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: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks looks on during the game against OKC Thunder(Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Best OKC Thunder Reserve:

B+. . C. Oklahoma City Thunder. NERLENS NOEL

Hat tip to Deonte Burton for THAT dunk and his energy (the Mavs broadcast crew love him by the way).


But come on — the hot dog eating, broken face, mask wearing Thunder Bandit gets the nod.

His energy was significant and while his emotions may have driven part of his energy it’s understandable he’d want to perform against his former club.

Nerlens Noel got hit in the face at one point and it was surprising he stayed in the match but he battled to produce a line of 9 points, 8 rebounds (four offensive boards), and a block.

His effort off the ball was significant as he raced all over either providing help defense, seeking to block passes in the lanes, protection at the rim and even his man on man. He was extremely active and at times it almost seemed like the others were moving in slow motion around him.

We’ve previously witnessed Westbrook play after suffering the same facial fracture and that might diminish how impressive it is to see a player competing with a broken bone (IN THEIR FACE!) and getting hit in the face. Gutsy move and effort from the big man.

Best Opponent:

A. . G/F. Dallas Mavericks. LUKA DONCIC

It’s completely mind boggling that Luka Doncic is 20 years old and has mastered the game to the degree he has at such a young age.

For as excited as Thunder Nation can be over the future of this club look how difficult the game was for SGA without Paul to help and to turn to during critical moments. Then consider that Doncic fills that role for his Mavericks. Did I mention he’s 20?

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After a tough first quarter where Doncic was trying to extract Dort out from inside his jersey and clearly frustrated, he adapted and adjusted. He finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, made five 3-pointers and had ZERO turnovers.

Like SGA there are growing pains. For example, it’s odd he’s suddenly having issues at the free throw line or the copious clutch time losses the Mavericks have struggled with as teams simply collapse on him.

But then there are the five consecutive 3-pointers like he hit tonight or the manner in which he dissects the offense regardless of what is thrown at him.

This youngster is a generational talent who’ll change the game. It’s funny the last time I recall seeing Kobe in public it was with his daughter to watch Luka Doncic play. As Luka went to inbound the ball Bryant spoke to him in Slovenian (probably something NSFW based on how quickly he whipped around) and then the game seemingly stopped while the two acknowledged each other, laughed and shook hands.

That is the lasting memory that will stick with me. One master in attendance with his daughter to witness the next generation’s master.

Closing Thought:

Kudos to the youngsters and team who were playing clearly fatigued, emotional, nursing injuries, still shorthanded and without their leader. Dallas averages 116.4 points per game and the Thunder held them to 107 points despite everything.

The defensive effort was mostly on point but without the accompanying offense they came up short.

It’s also worthy of noting for everyone whose ready to trade away all the vets and hand the reigns over to the youngsters how premature that move would be. And for anyone who thinks Chris Paul isn’t valuable, let this game serve as a remainder precisely how valuable he is.

Next. NBA Power Rankings week 14: Thunder among ‘road warriors’. dark

The OKC Thunder are back in action on Wednesday when they travel to Sacramento to play the Kings.

For a full box score of tonight’s game, head over to this link courtesy of ESPN.