OKC Thunder: Shooting poorly and missing Chris Paul, Thunder can't keep up with Mavs

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dennis Schroder (17) goes up for a shot around Dallas Mavericks guard Delon Wright (55) and forward Max Kleber in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Oklahoma City.

OKLAHOMA CITY — One nice thing about the this overachieving Thunder team?

It doesn’t waste losses.

Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City came out shorthanded and flat. Also, it was a pretty good Dallas team on the other bench.

Nor, for the first time this season, did the Thunder have Chris Paul to command them out of their malaise or to lead a desperate rally.

Paul, in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s death, missed the game for “personal reasons,” as did Terrance Ferguson. Additionally, Abdel Nader remained out with a sprained ankle and, though Steven Adams played, it was without his usual ferocity.

“Steven is dealing with an ankle,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “He’s working through that right now.”

All that and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, for whatever reason, could not finish at the rim.

Given all that, the Mavericks bested the Thunder 107-97.

Oklahoma City entered riding a five-game winning streak and, pending how Houston fared at Utah, with a chance to move into sixth place in the Western Conference.

As it turned out, the Rockets won anyway, even without James Harden and Russell Westbrook, and for the first time in some time, the Thunder couldn’t overcome who they were missing.

“This was a tough emotional game, it was like that for both teams,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “I’m proud of our guys for keeping it together and getting through it. We caught a break with Chris Paul not playing.”

The guy who had the most success in Paul’s absence was Dennis Schroder, who finished with a team-high 21 points on 6 of 16 shooting, dishing six assists.

The guy who struggled the most was Gilgeous-Alexander, who made 3 of 6 from 3-point land, but 2 of 14 otherwise, finishing with 16 points.

“Those nights are going to happen,” he said, wearing a No. 8 Kobe Bryant Laker jersey to meet the postgame media scrum.

Dallas’ Luka Doncic, who’ll be starting in the All-Star Game, finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, though the Thunder — Lu Dort, primarily — made him work, holding him to 10 of 24 from the field and a plus-minus of zero.

Tim Hardaway Jr., on the other hand, finished with 15 points on 6 of 12 shooting and, over his 35 minutes, the Mavericks outscored the Thunder by 16.

On a night, Schroder was pushed into the starting lineup, OKC’s bench struggled.

It was led in the scorebook by Deonte Burton’s 11 points, yet Burton also endured the game’s roughest plus-minus — minus 19 — over his 23 minutes.

It’s never a good sign when your top two rebounders are guards and Oklahoma City’s were: Gilgeous Alexander (11) and Schroder (7).

The Mavs turned 12 offensive rebounds into 18 points and the Thunder turned their six into only four.

If there was a moment the outcome appeared in doubt, it came in the midst of an 11-0 third-quarter Thunder run that included a Gilgeous-Alexander free-throw, an Adams layup, a Gilgeous-Alexander 3, a Schroder layup and a Schroder 3.

That made it 70-65 Mavs, who needed a timeout … before going on an 11-2 run out of that timeout.

The Thunder shot well from the free-throw line, making 17 of 19, and well enough from 3-point land, making 12 of 30, yet canned just 39.5 percent (34 of 86) overall.

The Mavs shot 41.4 percent (41 of 99), more than half of the attempts coming from beyond the 3-point arc, where they hit 19 of 51.

“Some nights it just doesn’t fall and you have to figure something out,” Schroder said. “Try to get stops, try to win another way.”

The Thunder couldn’t.

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