Not only were the Dallas Mavericks trying to – on the fly – incorporate two new players into their rotation during Tuesday’s 114-102 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. They also blew a 17-point lead in the second half.
Under normal circumstances, that sort of collapse would have been very detrimental to the Mavs. But not on this night, and not at this time.
Dorian Finney-Smith drained a go ahead three-pointer that put the Mavs ahead for good at 97-95 with 5:58 remaining in the game. From there, the Mavs never looked back in squaring their won-loss record at 15-15.
“I thought (losing the lead) didn’t affect us,” coach Jason Kidd said. “And we played with two new guys out there during that time.”
It was a much-needed victory for the Mavs, who will host the world champion Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.
Here are our five takeaways from the win over the Timberwolves.
NEWCOMERS WERE A SLAM DUNK: Tuesday was officially the shortest day of the year, which may explain why Mavs newcomers Theo Pinson and Marquese Chriss didn’t waste much time getting acclimated to their new surroundings. Signed Monday and Tuesday, respectively, to a 10-day contract under the NBA’s new COVID-related hardship allowance, Pinson played 22 minutes and finished with seven points, four rebounds, four steals, three steals, a blocked shot and a bundle of energy. Meanwhile, Chriss collected six points, eight rebounds, a blocked shot and added a bushel of intensity in 16 minutes. These two breathed some oxygen into a Mavs’ squad lacking in this department in the wake of eight players unable to play for various reasons.
BRUNSON CARRYING THE LOAD: Jalen Brunson has been in a proverbial attack mode for quite some time now. But on Tuesday, he added a bit more balance to his game. In the first quarter, Brunson scored nine points, with all of the points coming on three made three-pointers. And when the Timberwolves tried to get more aggressive with him, Brunson shifted into another gear and offered more precision-like attacks to the basket. After Minnesota sliced a 17-point deficit down to six points, Brunson was in the middle of the Mavs’ final eight points of the game. The four-year veteran first assisted on a hoop to Frank Ntilikina, then scored the Mavs’ last six points while finishing with 28 points, six assists and three steals.
POWELL’S BEST GAME: Dwight Powell had his best game of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The eight-year veteran scored a season-high 15 points, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out a pair of assists in 21 workmanlike minutes. Powell’s rebound total tied for his second-highest number of rebounds for the season and were eclipsed only by the 12 boards he collected during a seven-point loss at Phoenix on Nov. 17. And his 15 points marked the sixth time this season that Powell has scored 10 or more points in a game. Overall, Powell was 4-of-7 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free throw line. The six free throw attempts tied a season high, and the six made free throws are a season high. Powell also collected a game-high four offensive rebounds.
AN ABSOLUTE STERLING PERFORMANCE: Sterling Brown started for the first time this season, and what a performance he turned in. Not only did Brown pour in a season-high 12 points – it’s the first time he’s reached double-figure scoring this season. He also pulled down a season-high 11 boards – the first time he’s reached double-figures in rebounds this season. Meanwhile, the three assists Brown distributed tied the season high he produced during a 109-108 win at San Antonio on Nov. 3. And Brown’s plus/minus rating of plus 19 was the game’s highest other than the plus 22 turned in by teammate Dorian Finney-Smith. This was Brown’s fourth double-double of his career and his first with the Mavs. He also was 5-of-8 from the field, 2-of-4 from downtown and snatched a team-high nine defensive boards in a season-high 33 minutes.
ANOTHER SOLID SHOWING BY FINNEY-SMITH: Dorian Finney-Smith probably won’t make many Top 10 highlight reels. But all he does is win, win, win. Tuesday was yet another example of the dirty work by Finney-Smith going relatively unnoticed to the un-trained set of eyes. Undrafted out of Florida in 2016 but definitely ready for prime time, Finney-Smith finished Tuesday’s game with 19 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals in a game-high 41 minutes. It’s just the second time in his career that he’s manufactured a 15-point, five-rebound, five-assist game. (Back on Aug. 8, 2020 in an overtime game against Milwaukee in the bubble in suburban Orlando, Finney-Smith finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and five assists). On Tuesday, Finney-Smith was 7-of-15 from the field and 3-of-9 from downtown.