The Thunder’s second unit made a dizzying second quarter run and Aleksej Pokuševski’s flurry to start the third put pressure on Dallas, but the Mavericks charged ahead in the third quarter to put OKC away.
Though he’s been in Oklahoma City for just a couple of weeks, 23-year-old Thunder newcomer Svi Mykhailiuk has been thrust into a variety of roles right off the bat. He’s been a floor spacing threat in the corner, ready to catch and either rise up or pump fake and make the next play. In six games, he’s had five dunks, after registering zero in his first 36 games this season with the Detroit Pistons.
On Monday though, the Thunder charged him with defending Dallas Mavericks All-Star guard Luka Dončić, yet another formative experience that players in Oklahoma City are racking up left and right these days. Mykhailiuk and his Thunder teammates battled all night, keeping this one close through the first half, but ultimately Dallas pulled away behind Doncic’s 25 points. The Mavericks shot 53.1 percent from the field, hit 16 threes and scored 24 points off 16 Thunder turnovers.
“They're an elite offense and obviously a really good team. They played really well tonight,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “They burned us for the mistakes we made and we’ve just got to learn the lessons from the game from an execution standpoint.”
The Thunder’s second unit reeled off a 17-8 run to clip a nine-point Dallas edge after the first quarter, tying the game at 41 on a Pokuševski 3 off a dish from Kenrich Williams. That spurt included five consecutive missed shots by Dallas as the Thunder’s bench group turned stops into downhill momentum. Like a few Thunder runs that would follow, however, that burst was stopped short by Dallas’ crisp execution and offensive firepower as the Mavericks pulled away 127-106.
The Mavericks’ lead was trimmed to two possessions early in the third quarter, but a confident Dončić 3-pointer coming off a ball screen prompted a 15-4 Dallas run that put the Thunder behind for good. On offense, the Thunder committed a turnover then missed five of six shot attempts while the Mavericks got two more 3-pointers, one from Dončić and another from Dorian Finney-Smith, along with a pair of easy Porzingis buckets at the rim and a Josh Richardson jumper to cap the flurry.
Play of the Game
With one quick cross-over dribble from his right to left hand, Pokuševski got a full step on Dallas center Kristaps Porzingis. As the Thunder rookie sliced into the lane, a help defender crashed over to take a swipe at the ball. No matter – the 7-foot Serbian used a firm dribble, gathered the ball and swung it out of the help defender’s reach on his way to the hoop. Porzingis tried to catch up, but Pokuševski’s length was too much even for the 7-foot-3 Maverick and the result was a lefty layup and an old-fashioned 3-point play.
“Every workout, I’m trying to use it for dribbling drills,” said Pokuševski. “I feel much better on the court with the ball, much more comfortable. I just have to keep working.”
That bucket made it 71-66 Dallas early in the third quarter and one possession later Pokuševski, who scored 21 points on 8-for-17 shooting, used a couple more decisive dribbles to set himself up for a three-pointer to cut the Mavericks lead to just 4 points at 73-69. Dallas never allowed the Thunder to get closer than that the rest of the way, but Pokuševski’s spurt showed a decisiveness, an ability to play with straight line drives, only changing direction when cut off. That type of penetration is generating layups, free throws and clear passing angles for the developing wing.
“His pace these last 10 games or so has been significantly different and more controlled than early on and that's a good indicator that the game slowing down for him,” said Daigneault. “He’s seven feet, so he's naturally upright with the ball and one of the things that he's been working on is just kind of hitting the gas.”
Stat of the Night3/3
Shooting numbers for newcomer Tony Bradley on the night, part of an 8-point, 5-rebound, 1-assist, 1-steal over 14 minutes during his Thunder debut. For the fifth-straight game all nine Thunder players have scored and that continued even with a newcomer who hadn’t had an official practice yet with the team. All three of Bradley’s buckets came in a second quarter flurry, on dishes from Pokuševski and Ty Jerome and on a put back too.
“It was a good opportunity to get a chance to play” Bradley said. “It was different things I was trying to learn and pickup kind of on the fly. As I continue to play more, I'll get more comfortable in the system here."
Bradley, a 6-foot-10 center, came to the Thunder in a trade with Philadelphia last Thursday. A former college teammate of Thunder forward Justin Jackson at the University of North Carolina, where they won a NCAA title together. While the Thunder is making sure not to skip any steps onboarding Bradley into the program, the team got him right into action to help him get comfortable on the floor.
"Honestly, the past couple of days have been very smooth,” said Bradley. “Everyone's been welcoming and everyone's been quick and responsive.”
Quotes of the Night
"We went on little spurts giving up rebounds. Defensively, we gave them second chance points and transition and things like that. Some things we can tweak and tighten up and improve on for sure."–Tony Bradley
The Thunder’s home stand concludes on Wednesday with the first of two matchups this season against the Toronto Raptors, who have been playing all of their home games in Tampa Bay, Florida this year. Wednesday’s game will be the first Thunder television broadcast on the re-branded Bally Sports Oklahoma, though the channel number and content remains the same. Regardless of the television broadcast or the opponent, the Thunder is all about bringing a growth mindset to the game.
“The game is a craft that you have to hone and you have to get better at. All these little fundamentals and execution details, they add up for players and for teams,” said Daigneault. “We've got some inexperienced guys out there that are getting a taste of it for the first time and we just need to use the experiences to improve. So we'll come in tomorrow, learn the lessons, try to chip away a little bit and then throw it back out on Wednesday and see where we're at.”