OKC Thunder: No answer for Luka Doncic, Mavericks: grades

JANUARY 27: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks handles ball against OKC Thunder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
JANUARY 27: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks handles ball against OKC Thunder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
JANUARY 27: Danilo Gallinari #8 of OKC Thunder shoots the ball against the Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The toll of playing shorthanded caught up to the OKC Thunder who clearly missed their leader as they fell to the Mavericks. Player grades offer insight.

As the OKC Thunder and Dallas Mavericks lined up this evening the game began as every game has since the Raptors and Spurs game Sunday. Each team’s first possession includes a 24-second shot clock violation and the tweak either the Hawks or Magic added was the other team takes an 8-second backcourt violation.

The significance of these two infractions is Kobe Bryant‘s two jerseys were No. 24 and No. 8. This is the way teams and players are honoring Bryant who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash along with his daughter six other passengers and the pilot.

79. 107. 149. Final. 97

The NBA world, be it players, coaches, in-arena personnel, fans – even people not necessarily with basketball interest are affected by this sad tragedy. Many are still reeling from the news and those closest to Kobe are naturally taking the news hard amid their grieving process. Although Kobe touched generations of NBA talent he had strong relationships with certain players and Chris Paul was among them.

If you watched any of the copious TV tributes today there was CP3 often seated beside Kobe be it at an All-Star Game or National Team event. For as much as our hearts go out to Vanessa Bryant, the couple’s children and family members there are players like CP3 who are suffering deeply with this loss. They were as close as brothers and for that reason, it wasn’t surprising Paul was ruled out tonight.

With that said, although the games must be played there is a certain pall that exists. And if our thoughts have occasionally drifted it’s conceivable the players are dealing with the same inability to focus.

That said the first half was relatively close neither team shot well in the opening frame and the Mavericks held a slim three point edge heading into the second quarter. Unfortunately, while the Thunder continued to shoot poorly (31.9 percent) the Mavs began to heat up (44.9 percent). The resulting effect was Dallas took a 12 point lead into the locker room courtesy of a 59-47 score.

The old habits of starting third quarters slowly arose with the Mavericks on the opposite side of that equation building their lead to 16. But, then Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder began to heat up and cut the lead to five on a 13-2 run.

Rick Carlisle‘s timeout quelled the storm and we got Luka time (at one point he hit five consecutive 3-pointers) and the lead ballooned to double-digits again. Entering the final frame Dallas’ lead was 11.

Ultimately, the OKC Thunder couldn’t get closer than 10. Chris Paul’s absence was felt as his calm and leadership are often what dictates the runs OKC makes down the stretch of games. And, hey it might just be the fact OKC is exhausted having played several games shorthanded with SGA specifically looking fatigued and without his typical flowing grace.

It’s unfortunate the Thunder couldn’t take advantage of a team so close to them in the standings but they’ll regroup.

With that let’s look at the player grades from the loss.