For two quarters on Wednesday night, the Dallas Mavericks played well enough to hang with the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference Oklahoma City Thunder.
Unfortunately for Dallas (30-28), those two quarters were not the most important ones. The Mavericks were outscored 62-46 in the first and fourth quarters, stretches that included a nearly seven minute scoring drought in the final frame. Unable to get into a groove offensively after taking a 74-71 lead in the third, the Thunder (41-16) roared back, going on a 31-7 run to ultimately put the game out of reach.
“I didn’t like the way we played in the first and fourth quarter tonight,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “And those are pretty important quarters. We’ve got to pick it up. These games at home are precious commodities. We can do better than what we did tonight.”
Forward Dirk Nowitzki had a vintage performance, leading all scorers with 33 points while grabbing six rebounds. It was a season-high in points for the big German, who did all he could to put the Mavericks on his back throughout the game.
“I thought offensively we did some good stuff,” Nowitzki said. “But we just never got enough stops or rebounds to really make this a game.”
Oklahoma City began the game on a 15-3 run, with Dallas in an absolute funk offensively. The Mavericks opened the game 1-of-8 from the field and took almost four minutes to score its first point.
Dallas would quickly cut the deficit, however, forcing the Thunder to take a timeout after pulling to within 21-17. New Maverick David Lee had an immediate in his first game in Dallas, grabbing a rebound and finishing through contact for an and one moments after subbing in. He finished with four points and four rebounds.
“I thought he did well,” Nowitzki said. “”He’s going to be a good rebounder for us. He’s a smart player.”
Despite shooting 38 percent in the first quarter, the Mavericks got things going in the second while holding the Thunder to its lowest point output in any quarter. Nowitzki even hit a trail three to bring Dallas to within 35-33, but that was as close as they would get in the first half.
Center Salah Mejri even got in on the action, providing a much needed spark off the bench when he sent Thunder forward Kevin Durant’s layup attempt into the first row with a block from behind.
Durant would get his revenge, though, hitting a buzzer beating three to end the first half and send Oklahoma City into the locker room at halftime up 58-51.
Much like the second quarter, Dallas came out firing in the third, taking its first lead of the game on guard Deron Williams’ step-back jumper. After taking its largest lead of the game at 74-71, Thunder head coach Billy Donovan signaled for a timeout.
That is where the game changed.
Oklahoma City went on its aforementioned 31-7 run to eliminate any hope of a Dallas victory. The Mavericks were held scoreless for the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, but managed to make it interesting at the end. After an 8-0 run of its own, Dallas got as close as 105-97 with a chance to get to within five. But guard Wesley Matthews missed a wide open three in the corner and the Thunder would not look back, as neither time nor the scoreboard was on the Mavericks’ side.
“We gotta finish games,” Matthews said. “We fought and fought. We took the lead and had a little slippage. That seems to be the trend for us this season. We’re too good of a team to be doing that. This loss hurts.”
With the loss, the Mavericks fall to 7th place in the Western Conference.
Next up: Dallas hosts the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Feb. 26. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
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