The Fast Break: Mavs at Pacers

Final: Mavs 98, Pacers 94

Box Score | Highlights

Behind the Box Score

We knew the German big men had a strong bond by heritage, but it turns out they’ve also got pretty serious synergy on the floor, too. During one stretch in the third quarter, Maxi Kleber assisted Dirk Nowitzki, then the next time down Dirk got him back. Heading into this one, Kleber had been shooting 80.0 percent after passes from Nowitzki, per NBA Stats, and Nowitzki was shooting 66.7 percent on passes from Kleber. Germany has been good to this team.

Nowitzki has now scored at least 15 points in each of his last four games, his longest streak since doing so 11 straight times from March 1-23, 2016.

Notebook

  • Crunch-time problems have become the story of the season for the Mavericks, but these last two nights they’ve closed games out. Dallas used a 10-0 run late in this one to take a lead and then closed the door with a string of defensive stops, some good stuff from Dennis Smith Jr., and a couple free throws. The Mavs were 1-18 in clutch games before yesterday. It’s hard to exaggerate how insane that is. It’s good to see things beginning to turn around for the Mavericks — and they did it in the clutch tonight without the safety valve that is Dirk Nowitzki. It should be noted that the Pacers were without their best player in Victor Oladipo, but credit the Mavs for still making things difficult for the players they did have tonight, especially late. Dallas did it with defense and then by pushing the ball the other way. They say everything they do begins with defense, and tonight the proof was in the pudding. We’ll see if this can catapult them to more better performances late in close games the rest of the season.

  • One important area of Dennis Smith Jr.’s development that doesn’t really get talked about much is learning to play without the ball. He’s a point guard so he’s obviously going to have the ball in his hands a lot of the time, but ideally you’ll always have one or two other guys out there who can also handle it, too. As we all know, there’s only one ball, so in order to be effective even when his number isn’t being called, Smith will need to develop some off-the-ball skills. What does that mean? What are some examples? The first thing is learning to find open space as a shooter and knocking down open jumpers when they come your way. So far this season Smith has done a pretty good job in that role, hitting 35.2 percent of catch-and-shoot 3s per NBA Stats.

    Not only is it impractical to have just one guy who can handle it, but it also puts tremendous physical pressure on Smith to have to be the guy creating every single time down the floor. That’s one way playing alongside J.J. Barea for stretches here and there could be beneficial to Smith’s growth as a player. Barea is masterful at getting into the paint, which means Smith could often find himself open from outside. There’s no rep like a game rep, so it’s nice to see Smith taking advantage of those shots when he can find them.

  • Dallas has been a little more explosive on the fast break in the last two games. Last night the memorable moment on the break came when Yogi Ferrell ran the length of the floor in the closing moments of the first half and hit Maxi Kleber with a lob pass. Tonight’s Cool Transition Moment of the Game was a Barea oop to Smith, which you could see coming from a ways away.

    Smith added a couple buckets on the break late in the fourth quarter, too, including a layup with 25.2 seconds left to put them up three points. The Mavericks aren’t a very big running team — they ranked just 27th in the league in fast break points per game heading into this one — but they’ve now scored above their average in back-to-back games, a trend that partly coincides with Smith’s return to a full minutes load. It’s much easier to run the floor when you’ve got an athlete like him in your camp. It’s easier to score in transition than against a set defense, but in recent years Dallas has enjoyed creating mismatches in the secondary break and exploiting those in a halfcourt setting. I wonder if as time goes on the addition of Smith will lead to more moments like this.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (11-25) will play the New Orleans Pelicans (17-16) on Friday at Smoothie King Center at 7 p.m. Central.

  • Game 36: Mavs at Pacers

    Patented Dirk

    Dirk Nowitzki scores on his patented one-legged, step-back jumper.

    The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Raptors

    Final: Mavs 98, Raptors 93

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    In the game of basketball, the paint is precious real estate. If you can claim it as the offense, you will profit. Likewise, if you control it as a defense, you will live comfortably. The Mavericks did about as good a job as you can on both ends of the floor owning that valuable property. Offensively, Dallas got the ball into the paint on 20 of its 25 possessions, per team analytics, which might be a team-high mark in the three seasons I’ve had access to that information. The club turned those 20 trips into 25 points, which is a very good clip. Meanwhile, the Mavs limited the Raptors to just 16 trips to the paint on defense and held them to only 14 points in those situations, or 0.88 points per possession. The Mavs won the first quarter 31-23. This game usually isn’t as simple as who’s better in the paint, but in the first quarter it was. As the game wore on, things normalized a bit — the Mavs weren’t able to get into the paint as often and the Raptors were more productive during their trips. That’s almost to be expected in a league of adjustments.

    This was quite the game of runs. The Raptors went on 8-0 and 9-0 sprints in the second quarter and used an extended 17-8 run to tie it up just before halftime. But Dallas took the prize for biggest run of the game, using a 17-0 outburst in the third quarter to go up 83-73 before taking an 85-77 lead into the fourth quarter.

