OKLAHOMA CITY – Bad got worse for O.J. Mayo.
Mayo, who has been the Mavericks’ best player most of the season, had his worst performance in a Dallas uniform during the overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He matched a season low with four points on 1-of-7 shooting, missed two clutch free throws with a chance to tie the game in the final minute and committed six turnovers, including four in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Mayo’s miserable numbers during the Mavs’ four-game losing streak: an average of 7.3 points on 25 percent shooting with 4.5 turnovers per night.
The media-friendly Mayo didn’t attempt to explain his struggles after Thursday night’s loss, slipping out of the locker room while coach Rick Carlisle was talking to reporters.
However, Dirk Nowitzki had plenty to say about the man who had been filling his shoes as the Mavs’ go-to guy until recently.
“Juice gotta go back to playing the way he was when I was out,” Nowitzki said. “I don’t know what’s been going on lately. It looks like he doesn’t have the confidence.
“But we depend on him. He’s got the ability. He showed it early in the year. He’s gotta make plays for us down the stretch as long as I’m not all the way there.”
Mayo ranked among the NBA’s top 10 scorers for most of the season, averaging above 20 points per game. That’s plummeted to 18.8 – still a career high – after his poor performances against the Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and Thunder.
The Mavs are going through their toughest stretch of competition so far. Mayo hasn’t responded to the challenge as the focus of good teams’ defensive game plans.
“At the beginning, they kind of let him do his thing out there,” Nowitzki said. “Now we’ve been playing some better teams and they’re keying on him. It’s obvious. They trap him off the pick-and-rolls. They pay him more attention. They don’t leave him wide open like those bad teams did early in the season.
“Hey, he’s got to adjust his game. If they trap him off the pick-and-roll, he’s got to be strong with the ball and make some plays and make his teammates better. If he has an open shot, he’s got to step into it and be confident and know that he’s going to make it like he did earlier in the season.
“I mean, I’m proud of him the way he always works, so I think he’s going to work his way out of it. ... If you put in the work, eventually you’re going to work your way out of it.”