PREVIEW: Luka Doncic gets his shot as Dallas Mavericks take on Oklahoma City Thunder

Mar 21, 2021; Portland, Oregon, USA; Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after a turn over during the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic has yet to play this season against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Mavericks expect that to change Monday when the teams meet for the third and final time this season in Oklahoma City.

Doncic has missed Dallas’ last two games. He sat out Friday’s loss to Indiana due to back soreness and Saturday’s loss to New Orleans due to a non-COVID-19 illness.

Read More: NBA power rankings: Major updates after NBA trade deadline

The Mavericks are 1-4 without Doncic this season, with their only win March 3 against the Thunder.

Dallas also played Saturday’s game without Kristaps Porzingis, who sat out on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Mavericks are just 8-10 this season without one or both of Doncic or Porzingis available.

“We’ve just got to find ways to win,” Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson said. “We know what we’re capable of. … As long as we keep fighting instead of giving up, it’s something we can build off of. But we’ve just got to find other ways.”

The last meeting between Dallas and the Thunder marked the beginning of a new era for Oklahoma City’s 7-foot-2 center, Moses Brown.

Brown played just seven of the Thunder’s first 36 games, and never even as many as six minutes in those appearances.

But over the last nine games, beginning with the March 11 meeting with the Mavericks, Brown has averaged 12.4 points and 12.3 rebounds in over 27 minutes per game.

Brown’s opportunities have opened up as Oklahoma City has started to look more to the future, especially with the recent injury to leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Thunder had already begun using Brown in the rotation instead of veteran Mike Muscala, and the recent decision to sit Al Horford for the rest of the season figures to mean plenty more opportunities for Brown.

In the last two games, Brown has been even better, averaging 20 points and 17.5 rebounds, including 21 points and 23 rebounds in Saturday’s loss to Boston.

Read More: NBA MVP: Ranking the top-10 candidates for 2020-21, injuries to LeBron James and Joel Embiid shake everything up

In the first half of that game, Brown became the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 1998 to have 17 points and 19 rebounds in a half.

“He’s got a nose for it and he’s got a motor,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said of Brown’s rebounding. “That’s probably the thing that’s a separator for him. There’s a lot of 7-footers in the NBA, but it’s a small group of people that are his size that play as hard as he does. I think the rebounding is probably a symptom of that.”

Brown figures to continue to get plenty of opportunities as Oklahoma City works to figure out if Brown will be a significant part of the team’s future plans.

“One thing I’ve found over time is if you place a ceiling on a guy too early, sometimes the ceiling is too low,” Daigneault said. “You don’t give him enough credit for how good they can be. If we put a ceiling on him at the beginning of the year, I don’t know that we would’ve predicted that he could get 20-20 in an NBA game, and here he is.”

–Field Level Media