TULSA, Okla. – With the launch of a new era delayed by 24 hours, the Mavericks went in a different direction in their preseason opener.
A bigger direction. As in 7-4 Boban Marjanovic.
Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic both sat out the 119-104x loss to Oklahoma City Tuesday night. A national television audience on ESPN and a lively crowd at the BOK Center no doubt were disappointed not to see the unveiling of the Doncic-Porzingis pairing.
That will happen Wednesday night in Detroit against the Pistons, although it wasn’t for lack of effort on Porzingis’ part that he wasn’t playing against the Thunder.
“I was trying to renegotiate that and play both games,” Porzingis said after the game. “But at the end, they wanted me to rest today and tomorrow I’ll be good to go.”
Asked how excited he is, the 7-3 power forward said: “From 1 to 10, like 15. I can’t wait. Game days are special days. It’s weird to sit out a game. I didn’t want to do that. So I’m very excited.”
Coach Rick Carlisle said a variety of things factored into the decision to wait until Wednesday, but it was mostly about scheduling.
“We’ll have Luka and Kristaps playing, which will change things for us,” he said. “It’s scheduling – a hard practice (Monday), relatively light today, a game Wednesday, an off day Thursday. It’s a spacing thing based on the schedule. It was talked about long ago, so we just got to stick to that plan. It has nothing to do with any disrespect to Oklahoma. It’s a math equation more than anything.”
Said Porzingis: “I guess they just wanted us to rest and be fresh for tomorrow. Obviously me and Luka got some work to do on the floor together to mesh even better and keep building that chemistry. Tomorrow, you’ll see us on the floor together.”
Meanwhile, the Mavericks played the 16 other players on this trip against the Thunder and lots of mix-and-match lineups yielded lukewarm results.
Not that there weren’t bright spots. Marjanovic was one of them as he went against one of the most aggressive centers in the Western Conference, the Thunder’s Steven Adams. Less than five minutes into the game, the 7-foot, 265-pound Adams had seven points, including a 3-pointer that opened the scoring.
Maxi Kleber was giving up a couple inches and probably close to 20 pounds to Adams.
In came Marjanovic, who carries 290 pounds on his imposing frame.
He scored seven quick points in the first quarter while doing a more effective job on Adams, although Kleber would return later and end up as one of the Mavericks’ scoring leaders with 14 points.
“I like to play against Steven because the guy is strong and he doesn’t complain about anything,” Marjanovic said. “We both don’t complain. Basketball is a man’s sport, a tough sport. We play so aggressive and strong and I like to play against him because he never complains, I never complain, we just do our thing.
“It’s a lot of fun because it’s physical and he’s an amazing basketball player, but he’s a great guy off the court.”
Marjanovic ended up playing just nine first-half minutes. He finished with seven points, three rebounds and two assists.
“He’s a factor,” Carlisle said. “His length is a big factor around the basket. It’s one game, nine minutes for him. And tomorrow, we’ll approach it a little differently in terms of the rotation. But I like all our guys.”
In addition to Kleber, Justin Jackson also had 14 points, hitting six of eight shots, including two of four from beyond the 3-point arc. Jalen Brunson had 10 points and 5 assists in just 13 minutes.
Most of the Maverick highlights came at the offensive end. They had a hard time stopping the Thunder, who got 24 points from second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was acquired from the Clippers in the Paul George trade.
Even though the Mavericks were fighting from behind most of the night, they pulled ahead briefly at 87-86 in third quarter before the Thunder regained control and pulled away.
As promised, Carlisle spiced up the lineups. To start the second half, he put five guards in the lineup with 6-6 Antonius Cleveland guarding Adams. That group gave the Mavericks plenty of energy but also fouled their way into the penalty situation with nearly eight minutes still left in the third quarter.
“We need to be more physical,” Carlisle said. “That’s a very physical team and we knew that coming in. The positives were that all things considered we hung with them on the boards, 50-45. And our turnovers were very reasonable most of the game. The rest? We got to play without fouling.”
The deep reserves got a nice run in the second half as the starters all sat after halftime. Josh Reaves had eight points and Andonius Cleveland had nine, with second-year swingman Ryan Broekhoff raking off 10 rebounds … None of the starters played after halftime … The Mavericks had 16 players see action and all of them scored. But overall, their shooting was deplorable. They shot just 36 percent overall and were 13-of-50 from 3-point range (26 percent) … The team left directly after the game and Wednesday’s game at Detroit is set for 6 p.m. Dallas time and will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest.