Thrilling, frustrating, heartbreaking…there are many adjectives to describe another Dallas Mavericks overtime loss, in this case a second one to the league-leading Oklahoma City Thunder, to whom they fell in similar fashion on December 27th. But as Mavs fans have become accustomed to this season, everyone is trying to focus on the positive.
In a game where Kevin Durant scored a career-high 52 points and Russell Westbrook added 30, while Dirk Nowitzki and O. J. Mayo shot a combined 11-35 and the Mavs only lose by 3 points in overtime to the team with the NBA’s best record, clearly there is plenty that went right even if the end result was not optimum.
The trend of competing without a great game from O. J. Mayo continued and in this case, almost knocking off the Thunder sans Mayo or Dirk as well. The Mavericks fought back from a 15-point deficit and were trailing by as many as 9 in the 3rd quarter but fought back to take the lead before eventually falling short. Dirk and Mayo both struggled from the field but eventually amassed 18 points apiece, largely at the line. Even though combined they shot less than 30%, they hit 13 of 15 at the line.
Vince Carter had perhaps his finest game as a Maverick, putting up 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting while Dirk and Mayo added 18 apieces.
Darren Collison hit 5-of-8 for 15 points and added 6 assists and 3 steals and Elton Brand struggled early but started hitting late and snagged 13 rebounds.
Dallas continued to show improved defense. Even though Durant and Westbrook came up big time, they had to work for it. Durant shot 13-of-31 and hot 21 of his points at the line. Westbrook was also only 12-of 26. Overall the Thunder only shot 41%
Shawn Marion and Chris Kaman had decent games but weren’t involved enough to make a difference. Kaman in particular only played for 16 minutes, scoring 6 points on 3-of5-shooting…a season low. Kaman also had problems handling the ball again; it has become clear that despite a myriad of offensive skills he possesses, handling a bullet pass in the post in traffic is not of them. Hopefully his teammates will take more notice because they usually lead to turnovers.
Without Vince Carter, however, the Mavs might not have been in this game. Without him the team shot 31-of-74 (41%) and that wouldn’t have been enough to stay close because they were outrebounded (as usual) and were about even on turnovers. Since the Thunder also hit 91% at the line, that would have been hard to overcome.
Mike James also took an inexplicable last shot, considering how long he has been playing basketball. The deep 3-point attempt near the end of the game was the wrong shot at the wrong time and helped ensure the Thunder’s victory.
The Mavericks have definitely shown they can play and while victories are sorely needed and this kind of loss is hard to take, there is definitely something good going on. For the team to come so close despite poor night from both Dirk and Mayo is encouraging, especially after trailing by a large margin earlier in the game and repeatedly fighting back. It didn’t work out in the end and some of that may be on Mike James but it’s still clear the Mavericks are playing much better basketball.
The Orlando Magic will provide another opportunity for the Mavericks to show they can succeed convincingly, having a record worse than the Mavericks and going 2-8 in their last 2 games.