The Fast Break: Mavs at Hawks

Final: Hawks 112, Mavs 107

Box Score | Highlights

Behind the Box Score

Harrison Barnes has now scored at least 16 points in 10 of his last 11 games. This has unfortunately been an inconsistent season for the Mavs, but one thing you can count on is Barnes getting 18ish points and 6ish rebounds. Death and taxes.

Notebook

  • J.J. Barea put on a show in this one. The Puerto Rican recorded his third double-double of the season, finishing with 15 points and a season-high 12 assists off the bench. His most effective stretch came, not surprisingly, when playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki, Devin Harris, and Dwight Powell.

    That group has put together some incredible runs this season. You would probably never expect that group to make up four of the five spots in the best lineup in the NBA, but that’s still the case when they play with Yogi Ferrell. Much of that has to do with Barea’s ability as a floor general, pick-and-rolling teams to death until he finds a shot either he or a teammate can live with. That group plays limited minutes, though, given the players’ roles (and, for some, ages). The Mavs have to find ways to keep things humming when that group isn’t on the floor.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (9-25) will play the Toronto Raptors (22-8) on Tuesday at American Airlines Center at 6 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Hawks

    Final: Mavs 111, Hawks 113

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Tonight was the first game of Dirk Nowitzki’s 20th season, and the German became just the second player ever to play as many seasons for just one team, joined only by Kobe Bryant. The legend has etched his name in the history books once again, this time joining probably the single-most exclusive club in pro sports.

    Dennis Smith Jr. became the youngest player in franchise history to start a game (Dirk was the previous youngest) and the second-youngest to ever appear in a game for the Mavericks. It’s important to remember throughout this season that he’s only 19 years old. There will be ups and there will be downs, but it’s already clear that there’s plenty to be excited about.

    Notebook

  • Dennis Smith Jr. put on an absolute show in his NBA debut, finishing with 16 points and 10 assists. He became the youngest player ever to record a points-assists double-double in his career debut. (Scroll down for some highlights.) From the alley-oop on the opening play to scoring and fancy handles, he played a solid all-around game and flashed much of what he’s capable of at this level. He’s got almost unheard-of explosiveness for a point guard, and when combined with his speed, shooting, and playmaking ability, he’s got a pretty rare skill set that’s already pretty developed for a player his age. This season is going to be a process, but he started it off on the right foot.

  • One thing that’s really stood out about Smith’s floor game to this point is his patience and composure in traffic. During one sequence in the first half, he took on three defenders without panicking and ended up finding a wide-open Dirk for 3.

    This play more than any other demonstrates his ability to lead an offense. It’s not always about doing cool, flashy stuff. Sometimes it’s just about the simple matter of accepting defensive pressure and finding the open man. Smith probably isn’t going to see this kind of aggressive coverage all too often because he’s not the kind of player who’s going to crumble under all of this attention. Plus, he’s playing with guys who can knock down open shots. But seeing him able to do it is encouraging.

  • It wasn’t all pretty, however. At one point in the second quarter Smith rose for what would have been an incredible dunk but he was drilled pretty hard in mid-air by fellow rookie John Collins.

    Smith very briefly left the floor with a trainer before returning to the bench just a few seconds afterward.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (0-1) will play the Sacramento Kings (0-0) on Friday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs at Hawks

    Final: Hawks 100, Mavs 95

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    The Hawks shot a blistering 71.9 percent from the field in the first half, good for 1.37 points per possession. The Mavs’ only saving grace was forcing 10 turnovers, which prevented shots from going up and gave Dallas chances the other way. Atlanta led 63-52 at the break. Credit the Mavs, though, for getting back into it in the second half.

    Dirk Nowitzki scored 11 points tonight and is now just 46 points away from 30,000 for his career. He’ll become only the sixth player in NBA history to achieve that feat. He also secured double-double No. 401 for his career.

    Ben Bentil made his NBA debut tonight. By my count, he’s the seventh Mav to make his first league appearance this season, joining A.J. Hammons, Dorian Finney-Smith, Nicolas Brussino, Jonathan Gibson, Pierre Jackson, and Quinn Cook.

