Tue, 17 May 2022

Riding strong defense, Mavs look to defeat Thunder again

Field Level Media
17 Jan 2022, 11:05 GMT+10

Heading into Monday night's home matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd is thrilled about his team's recent defensive performance.

Since Dec. 29, the Mavericks have the NBA's top defensive rating, allowing just 98.3 points per 100 possessions.

The margin between Dallas and No. 2 Philadelphia is greater than the margin between the 76ers and the league's No. 12 team in that span.

"I think as a whole, our defense is at a very high level," Kidd said. "Things that we talked about when the season started. I think everyone is on the same page."

The Mavericks have held opponents below 100 points in eight of their past 10 games, going 8-2 during that span.

The Mavericks enter Monday's game having won back-to-back games and eight of their past nine.

Saturday's 108-92 victory over Orlando opened a five-game homestand and was Dallas' first game with both Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis in the lineup since Dec. 10.

Porzingis had 19 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field in his first game back after missing the previous seven games while in the NBA's health and safety protocol.

Dallas' Jalen Brunson said Porzingis' return would be a big help on both ends of the floor, and he wasn't surprised Porzingis showed little rust after not playing in a game since New Year's Eve.

"He puts the work in," Brunson said. "Obviously he had a little bit of a long break, but everything stays the same for him.

"Missed his rim protection, his ability to space the floor. He's just another threat for us, another guy on the scouting report who you've got to play a certain way. He brings the freak dimension to this team. We missed him."

Monday's game will be the third of four meetings between the teams this season. The Mavericks have won the previous two matchups, both in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder haven't scored more than 86 points in either of those meetings, with the Mavericks holding Oklahoma City to two of its four lowest-scoring games this season.

The Thunder have lost six of their past seven games, although their offense has surged of late.

In going 1-2 in the past three games, Oklahoma City has averaged more than 116 points per game. The Thunder scored that many points only twice in their first 39 games.

A big part of the Thunder's recent offensive resurgence has been the play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Gilgeous-Alexander, who missed the Jan. 2 meeting with Dallas, scuffled for a time offensively. Over the past three games, though, he is averaging 28.7 points, 8 assists, 5.7 rebounds and a steal. He is shooting 52.5 percent from the floor during that stretch.

Gilgeous-Alexander also has cut down on 3-point attempts, with nine.

"I'm gonna be myself regardless of the defense," he said.

The Thunder are coming off a 107-102 loss to Cleveland on Saturday.

--Field Level Media

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