The Oklahoma City Thunder (18-15) rallied from another double-digit deficit to knock off the Dallas Mavericks (21-12) at Chesapeake Energy Arena on New Year’s Eve night to win their third in a row and seventh win in the last 8 tries.
Luka Dončić ran wild for the Mavs in the first quarter as he racked up 17 points and led Dallas to an early 32-20 lead. The second quarter featured a lot of back-and-forth basketball as OKC was able to trim the deficit multiple times only to see Dallas answer and build it right back up to double digits. That all changed as the Thunder went on an 8-0 run in the final 2:37 of the period to just barely trail Dallas 50-51 at the half.
The Thunder and the Mavs continued the back-and-forth affair in the third quarter as they exchanged leads several times. Oklahoma City held the lead for much of the period, but Dallas fought to get back on top 78-77 headed into the final frame.
The fourth quarter had plenty of ups and downs. The Mavs scored 5 straight to open up the period to take a 6-point lead, and with just 2:57 left in the game, Luka Dončić hit a 3 to put Dallas up 99-92. Chris Paul went to work to finish the game, though, scoring 9 of Oklahoma City’s final 14 points to put the game away and give the Thunder the 106-101 victory.
Welcome Back, Fellas
Tonight’s game welcomed back Danilo Gallinari, Dennis Schröder, and Hamidou Diallo, who all have missed time recently due to various injuries.
Dennis Schröder made his return tonight after sitting out the Thunder’s game against the Raptors in Toronto on Sunday. He had a solid night racking up 20 points, 12 coming in the 2nd quarter at a crucial time. OKC trailed by 10 early in the period, and Schröder hit a 3 to kickoff a comeback of sorts. He finished the first half scoring for the Thunder by scoring a layup with under a second left on the clock to cut the deficit to one. Schröder also finished the game with 7 rebounds and 4 assists in 31 minutes.
Danilo Gallinari made his return after missing 4 games with a sore ankle, and after struggling a bit in the first half, he blew up in the 3rd quarter. Gallinari knocked down 3 threes in under 2 minutes that turned the score from a tie into a 6-point lead for OKC. He scored 13 points total in the third period to bring his total to 20 for the night, and he also finished with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal in 31 minutes.
Hamidou Diallo struggled a bit in his return after missing 17 consecutive games due to a hyperextended elbow, but he contributed well enough. In 19 minutes of play, Diallo scored 4 points and pulled down a single rebound, which isn’t all that impressive, but the fact that he’s back on the court is good for the Thunder.
Halftime Adjustments Made the Difference
The Thunder did not play a perfect game by any means, but the adjustments that were made at the half played a major role in OKC finishing strong. In the first two quarters alone, Luka Dončić scored 23 points on 7-of-15 (46.7%) to go with 5 rebounds and 4 assists. He was much less effective in the second half as he was held to just 12 points on 5-of-14 (35.7%) plus 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
While Dončić was a terror for OKC for pretty much the entire game, the Thunder threw everything they had at him, and it wore him down. With the Mavs down by one and just 24 seconds on the clock, Danilo Gallinari was able to poke the ball away from Dončić, allowing Schröder to knock down 2 free throws, giving OKC a 3-point lead with 19 seconds to go.
On the next possession, Dončić was given the ball, still trailing by 3, with 5 seconds left on the clock, and he missed a wide open 3. OKC corralled the rebound and went on to finish out the game.
Guys like Luka Dončić are going to score points one way or another, but the Thunder handled the situation just right as they made him work the entire game, and then when it really mattered, he couldn’t hit the shot to win the game.
The Thunder kicks off 2020 with a 4-game road trip as they head to San Antonio for a Thursday night matchup with the Spurs (14-18)
Tip-off for that game is at 7 PM, and it will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
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