The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Rockets

Final: Rockets 105, Mavs 82

Box Score | Highlights

Behind the Box Score

The Rockets scored just 48 points in the first half, which tied for their fourth-lowest scoring output through two quarters all season long. Dallas found itself in a 17-3 hole early in the game but recovered to take as much as a six-point lead in the second quarter.

Unfortunately, though, Houston plays such an extreme brand of basketball that a terrific half of defense can quickly become all for naught. The Rockets sank six 3-pointers in a row to begin the third quarter and scored 20 points in less than five minutes to open up a double-digit lead. It’s virtually impossible to keep pace with that level of shooting. Playing without superstar guard James Harden, it was up to Chris Paul to create all the plays for Houston, and his shooters were able to fulfill their end of the deal.

Notebook

  • J.J. Barea assisted on nine of the Mavs’ first 11 made baskets and finished with a season-high-tying 13 dimes. He’s now handed out at least 12 assists in three games in the last month and is averaging a whopping 7.8 per game in that time, which ranks 12th in the league. Barea continues having a career year. He’s one of just four players in the NBA averaging at least 17 points and nine assists per 36 minutes, joining three bona fide stars in Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and John Wall. Not bad for a 33-year-old, huh?

  • Nerlens Noel continues to make impressive plays. First, he found a cutter with a nifty pass for an easy bucket.

    Moments later, he made a strip steal and ran the floor for an alley-oop. It was easily the most exciting sequence of the game for Dallas.

    One game after recording eight points and 14 rebounds against Denver, Noel scored 10 points and collected nine boards tonight against the Rockets. He seems to be rounding into form after his long layoff due to that nasty thumb injury. He’s got another 15 games left to show what he’s got ahead of what will certainly be a big summer for him (and the organization, too). There are some areas that Rick Carlisle said Noel has to continue improving in between now and the end of the season, but that’s going to be the case with any young player. If he keeps playing with this level of activity and productivity, it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (21-46) will play the New York Knicks (24-43) on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden at 6:30 p.m. Central.

  • Game 67: Mavs vs. Rockets

    Powell Alley-oop Jam

    J.J. Barea throws it up to Dwight Powell at the rim for the alley-oop slam.

    The Fast Break: Mavs at Rockets

    Final: Rockets 104, Mavs 97

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Dennis Smith Jr. extended his streak of consecutive games scoring in double-figures to 21 games, and he’s now all alone in third place on the list of longest such runs by a rookie in franchise history. Next up is Jamal Mashburn at 23 games.

    Yogi Ferrell put up some gaudy numbers in this opportunity at expanded minutes and a spot in the starting lineup, a common trend tonight. He finished with 20 points — his third-most in a game all season — and a season-high three steals. Ferrell knocked down a game-high-tying four 3-pointers in eight attempts. When you hit the most 3s in a game against the Rockets, you know you had it going.

    Notebook

  • Dennis Smith Jr. handed out a career-high 11 assists in this game. Smith played a very sharp floor game tonight, which isn’t always easy to do against a roster well-stocked on the wing like the one Houston has. The Rockets can switch everything to put length on point guards and long, active arms in passing lanes, but Smith was able to make a lot happen regardless. Three of his 11 dimes came via lob passes, which seems to be a new trick he’s showing off more of lately.

    Smith has now handed out at least five assists in 12 of his last 13 games, after having done so in just 15 of his first 36 games as a pro. Assists aren’t the be-all, end-all stat when measuring a point guard’s ability to run an offense, but it’s still good to see the rookie establish some consistency in that regard. His all-around passing game is improving, but he’s getting much better at providing the finishing touch to a possession.

  • With no Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews, J.J. Barea, or Salah Mejri due to injury, the Mavs were down to just nine active players tonight. The starting lineup included the familiar faces of Smith, Yogi Ferrell, and Harrison Barnes, but also some less-experienced starters in Dwight Powell and Doug McDermott, who were starting for just the 10th and 11th time in their careers, respectively. That left Kyle Collinsworth, Jalen Jones, Maxi Kleber, and Johnathan Motley available off the bench on the second night of a back-to-back against the team with the second-best record in the NBA. Those guys put in a heck of an effort to keep this game as close as it was throughout. It was nice to see so many players take advantage of the opportunity. Among them were Dwight Powell, who finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds (and has scored 17+ points in four of his last five games now) and Ferrell, who we mentioned earlier. But Jalen Jones scored eight points and pulled down 10 rebounds in 22 minutes, and Kyle Collinsworth stuffed the stat sheet with six points, eight boards, five assists, two blocks, and a steal in 31 minutes. Rick Carlisle said on Saturday night that the younger players are going to get more opportunities to play throughout the rest of the season, and tonight was an example of several of those guys putting this time to good use and proving they can play at a high level against a team that has a good shot at making a deep playoff run.

  • Collinsworth also did this, which was awesome.


    What’s Next

    The Mavs (18-39) will play the Sacramento Kings (17-37) on Tuesday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Rockets

    Final: Rockets 104, Mavs 97

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    The Mavericks won the pace battle in the first half, holding the Rockets to just 43 possessions. That’s well below their season average of more than 101 per game. That played to Dallas’ advantage and Houston scored only 51 points in the first half. But in the second, things became a little more wide-open and end-to-end, and Houston was able to open up a lead.

    Notebook

  • Dennis Smith Jr. has excelled since returning from injury when spending time alongside J.J. Barea in the backcourt, and tonight was another example of why. During one stretch in the second quarter, Smith attacked and finished off a catch, knocked down a 3-pointer, and then received a pass from Barea against a switch and turned the ensuing drive into an assist.

    Those are some high-level plays that Smith made look both natural and easy, which is good to see. Playing without the ball is much different than running point, but Smith must learn to do both. Not only will it make playing alongside playmakers easier when the Mavs add another young and talented guard or wing in the future, but it’ll also, as Rick Carlisle said, help Smith better understand the demands of every other position so he can lead the offense more effectively.

  • The Rockets shot a ton of 3s. A ton. 51, in fact. The most ever in a game against the Mavericks, in fact. The previous record also belonged to Houston, which launched 47 in the two teams’ earlier meeting this season. Dallas shoots a high volume of 3s relative to the rest of the league, but the Rockets really are in a league of their own when it comes to shooting the long-ball. Sometimes they take awkward-looking ones, but for the most part James Harden and Chris Paul are able to create open looks for their shooters from penetration out of the pick-and-roll in partnership with Clint Capela. It’s a very difficult team to defend, and while the Mavericks did enjoy some nice stretches — for example, holding the Rockets to a season-low 13 points in the second quarter — over the long haul Houston was able to outscore Dallas based almost on the mathematical fact that three is worth more than two. I don’t know how long it’ll be before every other team routinely hoists 40-plus treys, but the league is certainly heading in that direction at a pretty quick pace. The Rockets have long played the 3-point revolution to its extreme, but given the success they’re enjoying this season, the extreme in this case might soon become the norm.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (16-32) will play the Portland Trail Blazers (25-22) on Wednesday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs at Rockets

    Final: Rockets 93, Mavs 92

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Despite shooting only 42.9 percent from the field in the second quarter, the Mavs scored 1.167 points per possession, well above the league average, which usually floats around 1.02. The key? Dallas took 12 free throw attempts and collected five offensive rebounds, giving the club not only extra looks at the basket, but also unguarded attempts from the charity stripe. During that quarter, James Harden picked up his third foul, as well.

    The Mavs’ defense got better by the quarter. After allowing 1.417 PPP in the first frame, Dallas allowed 1.160 in the second, 0.773 in the third, and 0.619 in the fourth. The Rockets scored only 13 points in the fourth. That’s a vastly improved performance over Dallas’ showing Friday night. If there’s a positive to take away from this one, it’s that the defense dialed it up when it had to.

    Notebook

  • This is hopefully the end to what has truly been a bizarre first three games of the season for the Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki missed both legs of the home-and-home against Houston, which certainly affected not only the Mavs’ preparation for the game, but also their execution on the court. Nowitzki is still a huge piece of this offense; his impact on opponents’ spacing alone is enough to swing another few points the Mavs’ way on any given night. Two of the first three games coming against the same team is also a strange occurrence. Dallas’ next opponent is the Jazz, who are suffering from injury woes. With two full days in between games, the Mavs should hopefully get Nowitzki back in time to take the full starting five to Utah.

