Dallas Mavericks guard Deron Williams started against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night after missing Game 3 with an abdominal strain.
But his night was over almost as soon as it began.
Williams was finished after 89 seconds of the Thunder’s 119-108 victory, and the point guard is likely done for the season.
“I think he is done for the year,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t see him in Game 5.”
Williams grimaced after hitting his midsection on the scorer’s table while chasing down a loose ball 40 seconds into the game. He took himself out after the next whistle and limped to the locker room.
The Mavericks announced that he would not return, effectively ending his presence in the series.
Williams has been bothered by the injury for most of the last month, causing him to miss eight games late in the season. He returned to play in the opening two games against Oklahoma City and was a big factor in the Mavs’ victory in Game 2 — scoring 11 points in the first five minutes.
He left that game in the third quarter and missed Game 3 before playing less than 90 seconds Saturday night.
The loss of Williams was compounded by an 0-for-7 shooting night from backup guard J.J. Barea, who is dealing with a groin injury. Barea missed Game 2 but returned for Game 3.
“He is not 100 percent,” Carlisle said. “I don’t believe he has made the injury worse. Today was about the extra 15 percent he is missing, being the difference with him getting the ball in the basket and not. We are a fighting franchise. We are going to fight through this.”
Wesley Matthews and Raymond Felton tried to pick up the slack with 19 points each, and Devin Harris added 12 points off the bench as well.
On a night when Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant had average shooting performances for Oklahoma City and the Mavs got 27 points from Dirk Nowitzki, it seemed like a great chance for Dallas to steal a win.
But there was Enes Kanter.
The Thunder forward came off the bench and played an almost perfect game, scoring a game-high 28 points on 12-of-13 shooting. He helped the Thunder control the boards, points in the paint and second-chance points.
“He is getting tip-ins,” Carlisle said. “He is bottom-feeding off their great players. It’s a hard deal.”
Durant scored 19 points on 7-of-20 shooting. Westbrook finished with 25 points on 7-of-19 shooting.
Kanter repeatedly found himself finishing off a fast break against a pressing defense with either a bucket or a conventional 3-point play. Kanter was 4 of 4 from the free throw line.
“He did a really good job,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I was going back and forth whether to play him or Steven Adams. He was playing so well, so I went with him in the fourth quarter. His three-point basket help dip into their momentum. Enes played good offense and was balanced.”
The Thunder was balanced all around in getting help to support Durant and Westbrook. Serge Ibaka had 16 points. Dion Waiters had 12. Adams had 14 points.
“I thought we were really balanced on offense all the way around,” Donovan said. “Dion was playing down hill. There were driving lines because of the amount attention they were giving Russell and Kevin.”
There has been a lot of talk about whether the Mavs will pursue free-agent center Dwight Howard this off-season.
But before owner Mark Cuban tries to chase that dream again, he might want to take a longer look at Salah Mejri.
Mejri, a rookie from Tunisia, has some tools to build on — namely his length, athleticism and hustle. The 7-foot-2 center showed some grit and toughness in helping the Mavs keep things close in the second quarter.
It started with a seemingly cheap play by Thunder forward Anthony Morrow, who grabbed a loose ball on the bench and refused to give it Mejri to inbound. Pushing and shoving ensued, and Mejri and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook got technical fouls.
Mejri followed soon after with a dunk and then had two blocked shots that that led to points, including a ferocious dunk by rookie Justin Anderson.
The Thunder led by 15 points for much of the quarter but the Mavs, sparked by Mejri, rallied to within 57-48 at halftime.
Mejri had six points, three rebounds and two blocks in the second quarter. He averaged four points and three rebounds during the regular season.
Unfortunately, Mejri had to leave in the third quarter with a hip injury, adding to the team’s injury list. Carlisle said it’s unlikely Mejri will play Monday.