Recap: Short-handed Mavs slide back home after loss in OKC to conclude road trip
Recap: Mavericks 91 at Thunder 112
Short-handed Mavs slide back home after loss in OKC to conclude road trip
OKLAHOMA CITY — Just when things seemed to heading in the right direction as the Dallas Mavericks welcomed back their undisputed leader, they soon learned that they’d also have to take the court minus one of their top veteran contributors off the bench.
After missing two games due to a strained right adductor injury, 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki returned to the lineup just in time to conclude the Mavericks’ four-game road trip against the reigning Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder. Meanwhile, with center Chris Kaman still back in Dallas after missing the three previous games due to a concussion sustained last Monday during practice, the Mavs would take yet another blow to the head when coach Rick Carlisle announced that sixth man and eight-time All-Star Vince Carter wouldn’t be able to go against the Thunder after coming down with a sickness earlier in the day.
Still, the Mavs marched into Chesapeake Energy Arena with plenty of confidence after pushing the Thunder into overtime twice earlier in the season before falling both times. And with an opportunity to seize some retribution, the Mavericks looked to finish up their road trip with an even mark before returning to Dallas for the start of a four-game homestand Wednesday night against Portland.
But instead the Thunder (36-12) would send the short-handed Mavericks (20-28) back to Dallas with a lopsided loss to complete their disappointing road trip, falling to 1-3 on their expedition away from Big D following a 112-91 rout.
“We had our chances to at least go 2-2 on this trip, maybe even 3-1. Even Golden State when I was out, we had our chances. We had the last possession to take the lead, but it’s been all season long. We’re not good enough I guess to win these close games at home or on the road, so that’s tough,” Nowitzki said while summing up the trip.
Without Carter’s leadership in the second unit, Carlisle sent veteran big man Elton Brand back to the bench while inserting rookie center Bernard James into the starting lineup alongside Nowitzki, four-time All-Star Shawn Marion, leading scorer O.J. Mayo and point guard Darren Collison. The strategy would work immediately as Nowitzki and James combined for a rejection on All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook before James’ dunk opened the scoring.
The Thunder then charged back against a Carter-less second unit, taking a 29-22 lead on a 7-0 spurt to close the opening period.
“You know, when we substituted, we struggled. Not having Vince out there was a big factor, but we’ve got to play better, too. That’s where it’s at,” Carlisle confessed.
“Our second unit obviously was in trouble today without Vince and without Kaman,” Nowitzki added. “I didn’t think we had enough playmakers out there and we had some stupid turnovers that always get us in trouble. … And when we turn the ball over, we’re not very good.”
After five turnovers overshadowed the Mavericks’ 11-of-21 shooting in the first quarter, Dallas’ carelessness with the ball would continue to come back bite the visiting team as the Thunder surged in front by double digits behind the duo of Westbrook and three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant. And after the Mavs allowed the most points they have this season for a first half, the visitors looked up a 68-44 disadvantage on the scoreboard as they entered the locker room.
Despite Marion’s 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting, the Mavs were outshot through 24 minutes of play, 57.5 percent to 45.5 percent. The Mavericks also gave up 17 points off their 10 first-half turnovers, while the Thunder surrendered just five points on four giveaways.
“Turnovers and we couldn’t get stops. I think one of our best advantages is when we can get stops and we can get out on the break and make something happen,” Marion explained. “When we can’t get stops and when we get out on the break but we turned it over on the break and they’re able to score, it’s that much harder and you’re making it harder on yourself at the same time. We were playing catch-up the rest of the way. And when you dig yourself that big of a hole on the road, you ain’t coming back.”
Again looking for a spark, Carlisle began the second half with Brand in place of James at the 5 spot. But not even Brand’s presence in the first unit, Marion’s offensive success or a technical foul on Durant would be able to help the Mavs avoid falling further into a hole as the third quarter ticked away, trailing by as much as 29 before entering the fourth down 92-67.
DeAndre Liggins’ lay-in to make it a 101-71 score with 9:12 remaining then gave the Thunder its largest lead to that point before it eventually reached 33, forcing Carlisle to call a timeout before subbing Nowitzki out for the night. The coach then finished the remainder of the game with his young contributors.
Westbrook led the Thunder with 24 points on 8-of-16 from the field, dishing out seven assists to boot. And after dropping a career-high 52 points on the Mavs back on Jan. 18, Durant added 19 points and 10 rebounds as four Thunder players scored in double figures.
In the loss, the Mavs were outshot by the Thunder, 47.1 percent to 41.4 percent. Oklahoma City also sprinted to a 25-11 edge in fast-break points while claiming a 48-40 rebounding advantage and a 48-42 margin in points in the paint, converting the Mavs’ 14 turnovers into 23 points while holding Dallas to 15 points on 11 Thunder turnovers.
“What I did see was a lot of untimely turnovers that led to big problems. And when you put these guys in the open floor with catastrophic turnovers, they’re going to make you look bad. And I think that was it more than anything, but obviously when you get down 30 in a game, you’re not competing well enough. There’s no question about that,” Carlisle said.
“Defensively, even when we had our defense set, we didn’t really get much going. They got whatever they wanted. They got 3s, they got layups, the got backdoor cuts. We were ball-watching and it was just an all-around tough game,” Nowitzki concluded.
The Mavericks will now return to Dallas for the start of a four-game homestand, welcoming in the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. The two teams are tied at 1-1 in the season series. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.
“Well, we have an extended period at home now and it’s very important obviously,” Carlisle said while looking ahead. “We’ve got to get ourselves ready to play well, to play efficiently and play to get our crowd into the game, because that’s what creates I think the kind of energy we need to play well.”