DALLAS — If you were wondering whether the addition of one bench player can make a big impact on a struggling NBA team, the Mavericks gave you the answer Saturday night.
If Devin Harris made this much of a difference, imagine what it will be like when Dirk Nowitzki returns later this month, most likely.
And certainly, the Mavericks don’t want to find out what life without Luka Doncic could be like.
The Mavericks didn’t resemble a 3-8 team coming in against the red-hot Oklahoma City Thunder, winners of seven in a row. They played one of their best first halves of the season, led by 24 points and then persevered through a rugged second half for a 111-96 victory at American Airlines Center.
For perspective, they didn’t win their fourth game last season until Nov. 22, when they were 4-15. At the least, they restored some hope on Saturday.
Until, Doncic went down late in the third quarter, clutching his right knee and limping badly.
He left the game, but, with a limp still noticeable, came back midway through the fourth quarter and scored an important bucket as the Mavericks steadied themselves.
Crisis averted, apparently.
Harris, meanwhile, was on the court to start the second quarter and the Mavericks turned a one-point lead into a 35-26 advantage. That sparked them out to the 24-point cushion that they nursed for the rest of the night.