  • Wesley Matthews had an enormous third quarter in this game, scoring 10 of his 25 points. It was good to see Matthews have such a loud frame after difficult shooting performances in each of his first two appearances this season, though his final stat line might not suggest it. It also brought the Mavs back into the game, having trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half, but the closed in to as little as one in the third. He also played straight-up unreal defense on James Harden in the fourth quarter and hit a trey to tie with 4.1 seconds left.

  • J.J. Barea and Deron Williams both faced minor injury scares to varying degrees in the second quarter. Williams took a hard foul on an inbound pass and briefly left the game, appearing to favor his right knee. After trainer Casey Smith checked it out on the bench, Williams put a sleeve on his right knee and returned to the game, immediately driving the lane and drawing another foul. Barea, meanwhile, took a fall on a fast break moments later and appeared to tweak his left knee, but despite a few grimaces here and there, he seemed to rebound just fine, connecting on both free throws after the foul and hitting a 3-pointer in the same quarter. With Devin Harris out for at least another couple weeks, the Mavs obviously are keeping a close eye on the rest of the guards’ health, hoping things can remain normal until Harris eventually returns. Elsewhere in the backcourt, Seth Curry got the start at 2-guard with Dirk Nowitzki out.

  • Nowitzki missed his second consecutive game due to illness. The Big German participated in shootaround and went through his usual pregame routine, but apparently didn’t feel well enough to play. The Mavs are understandably being cautious with their 38-year-old star, but at this point there is no reason to believe he’ll be unavailable to play in Utah, given he traveled with the team and had been listed to start the game until literally the last possible second. Stay tuned for updates regardless.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (0-3) play the Utah Jazz (1-2) at Energy Solutions Arena on Sunday at 8 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Rockets

    Final: Rockets 106, Mavs 98

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    How much room for growth is there in Harrison Barnes’ game? Based on his touches alone, a ton. He’s taken at least 14 shots in both games so far this season. In his four years with the Golden State Warriors, Barnes took at least 14 shots in back-to-back games just one time. He’s already enjoying an unprecedented level of involvement, and that single stat alone is enough to show that it’s impossible to predict what a player will do with an expanded role. For now, let’s just enjoy Barnes’ nice start and see how far he can take it.

    The Mavericks shot just 36.8 percent from the field in the second quarter despite scoring 26 points, which proved the value of getting to the free throw line. The Mavs shot 12 free throws in the second frame, so despite the poor shooting, Dallas was still able to generate 1.000 points per possession, a solid rate given the shooting percentage. So much more factors into offensive efficiency than simply making shots: Free throws, turnovers, and offensive rebounds also matter just as much, if not more.

    Notebook

  • It’s difficult to take too much away from tonight’s game because the Mavericks were without Dirk Nowitzki, who missed the game with a stomach illness. The hope is that he’ll be able to play in Sunday’s rematch in Houston. The Mavericks had a very strong offensive showing against the Pacers in the season opener, and of course the German’s presence in the lineup had a lot to do with that. Dallas worked mainly through Harrison Barnes in Nowitzki’s stead.

  • J.J. Barea started in his place, and from the opening tip he led the Mavs’ offensive efforts, driving the ball into the paint a team-high eight times in the first quarter alone. That was a common theme throughout the evening, as the Mavs looked to go right at the vulnerable Rockets perimeter defense and take the fight to them. Wesley Matthews, for one, drove the ball into the paint five times in the first quarter and 11 times for the game. Matthews has looked much quicker this season than he did last, now more than one year removed from Achilles surgery. His added burst will pay huge dividends for this team, as Dallas wants to create as much dribble penetration from as many different angles as possible. Matthews, Barea, and Deron Williams will be relied upon more than any other players to create that downhill attack.

