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Turnovers Kill Mavs in Loss to Thunder; 'We Have To Be Better'

The Dallas Mavericks had 19 turnovers in their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.

If you're going to compete with the elite of the NBA without your best player, taking care of the ball is imperative. 

The Dallas Mavericks held their own for most of the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but in the end, they shot themselves in the foot with 19 turnovers in a 126-119 loss without Luka Doncic on Thursday at the Paycom Center. The Mavs' 19 turnovers were their third most this season. 

"We have to be better," Mavs head coach Jason Kidd said of his team's turnovers. "When we didn't turn it over, we got in the paint, we scored [and] we also got to the free throw line...Being able to take care of the ball, which Oklahoma City is really good on the defensive end of coming up with steals and we didn't rebound the ball well. We got the misses, we just didn't finish the plays tonight." 

Dante Exum and Jalen Williams

Mar 14, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams (8) works to steal the ball away from Dallas Mavericks guard Dante Exum (0) during the first half at Paycom Center.

Doncic was out due to a hamstring injury he suffered in the fourth quarter of their 109-99 win against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday at the American Airlines Center. 

Dallas' turnovers led to 34 points for the Thunder. Oklahoma City had 13 turnovers, which led to 20 points for the Mavs. Dallas is 4-7 when they have 16 or more turnovers.

Oklahoma City (46-20) had 10 steals to the Mavs' six. The Thunder are tied for second in the NBA in steals, averaging 8.2 per game.

Dallas (38-29) had six players with multiple turnovers in the loss. Kyrie Irving and Dante Exum each led the team with four. Outside the turnovers, Irving stepped up in Doncic's absence with a double-double, scoring 36 points with 12 assists. 

Daniel Gafford's bid to break Wilt Chamberlain's record of 35 consecutive baskets fell short at 33, but he put together a solid performance with a double-double, as he had 19 points and 15 rebounds. 

"The fight was there 100 percent of the game," Gafford said. "There were a lot of things I would say we were probably frustrated with. A lot of calls that weren't called down the stretch. Some of those calls impacted the game in a crazy way for us but at the end of the day, we fought until the end and that's what makes a good team. 

Tim Hardaway Jr. also had a solid performance off the bench with 23 points. He shot 8 of 13 from the field and made 5 of his 9 3-pointers. Hardaway Jr.'s 23 points were his most since Jan. 29, when he scored 36 against the Orlando Magic.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 31 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, while Jalen Williams also had a solid outing, scoring 27 points with five assists and four rebounds.  

On a night when the Mavs' supporting cast stepped up in the absence of Doncic, they had a chance on the road in the second half of a back-to-back against the No. 1 team in a stacked Western Conference. Ultimately, whether Doncic is in the lineup or not, turnovers are often the difference maker in close games. 

Given where both teams currently stand in the Western Conference, a first-round matchup between Dallas and Oklahoma City is a matchup could come to fruition. If they do square off against come the playoffs, Dallas' ability to take care of the ball will likely decide whether it moves on to the second round or has a quick exit.

"We just had costly turnovers," Kidd said. "If we would have got shots, make or miss, we could put ourselves in a better seat, but give [Oklahoma City] credit. They were good tonight.