road tonight against the struggling Dallas Mavericks, 111-96. Playing their 3rd game in 4 nights, the Thunder showed it, struggling to keep up with the previously 3-8 Mavs all night. Dallas, led by super rookie Luka Doncic, who finished with 22-8-6 in 31 minutes, led the game nearly throughout and were not threatened down the stretch, where OKC could barely keep even.
If you want to see what a slightly fatigued and shorthanded team looks like, that was it. Rick Carlisle, one of the best coaches in the NBA, has always had a way against the Thunder even when the underdog, and he knew how to draw out OKC’s likely fatigue and emotional letdown after punishing the Rockets two nights before. Over and over again, he put his rookie PG into pick and roll situations to drag the quick but slight Dennis Schroder over picks and, as the game wore on, the Thunder PnR defense got slower and sloppier.
The impact, continued by effervescent pest and longstanding thorn J.J. Barea, culminated in a disastrous 2nd quarter that saw OKC fall behind by 24, a deficit they could never escape. Barea finished with 21 on 8-14 shooting, including 3-4 from three.
The Thunder seemed overly preoccupied with defending the DeAndre Jordan high PnR that leads to lobs at the rim. OKC defended quite well, often denying that lob by fronting him (like with Clint Capela of the Rockets) with Adams behind him and Jerami Grant in front of him. But that left the Mavs shooters open, and they punished OKC repeatedly all night, finishing 14-29 from beyond the arc.
The fatigue manifested on the offensive end as well, as OKC often fell back into their bad habits. Which is what happens when you’re drained, shorthanded, and missing your team leader and emotional battering ram in Russell Westbrook. It is notable that the Mavs are 18th overall in team 3-point shooting at 34% from the floor, and shot 48% from the game, while OKC is...ahem...dead last in that statistic (29%), and yet hoisted more, making so many less (9-34). To be sure, a LOT of them in the abstract were really good shots. But that leads us right back to this question. Not only that, but OKC, and particularly Dennis Schroder, missed a lot of easy non-threes that could have had material impact in the game. The lack of success and commitment to finishing at the rim not only hurt their field goal percentage, but also inability to draw fouls and free throws.
The only thing that kept OKC from completely getting run out of the building and still having a legit shot to stay in it was their absurd rebounding, led once again by world famous Steven Adams, who finished with 13 boards, 7 of which were offensive, to go along with a team-high 20 points. This is ridiculous:
Thunder outscored the Mavs 17-2 on second-chance points. Dallas with a big edge in first-chance points. https://t.co/kEresOLVrQ— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) November 11, 2018
OKC looks to regroup against another weak team in the Suns in two nights. Hopefully a little more rest, some tighter defense that adjusts when they think what a team will will do (lots of DeAndre lobs) turns out to be the thing they least had two worry about, and more shots falling on the interior will get them back on the winning trail.
- This was one of those “don’t make me hope!” kind of games where we knew OKC didn’t have it — for a variety of reasons — but kept it just close enough where if they could just land a one-two punch, they could have potentially turned the tide. But when they got the lead down to 10-12 points, or even single digits, Dallas responded with a quick 7 point run and the energy was over.
- Doncic looks legit, and in a weird way reminds me of Ben Simmons a year ago. He’s got a deceptively powerful body and great balance in his legs, along with legit scoring and playmaking ability. One thing I couldn’t ascertain though is whether his lack of “burst” quickness makes him a defensive liability, just like Simmons has some glaring holes in his own game. What would happen if teams found and intentionally targeted any defensive quickness and agility the way the Celtics attacked Simmons’ inability to make a jumper? Questions for later.
- The loss of Westbrook, among other things, continues to expose Raymond Felton as the team’s most glaring weakness right now. (At least Jerami Grant is playing better now, rendering that other issue inert for the time being). But by shifting Felton into the de facto backup PG position, he’s simply not getting the job done. He took 12 shots on the night, making only three, was badly outplayed by his counterpart Barea, and is killing any sense of offensive flow with the bench. Poor Nerlens Noel has no idea what to do when he’s on the court with Fats.
- Obvious but relevant point — Harry Barnes once again proving that Golden State made the right call in upgrading him with Kevin Durant.
Next game: vs Phoenix Suns on Monday, Nov. 12 at 7PM CST
Makers 46, in case you were wondering.