Short-handed Mavs fall to Thunder in preseason opener, 119-104

The Dallas Mavs greatly missed their best two players in a preseason-opening loss to the Thunder in Tulsa.

The Dallas Mavericks opened the preseason Tuesday night in Tulsa against Chris Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 119-104 loss. 

Due to the bizarre nature of having a preseason back-to-back, the Mavs decided to play this one as safely as possible by resting Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Despite being short-handed, the Mavs managed to keep this game fairly close for three quarters, before the Thunder finally pulled away mid-way through the fourth. 

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.”

Justin Jackson, who figures to be the Mavs starting small forward for the regular-season opener, shined in his 15 minutes of action, scoring 14 points on an efficient 6-of-8 shooting from the field and 2-of-4 shooting from deep. Despite adding nearly 20 pounds during the offseason, Jackson looked to be as agile as ever, which was great to see. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was shipped to OKC in the Paul George trade over the summer, led the Thunder with 24 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field.

Aside from Jackson's performance, there were a few other encouraging performances from this one. In just 15 minutes of play, Maxi Kleber looked pretty solid for the Mavs, scoring 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, nailing a couple of threes, and recording two impressive blocks and one steal. Dwight Powell didn't play in this game due to a strained hamstring, and in the unlikely event that injury continues to linger, it's expected that Kleber will start alongside Porzingis in the front court to begin the season.

Delon Wright, despite only scoring two points in 11 minutes, showed why the Mavs like the idea of pairing him with Doncic in the back court. Wright is an exceptional perimeter defender, and he put that on display in his limited playing time on Tuesday night. Also worth a mention: Center Boban Marjanovic, who played just nine first-half minutes but finished with seven points, three rebounds and two assists.

The Mavs will now travel to Detroit to play the Pistons on the second night of a back-to-back, a game that is expected to be Doncic and Porzingis' debut playing together. The game will tip-off at 6 p.m. and will air on Fox Sports Southwest.

“We’ll have Luka and Kristaps playing, which will change things for us,” coach Rick Carlisle 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.”