The Dallas Mavericks came up short against the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday night, falling 120-109 on the road.
The Mavericks gave star guard Luka Doncic the night off to rest a sore left ankle after he played 39 minutes the previous night in a win against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Without Doncic, who leads the NBA averaging 34 points per game, Dallas still raced out to an early 11-point lead behind Christian Wood and Spencer Dinwiddie.
But a 23-5 run in the second quarter by Oklahoma City gave the Thunder a 69-55 halftime lead.
Dallas closed within seven points in the third quarter, then within six in the fourth, but Thunder star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander erupted for 17 points in the third quarter and six more in the fourth.
Gilgeous-Alexander, who entered the night fourth in the league averaging 30.9 points per game, finished with 33 points on 11-of-17 shooting.
Wood led the Mavericks with 27 points and 16 rebounds, and Dinwiddie added 21 points and eight assists.
But Dallas was outmatched on the defensive end as Gilgeous-Alexander got what he wanted, and Oklahoma City dominated inside with 56 points in the paint to the Mavericks’ 24.
“They’re one of the best teams at attacking the paint and continuing to attack the paint,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said of the Thunder. “We just couldn’t stop them.”
WHAT TO KNOW
Dallas is now 0-4 in games played without Doncic this season, after going 8-9 in games Doncic missed last regular season and 2-1 in the 2022 playoffs without him.
The Mavericks had won eight of their previous nine games, including their last four on the road, but showed some fatigue playing the second night of a back-to-back.
It was Oklahoma City’s third straight double-digit win at home to start the new year. The Thunder beat Boston 150-117 on January 3 and Washington 127-110 on Friday.
The Thunder put it out of reach in the fourth. A steal by Gilgeous-Alexander led to a dunk by Lu Dort that put Oklahoma City ahead 116-98 with 4:26 to play.
At the halfway point of the season, the Mavericks find themselves in fourth place in the Western Conference at 23-18, slightly better than last season’s 22-19 record at this point.
Dallas is still only 4.5 games behind first-place Memphis in the wide-open West.
Soon they expect to get Josh Green and Dorian Finney-Smith back from their injuries.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Mavericks made 10 of their first 14 three-point attempts yet trailed 49-48. They finished 14-of-39 (35.9%) from three.
After Sunday’s loss, the Mavericks have given up an average of 117.8 points per game in their last eight contests. The absence of the teams’ three best defensive players, Green, Finney-Smith, and Maxi Kleber, is being felt.
Dallas allowed Oklahoma City to shoot 49% from the field and 43% from three.
Thunder standout Gilgeous-Alexander showed the Mavericks why he is primed to make his All-Star game debut this season.
“He’s a great player,” Wood said of Gilgeous-Alexander. “He’s been having a great season all year. He was getting left, getting downhill, getting to his spots, creating for others when he got to his spots, getting a lot of and-ones, getting to the free throw line.”
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 19 but missed nine of his first 11 shots.
“I take full responsibility for this loss,” Hardaway said. “I need to be better throughout the entire game, (missing layups). Defensively, I take pride in making sure that guys are in the right spots and I’ve just got to be better — especially on the second half of a back-to-back, without one of our main guys.
“This all falls on me, nobody else. That’s just how I feel. I’ll be better.”
The Mavericks’ road trip continues as they head to Hollywood, where they will play the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night before facing the Lakers on Thursday.