Final Meeting with the Mavs
Date: Monday, March 29, 2021
Tip-Off Time: 7 p.m. CT
Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
The Thunder dropped the first two games of its four-game homestand and both played out in similar fashion. In both its losses to Memphis and Boston, the Thunder led for the majority of the game, but lost its lead behind a massive surge in the final quarter.
Each game, however, has also been a chance for the Thunder to take a look at its young, developing players as they post valuable minutes against the likes of Ja Morant, Jonas Valanciunas, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
One player who has caught a lot of attention for his performances against such high-caliber players is two-way center Moses Brown, who has now logged two consecutive games with a double-double – both of which were achieved before halftime. In his most recent matchup on Saturday, Brown recorded an impressive 21-point, 23-rebound double-double, which ties the Thunder single-game rebound record and marks just the sixth 20-20 double-double in OKC history. His 19 rebounds at halftime marked the most by any player in OKC history and the most by any player in the league this season.
“He just plays hard,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault following Saturday’s game. “He competes every night and we have an expectation of competing. I thought our guys competed [on Saturday] and I thought he, in particular, did a good job but he does that every day.”
Oklahoma City will be stop two on Dallas’ five-game road stint after a bout against the Pelicans on Saturday. In that game, the Mavs were without its two-time All-Star Luka Dončić (illness) as well as big man Kristaps Porzingis (right knee).
This marks the second consecutive game that Dallas has played without Dončić and the fifth game he’s missed all season. In those five contests, the Mavs have gone 1-4 as their points per game drop from 113 to 100 and the 3-point shooting dips from 36 percent to 28 percent.
In his last game on Saturday against New Orleans, Jalen Brunson stepped into the starting lineup in place of Dončić and logged 24 points on 10 of 15 shooting from the field. For the season, Brunson has averaged 18.5 points per game against the Thunder while shooting 53.8 percent from the field.
Keep an eye on the matchup between the Thunder and Maverick second units. Whether or not Dončić or Porzingis will be available for Monday’s matchup, the third leading scorer for the Mavericks comes off the bench and that’s Tim Hardaway Jr. On Saturday, the veteran guard posted a team-high 30 point while shooting 11-19 from the field and 5-of-10 from the 3-point line. His efforts helped Dallas’ reserves outscore New Orleans 43-20.
Meanwhile, the Thunder second unit has been a consistent offensive contributor all season long. Particularly since the All-Star break, the Thunder reserves are tied for the sixth most points per game with 36.6 and are first in 3-point percentage shooting at a 43 percent clip.
Stat to Watch
First Quarter Points — Getting out to strong starts has not been a forte recently for Dallas who have trailed at the end of the first quarter for the past 10 contests. Meanwhile, the Thunder has strung together multiple strong starts recently, particularly on the defensive end.
Over the last three games, the Thunder has allowed just 23 points and a 34 percent shooting clip from its opponents in the first quarter. While the Thunder will look to put together a 48-minute performance, it all begins with a strong effort from the jump.
In each matchup with Dallas this season, the Thunder defense has played a critical role. In the first meeting, the Thunder defense held the Mavs to their lowest scoring game of the season and just a 20 percent clip from the 3-point line. Eight days later, OKC’s defense resulted in an early double-digit lead and a late-game 116-108 win.
Between the two performances, the Thunder has only allowed Dallas an average of 97.5 points per game which is the second fewest for any of its opponent this season.