    Notebook

  • This was the third time in four games that both Harrison Barnes and Seth Curry both scored at least 20 points. Those two have done the bulk of the heavy lifting especially in each of the last two games now. Monday against Miami, they were the only Mavericks to score in double-figures. Tonight, no other Maverick scored more than 11 points. But those two have been in such a good rhythm as of late, both by themselves and together in an emerging two-man game, that the Mavs might as well continue to ride what’s working for them for as long as they can keep it up.

  • I’m a pretty serious stat nerd, but not even I can’t find this one: What does Seth Curry shoot from the field after using a pump-fake? It must be above 60 percent, or maybe even higher. He’s been money from all over the floor lately after he can juke a defender out of the way, and it’s been really impressive to see. Former Maverick Chandler Parsons had a smooth pump-fake, too, be he usually deployed it in order to set up a dribble-drive. Curry, on the other hand, can pump and then shoot from the same spot he was at, which isn’t something you see very often.

  • As this season hits the home stretch, one big thing to watch for in my opinion will be home/road splits. The Mavs are younger now than they’ve been in a long, long time, and typically young players tend to play better at home than on the road. The Dallas youngsters committed several unforced errors tonight and, especially in the first half, didn’t look as sharp as they did at times during the win against the Heat earlier this week. Then again, the club awoke in the second half after allowing 72 percent shooting in the first, and Dallas ended up claiming its first lead of the game with four minutes to go. In between the slow start and the dramatic comeback was a long stretch of turnover-heavy play by both teams. The Mavericks thrive on forcing those giveaways, but have tended to win this season because they’ve avoided making mistakes themselves. As Yogi Ferrell, Quinn Cook, and the other guards get more experience, and as Nerlens Noel continues to work his way into the mix, the Mavs should develop better chemistry and play some cleaner ball.

  • Wesley Matthews missed tonight’s game with a hip injury that Rick Carlisle said the Mavericks do not believe is serious. Still, it sidelined the Iron Man for this one. Nerlens Noel was slated to start the game in his place, but he was late to the team plane and came off the bench as punishment. Rookie Dorian Finney-Smith got the nod instead, but he picked up two very early fouls so Noel entered the game almost immediately anyway, and he also started the second half for the Mavericks. Matthews has been a constant for Dallas in a season full of change, so hopefully for the club’s sake his injury won’t be a long-term thing. Stay tuned for updates there.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (24-36) will play the Memphis Grizzlies (36-25) on Friday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs at Hawks

    Final: Hawks 112, Mavs 97

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    The Mavs attempted 38 free throws in this one, their most in a game since April 4, 2015. Dallas was able to get into the lane early and often in this one, especially after a bit of a slow start from the field in the opening frame. The Mavericks forced the issue and earned their attempts.

    Wesley Matthews hit his 1,000th-career three-pointer tonight in his 488th game, becoming the second-fastest active player to do so behind only Golden State’s Stephen Curry.

    The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Hawks

    Final: Hawks 98, Mavs 95

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Rick Carlisle called timeout with the Mavs trailing 84-81 with 6:07 remaining in the game. The Mavs had missed 15 of their previous 17 three-point attempts, but that didn’t stop Carlisle from drawing up a nice play to get Wesley Matthews an open look from deep, which he sank. The Mavs score 0.927 points per possession after timeouts this season, the fifth-best mark in the NBA. Carlisle has an excellent reputation with the clipboard, and it reflects in the stats. That shot launched a 7-0 Dallas surge that helped the Mavs reclaim the lead.

    The importance of pace was on full display in the first half. Dallas scored 1.08 points per possession when the ball crossed the halfcourt line on offense in three seconds or fewer (in 25 chances), a very solid rate. When it took longer than that, however, the Mavs scored just 0.76 points per possession in 21 chances. The Mavericks had only 2 fast break points in the first half, so it wasn’t like all of those points when the team played with pace came on breakaways or run-outs. The Mavs just put the ball in the hole more efficiently when the offense was moving up the floor quickly. It’s been that way all season, too.

    Dallas put on an offensive rebounding clinic in the third quarter. Led by Zaza Pachulia (who finished with 6 for the game), the Mavs had 10 offensive boards in the third, so despite shooting just 37.9 percent from the field, the Mavs scored 1.217 points per possession. When a team gets an offensive rebound, it doesn’t count as a new possession. The opening play of the second half, for example, saw the Mavs grab four offensive rebounds before finally scoring. So even though Dallas was 1 of 5 from the field, it was scoring 2.0 points per possession. Not bad.

    Notebook

  • Wesley Matthews’ defensive versatility was on display in this one. The shooting guard was tasked with defending Paul Millsap, Atlanta’s starting power forward, whenever the two shared the floor. Rick Carlisle has praised Matthews all season long for his ability to guard multiple positions. He’s done a great job defending wings, but his strength allowing him to defend power forwards is perhaps his greatest defensive asset for this team. It allows Dirk Nowitzki to guard someone else on defense, letting him save his energy for the offensive end. Matthews isn’t going to win all of those battles, and Millsap even got the better of him a few times tonight, but that’s no knock against his own ability.

  • J.J. Barea returned to the rotation tonight after missing six games with a sprained ankle. It took him only a few minutes to make an impact, as the Puerto Rican point guard drew two offensive fouls on Atlanta reserve Dennis Schroder in the second quarter alone. What he lacks in size and athleticism he makes up for with pesky, scrappy play. He certainly got under Schroder’s skin, and the German Hawk isn’t the first to succumb to it.

  • This was Atlanta’s first game since Friday. You rarely see a break as long as that one in the middle of the NBA season, especially during the first 20-25 games. The Hawks didn’t necessarily come out lethargic in the first quarter, but they did commit 7 turnovers in the game’s first 15 minutes. Credit the Mavericks for forcing Atlanta into simple mistakes, perhaps due to a bit of rust. The aforementioned Barea drawn offensive fouls fall under that category.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (13-10) play the Washington Wizards (9-11) Saturday at American Airlines Center. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • What To Watch For: Mavs vs. Hawks

    Shootaround: Chandler Parsons

    Mavs F Chandler Parsons dishes on playing alongside Rajon Rondo, how quickly he's fit in, the intangibles he brings to the team and more.

    Rajon Rondo’s debut might be out of the way now, and the Mavs might be more used to each other today than they were the day before and the day before that, but thing aren’t going to get any easier tonight.

    The Atlanta Hawks are the hottest team in the NBA, winning 12 of their last 15 games. Atlanta just beat Cleveland by 29 on the road last Wednesday. The East has gotten a lot of grief this season, but the Hawks, right now at least, are one of the best teams in the entire league.

    This is going to be a difficult game for both clubs. Both the Mavs and Hawks have mismatches in their favor, so my guess is this is going to be a close, down-to-the-wire affair, much like the one we saw Saturday night. Buckle up.

    OFFENSE
    Mavs Offense Hawks Defense
    Points/100 poss. 113.3 (1) 100.6 (7)
    eFG% 53.5 (3) 49.1 (11)
    TOV% 12.5 (4) 16.1 (9)
    Off/Def Reb% 26.4 (T-12) 74.2 (16)
    FT/FGA .228 (21) .250 (5)

    The Hawks are coached by Mike Budenholzer, formerly a top assistant of Spurs head boss Gregg Popovich. Unsurprisingly, the Hawks play a disciplined, good-to-great brand of basketball on both sides of the floor. The Mavs just faced Popovich’s Spurs two days ago, although I doubt Budenholzer will employ the same defensive principles. The Spurs played a 2-3 zone for virtually the entire game, and I don’t see the Hawks playing it for more than a few possessions here and there, if even that much.

    Dallas can make its hay on the inside. Atlanta’s frontcourt is one of the smallest in the league. 6′ 10″ Al Horford starts at center, and 6′ 11″ Pero Antic replaces him off the bench. As a result, opposing teams are shooting better than 60 percent from inside five feet. That area is where the Mavs are better than any other team in basketball; their 64.7 percent mark leads the league. Much of that has to do with Monta Ellis’s penetration and Tyson Chandler’s finishing ability. The 7′ 1″ Chandler has a huge size advantage over Horford and has a tremendous combination of quickness and power on his rolls to the rim, separating him as perhaps the league’s best big when going downhill. That could be a set the Mavs burn the Hawks with tonight.