  • Harrison Barnes got off to a huge start in this game, scoring 12 first-quarter points on eight attempts from the field. After his nice Mavs debut on Wednesday, in which he scored 19 points and hit a late, game-tying triple to send the game to overtime, it was good to see Barnes continue his strong start as a Maverick and put together another nice performance, finishing with a career-high 31 points on 13-of-23 shooting. He played plenty of power forward in his debut, but tonight, without Nowitzki, Barnes was almost exclusively used at the 4 spot, and I think that played a role in him finding his stride early in the game. Combo forwards like Barnes, and some others who have come through Dallas in years past, typically have more success at the 4 because they are quicker and faster than their matchups on most nights, and Barnes is more than capable of exploiting that athletic edge.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (0-2) play the Houston Rockets (1-1) on Sunday, this time at Toyota Center, 7 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Rockets

    Postgame: J.J. Barea

    Mavs G J.J. Barea talks about Wednesday's win over Houston.

    Final: Mavs 88, Rockets 86

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Wesley Matthews drained four 3-pointers tonight. He’s now reached that milestone in seven of his last nine games, including his third straight. He also hit his 177th trey of the season, moving him past Jason Kidd for third on the Mavs’ all-time single-season three-pointers made list. Next up is Jose Calderon, at 191. Matthews’ productive tear has continued, and that obviously means good things for the Mavericks.

    The Mavericks enjoyed one of their finest offensive quarters of the season in the second frame, scoring 34 points on 63.6 percent shooting, good for a rate of 1.478 points per possession. Dallas outscored Houston 34-22 before the break, taking an eight-point lead into halftime. The scoring came at a good time, too, as the Mavs shot only 28.6 percent from the field in the first quarter.

    Notebook

  • Huge, huge win for the Mavericks and for their playoff chances. The victory puts them two full games ahead of the Rockets in the standings, with four games remaining on the schedule for both teams. Dallas put on an offensive blitz in the second quarter and hung on with defense and energy in the second half, just scoring enough to eke out a win against one of the more talented teams they’ve played in recent weeks. And who could’ve guessed it: Dirk Nowitzki, who scored only seven points all night, made a huge defensive play in the closing seconds, stripping James Harden en route to the rim and resulting in a turnover and Mavs ball. Think the German doesn’t play defense? Think again. Big players make big plays in big moments, and that Nowitzki strip was perhaps the biggest play of the season for this team.

  • J.J. Barea put on yet another impressive showing in this game, scoring 27 points and dishing out eight assists, besting his averages from last week, when he was named Western Conference Player of the Week. The Puerto Rican has played the best basketball of his career when the Mavericks have needed his production most, filling in for the injured Deron Williams and picking up even more of the playmaking slack following Chandler Parsons’ season-ending surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Barea has been magnificent running the show for the Mavericks. Everything and everyone is under control when he runs point, and he makes finding his teammates look easy. That’s a dangerous combination for a point guard, especially one enjoying as ridiculous a shooting streak as he is.

  • Salah Mejri has had such a positive impact on the defensive end during the past few weeks. At 7-foot-2 he has a surprising amount of quickness and he is able to defend with both hit feet and his hands — not necessarily his body — which for the most part keeps him out of foul trouble and helps put him in position to contest shots. For example, in the second quarter he covered enough ground against a Jason Terry drive to take away an alley-oop lob or dump-off pass while still contesting Terry’s layup, which bounced off the rim and eventually out of bounds. Offensively, he has the springiness to finish above the rim, a necessary trait for a big man in the pick-and-roll. Although his final box score line on any given night might not reflect how important he’s been to the Mavericks lately, the team plays a notably different style on the floor, and it’s been awfully effective lately.

  • The Rockets pulled off a rare feat at the end of the third quarter, scoring on an out-of-bounds play with 0.2 seconds left on the clock. Dwight Howard tapped in a wild lob pass, and somehow it bounced all over the rim before finally falling through the hoop. The bucket put Houston ahead, 71-70, entering the fourth quarter. What set up the play was the more compelling part, however, as Salah Mejri viciously denied a James Harden layup attempt. Obviously it would have been better had the ball bounced out of play with 0.0 left on the clock, but Mejri rejected the shot with authority nonetheless. His mythical “block” list grows longer.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (40-38) play the Memphis Grizzlies (42-36) Friday at American Airlines Center. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. Central.