WICHITA, Kan. -- Already without their two tallest players, the Dallas Mavericks got even shorter Wednesday night when 6-foot-10 center Brandan Wright sprained his left ankle during an 88-76 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Mavs were already trying to battle the defending Western Conference champions without 7-footers Dirk Nowitzki (knee) and Chris Kaman (calf). Shawn Marion and Vince Carter also didn't make the trip to INTRUST Bank Arena.
Thus, it was a tall order for the Mavs to overcome the Thunder, picked by many to win the NBA title. Wright's injury late in the third quarter with the Mavs down 61-53 didn't help.
"I just rolled it," said Wright, who finished with 11 points and five rebounds. "I think it'll be good, but I can't call it right now."
Never miss a local story.
For the most part, the Mavs stayed within striking distance of an OKC squad that was 9-1 against Dallas last season, including a four-game sweep in the first round of the playoffs. Most of the Mavs' damage came thanks to rookie Jae Crowder, who had a game-high 21 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals in 34 minutes.
"We were missing a few [players] today," Crowder said. "But there were still a lot of other guys here [who are] helping me out each and every day, so it's building my confidence."
Coach Rick Carlisle said he was more or less forced to run up Crowder's minutes.
"We just didn't have enough guys to get him out of the game," Carlisle said. "I like the way he plays and I like the way he played tonight.
"He does a lot of good things on the court. He's going to be a guy that's going to be an important guy for us."
Kevin Durant (18 points, seven rebounds), James Harden (16 points) and Serge Ibaka (15 points, seven rebounds) led the Thunder.
Despite falling to 3-4 in the preseason, the Mavs outscored OKC in fast-break points 23-14. But they lost the rebounding battle 51-40, although Dallas closed the gap after being outrebounded 30-14 in the opening half.
"Part of that was because Wright was out there to start the half, and that helped having more length," Carlisle said. "That's going to be an ongoing challenge for us and we've got to deal with it."
The Mavs, who shot 37.3 percent from the field and committed 16 turnovers, left Wichita knowing they have to deal with another injury to an interior player.
"Obviously it'll be sore," said Wright, who earlier in training camp had a strained left quadriceps. "But I'll take it a day at a time."
Rick Carlisle knows a well-oiled machine when he sees it. And in the Thunder, he sees a team operating on all cylinders.
"There's a group of teams -- there's three or four of them that are really up there -- and this is one of the teams that's really up there," Carlisle said. "Not only do they have a high ability level in size and strength. But they've played together for many years, they're passing the ball better than they ever have, and those kinds of things make them one of the favorites out of the West."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760