    Of course, the Hawks will also have Rajon Rondo to worry about. Jeff Teague, Atlanta’s starting point guard, is a fine defender, but he can only guard either Ellis or Rondo. Kyle Korver, Atlanta’s starting 2-guard, will have to guard the other, and he’s one of the team’s weaker perimeter defenders. Korver, however, more than makes up for it on the other end of the floor, but we’ll get to that later. Expect to see a lot of Thabo Sefolosha off the bench for Atlanta tonight. The former OKC wing is still a terrific defender, and he has the length (6′ 5″ tall) to bother Rondo and Ellis on drives to the rim.

    Dirk Nowitzki will be checked by Paul Millsap to start and he’ll also see plenty of Mike Scott, the Hawks’ backup four. Neither player stands taller than 6′ 8″, giving Dirk a big advantage when it comes to getting clean looks on jump shots. However, Budenholzer’s inner Popovich might show, so if the Hawks begin double-teaming Nowitzki on the low block, the Mavs will have to act quickly off the ball. That’s where Rondo and Chandler Parsons, two of the better off-ball cutters in the league, can make a significant impact. Whether or not the Hawks double Dirk, I expect a healthy dosage of No. 41 tonight.

    DEFENSE
    Mavs Defense Hawks Offense
    Points/100 poss. 104.8 (21) 106.8 (7)
    eFG% 51.2 (T-22) 53.1 (4)
    TOV% 17.3 (2) 14.8 (11)
    Off/Def Reb% 71.5 (29) 20.6 (30)
    FT/FGA .276 (14) .276 (16)

    The Hawks are a blistering three-point team. Korver leads the way, shooting an astonishing 53.9 percent from beyond the arc. He is absolutely incredible from deep, and it becomes even more unbelievable when you see some of the ways teams defend him. Regardless of who is in charge of slowing down Korver this evening, expect multiple sets of eyes to be on him at all times. He’s the type of player who can be scoreless through the first quarter and then have 15 at halftime. He’s 33 and is still on pace to set the all-time single-season three-point percentage record.

    Everyone else on Atlanta is capable of shooting it, though. The Hawks lead the league in FG% from 20-24 feet and are seventh in the league from 25+ feet. Five Hawks, including starting 4 Millsap, hit at least one three per game, and Atlanta’s top five shooters all hit at least 36.9 percent from deep. The Mavs must make it a top priority to close out shooters whenever possible.

    In the same way Chandler and the Mavs can attack the Hawks’ size, Atlanta can stretch the Mavs defense. Horford is a terrific jump shooter, and his mid-range game is capable of stretching defenses in uncomfortable ways. To wit, Atlanta shoots 15-19 footers better than any other team in basketball, tying with Cleveland and just .2 percentage points ahead of the Mavs. Still, they’re the best from that range, too, and Horford and Millsap are the main reasons why. Because Horford and Millsap generally stay 15-20 feet from the rim, opposing centers like Chandler are drawn from the basket. That opens up better driving lanes for point guard Teague, one of the best rim drivers in basketball. He drives the ball 11.5 times per game, fourth-most in the NBA.

    The onus will be on Rondo, then, to stay in front of Teauge as much as possible. Rondo’s got the length and quickness to bother Teague on the outside, but as he’ll be playing in part without Chandler’s excellent rim protection, Rondo will have to be even better than usual in order to limit Teague’s effectiveness on the inside.

    That’s what the Hawks do, though. Because they play a brand of “five-out” basketball (all five players gravitate toward the perimeter) the court geometry is shifted in ways many players aren’t used to. The Miami Heat, when Chris Bosh is healthy, also play that style, and the Mavericks defense struggled during that game. It’s an unnatural style to defend against in the same way it’s an impossibly challenging task to defend Dirk Nowitzki. No one’s ever seen a seven-footer who can shoot it like Dirk, just like most players have never seen big guys who would rather play 15 feet from the rim. It’s an unorthodox way of playing, but what else could you expect from a Popovich disciple?

    This is such an intriguing matchup. It’s the hottest team in the league, Atlanta, versus the most talked-about team in the league, the Mavs. Dallas now has its eyes set on making a deep playoff run, but these are the types of games you must win to get there. It’s a tough game against a top opponent, but it’s at home and it’s on the front end of a back-to-back. A loss would hurt for sure, so look for the Mavs to do whatever it takes to grab the W.