The Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off one of the strangest wins you will ever see. The Thunder sputtered out of the gate offensively, somehow not getting anything to drop against this Mavericks defense for the first two minutes and change.
Thanks to the Thunder's defense stabilizing the game, OKC was only down six when the tides started turning offensively. Despite Shai Gilgeous-Alexander only having one point at the end of the first frame, the Thunder had the lead, pushing it to a 16 point margin by the time Gilgeous-Alexander returned.
From there, Oklahoma City seemingly blew the roof off the American Airlines Center, going up as many as 24 points in this contest.
However, basketball is a game of runs. The first Mavericks run cut the Thunder led to just nine. Oklahoma City was able to rally, swelling the lead back up to 20. Then, disaster struck.
The Dallas Mavericks turned in a 30-run in the final frame to come all the way back and gain a six-point lead in the onslaught, leading for the first time since the first quarter.
Luka Doncic was special, going for 36 points, 15 rebounds, and 18 assists. Dereck Lively II posted 20 points, 16 rebounds, and a jaw-dropping seven blocks. Derrick Jones Jr broke free for 24 points, Seth Curry chipped in 12, and off the bench AJ Lawson added another 12 points.
Despite a 30-0 Mavericks run, the Thunder won, by six. As the two sides exchanged the lead five times, seeing two ties, and countless run, it is clear Oklahoma City is built to win in the modern NBA.
The offenses in this league are too good, the talent is too rich, and going wire-to-wire in dominating fashion is few and far between, save for one-off February nights in Detroit. As for the rest of basketball, no lead is safe.
This is a lesson the Thunder have already learned, outright blowing a. 22 point lead to the Pelicans earlier this season in one of their six losses while correcting the issue in a home game against Atlanta that saw a big lead evaporate before kicking it back into gear.
Regardless of the fact this Oklahoma City Thunder team is the second youngest in the NBA, it is clear they have the "it factor" needed to win, showing off maturity beyond their minutes logged. To be able to roll with the punches, especially on the road, is a requirement in this league.
Chet Holmgren was nails down the stretch of this game, despite being a rookie, turning in three blocks and four points in the final three minutes. Holmgren finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, a steal, and four blocks.
While Shai Gilgeous-Alexander struggled to score early, being double-teamed by Dallas, scoring just one point and starting 0-for-4 from the floor in this game, Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 17 points, nine assists, three boards, a block, and five steals in this contest. The max contract superstar was huge in this contest.
Jalen Williams was again the key in this game, engineering the offense when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was off the floor while also hitting the go-ahead bucket by driving past Doncic and finishing around Lively at the cup. The Santa Clara product finished with 23 points, five assists, five rebounds, and a steal.
When you have a trio of players that good, you can get far in the NBA. While a team game, stars win in this league more than in other sports. It is a player-driven league, and the evidence is there to suggest OKC has star level players in the making.
Beyond just that three-headed attack, Mark Daigneault's rotation came up big. Jaylin Williams drew two charges, broke up a lob play, and drilled four triples. Davis Bertans posted 15 points in 11 minutes, and Isaiah Joe continues to prove to be a complete player.
Cason Wallace was stellar on both ends, hauling in a career-high six rebounds, posting a career-best 15 points, and contesting Luka Doncic the best you can, but there is a reason they tab it as "Luka Magic." in Dallas.
The Thunder are top five in defensive and offensive rating and second in net rating while turning in a 13-6 record, 7-2 on the road, and nearly 20 games into the season the Thunder are the third seed in the Western Conference.
To already be this good at handling runs night in and night out in the NBA, with the expected internal development and the future assists Oklahoma City has complied, it is clear the Thunder are built to last in the modern NBA.