The Dallas Mavericks fall to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 91-80 in the NBA Summer League

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday afternoon, 91-80. Cason Wallace led a balanced Thunder attack with 20. Jaden Hardy was the highlight for Dallas with 24.

Both teams opened the game looking a little rusty, with some nasty possessions to start the game. However, the Mavericks settled in with some good pick-and-roll action between Jaden Hardy and Dereck Lively, with the latter securing a couple of tough catches off bounce passes. Hardy also knocked down a smooth pull-up three off the dribble. Chet Holmgren took advantage of playing smaller Dallas defenders in the latter part of the first quarter, scoring at the rim and from deep. Oklahoma led Dallas after one, 18-15.

The Mavericks had a tougher second quarter, with the Thunder connecting after repeated attempts from beyond the arc. Still, Dallas continued to attack throughout the frame, and the guards were not deterred by the excellent rim defense from Holmgren. Olivier-Maxence Prosper had a strong offensive quarter, finishing on a three off a Holmgren block and scoring a cut to the basket while using the rim to fend off another Holmgren block attempt. The Mavericks found themselves trailing 48-42 after twenty minutes of action.

It was the Thunder’s turn to go cold in the opening minutes of the second half, and Dallas closed the gap to one point after six minutes. Dallas regained the lead on a Hardy three from the top of the key, causing a Thunder timeout. Oklahoma City responded hard after the timeout, quickly taking the lead on some low threes and taking a 69-61 lead into the fourth.

The Thunder pushed the lead to double digits with strong offense in transition. A pair of fast break buckets got Dallas within 10, only for Cason Wallace to hit his sixth three of the game on a half court attempt after a deflection into the backcourt by the Dallas defense. The Mavericks kept trying to rally back, but couldn’t find a combination of buckets and stops to make it interesting late. Dallas fell 91-80.

Now some thoughts:

Dereck Lively has a long way to go, but what Dallas saw is clear as day

When Lively shot up in the draft during the final weeks of the pre-draft process, it was clear that NBA executives saw something. I didn’t see any tape of Lively before this match, and after a match against good competition, it’s pretty clear what Dallas saw. Lively is huge and has great feet and defensive feel. He also showed good hands and caught some tough passes (guards, stop putting the ball under a big man’s waist on passes, please). He’s also strong, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more aggression. One thing worth noting is how Chet didn’t do much when Lively was on the floor. There is a reason for that.

Offensively, it’s a mixed bag, but it’s fine after one game. He was bumped by a pick-and-roll catch once and threw up a weak left-handed shot. But he also dunked with authority earlier in the game after a tough catch.

He has no idea how to screen. It’s almost comical. But that’s something he can learn and that comes with working with the same players (think Doncic and Kyrie) over and over again. It’s coming. Dwight Powell will teach him.

OMax and the perpetual motion machine

Seeing the various contributions of Olivier-Maxence Prosper will require a second look. Defensively, he was impressive as he paired with Lively to protect Holmgren. He has a remarkable sense of where to be on defense and plays so, so hard. The box score is a little light on everything numerically, but he made an impact on the game just by his movement on both ends.

Jaden Hardy is ready for more

After watching Hardy in two consecutive summer leagues, it’s truly something how much more physically dominant he looks. Last year I remember thinking how he had a good frame to add muscle. Well, guys, he’s added muscle. His shoulders look STRONG and he played fearlessly and used that strength. While he didn’t have the most efficient game ever, the Thunder possess some defensive monsters in Cason Wallace and Holmgren (not to mention Jaylin Williams). Seeing Hardy attack the rim and knowing who was waiting for him was really encouraging. The three point looks weren’t great tonight, but his shot remains so clean Being fed by Luka Doncic should help clear up some of the defensive spacing he sees in an NBA game versus here in Vegas.

Playing time for rookies

16 minutes for Dereck Lively and 17 minutes for OMax are not cut. While there’s probably a very good coach-speak reason why those two didn’t get as much burn (my guess would be not enough training time due to the subject elements not being completed), I don’t care either. We’re all here to see the guys who are going to be on the team. More than half the game for these players, please.

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