    Maxi Kleber tied his career-high with five blocks.

    After leading the NBA in drawn charges last season and finishing third the season before, the Mavs had been averaging just 0.69 charges drawn per game heading into this one, per NBA Stats, good for just 15th. But Maxi Kleber and Devin Harris each drew one tonight. (Yes, they track charges. They track everything these days!)

    Before tonight, Dallas was just 1-18 in games when the score was within five points inside the final five minutes of regulation or overtime, per NBA Stats. That is an absurd record to have in situations where in many cases the result of the game is a proverbial coin toss — a combination of bad luck and late mistakes. But they got it done tonight.

    Notebook

  • Maxi Kleber had one of the better games of his NBA career tonight. He made a lot of plays that showed up in the box score, but he made plenty of others that didn’t too. In my opinion Kleber has become one of the team’s best help defenders, particularly among the big men, and he isn’t afraid to mix it up when going for a rebound or contesting a shot. He also does all this stuff usually without putting himself at risk of committing a foul, which can stack up on you very quickly, especially when playing against starters.

    One tangible way Kleber has improved of late is as a roll man. Before this game he ranked in the 27th percentile league-wide as a roller, per Synergy Sports. He scored a handful of points off lobs in their previous game against Atlanta, too, so I shudder to think of where he was at before then. He hasn’t used many possessions in those situations, of course, and several of them before tonight were as a pop man when you’re less likely to score efficiently because a dunk is easier than a jump shot. Regardless, all of a sudden Kleber has turned into a fearsome rim-runner capable of throwing down lobs.

    Before the game Rick Carlisle said that as Kleber continues to do more, his job is going to get tougher because opposing teams will soon begin to not only take notice of his productivity, but also take action to limit it. The good thing as far as that’s concerned is Dallas doesn’t actually run any plays for him, yet he still finds ways to score; therefore, he’s tough to hone in on without ignoring the guy who’s supposed to be shooting. That’s going to be an interesting thing to watch as time goes on.

  • Dirk likes him, too.


  • The driving force behind the Mavs’ 31-point first quarter was Dennis Smith Jr. Carlisle acknowledged before the game that since returning from injury three games ago it’s sometimes taken the rookie some time to take command of the offense the way he needs to in the early going, which has played a part in the team’s slow starts in games. That was not the case in this one, as Smith attacked the paint early and often.

    Probably the most intriguing play the 20-year-old made came at the very end of the quarter coming off a high screen from Dirk Nowitzki.

    This play puts opposing big man Jakob Poeltl in the unenviable position of having to choose between trying to defend a downhill Smith 30 feet from the rim or just abandoning ship to guard a guy with 30,000 career points. He rightly chose to try checking the rookie, but Smith is simply too fast for most big men to keep up with in that much open space. Ideally opposing big men will drop way below that screen to keep Smith away from the rim, but that’s the benefit of having a shooter set screens. When the play takes place that high on the floor, as the defending big you simply have to step out to defend otherwise you run the risk of Nowitzki getting a wide-open 3. I wonder if the Mavs will run more high screens for Smith in the middle of the floor like that in the future, especially when he’s playing with Dirk. If the objective is to get him in the paint as much as possible, that’s one surefire way to make it happen.

  • To put the job Wesley Matthews did against DeMar DeRozan into context, DeRozan was averaging 31.8 points per game in his last six games and had scored fewer than 20 points just once in the last month. Tonight, DeRozan scored just eight points on 3-of-16 shooting. This was the first time in his 627-game career that he scored fewer than 10 points on more than 15 shots. Bravo, @WessyWes23.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (10-25) will play the Indiana Pacers (19-14) on Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 6 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Pacers

    Final: Mavs 111, Pacers 103

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Wesley Matthews now has at least four 3-pointers in four consecutive games, the longest streak by a Maverick since Vince Carter did the same in February 2013. The franchise record is six straight, set by George McCloud 20 years ago. Matthews had a one-3 outing just before this streak began, but otherwise he’s been ridiculously hot from beyond the arc over the last month or so.

    The Pacers shot only 33.3 percent from the field in the third quarter, but they took 15 free throws, which helped them score 1.136 points per possession and 25 points total in the frame. That’s not a number the Mavs will be satisfied with.

    Monta Ellis had never played 20-plus minutes in a game without scoring in his entire career, per Basketball-Reference, but Dallas kept the former Mav scoreless with a terrific team defensive performance.

    Notebook

  • Everyone in the organization talked about how the Mavs needed to play with more of a forceful, competitive spirit after a very disappointing home loss to the Kings on Wednesday night. This was a heck of a response. Dallas came out hot from the field and, despite it being a high-scoring game, did appear to have a strong defensive performance against the Pacers, particularly against star wing Paul George, who was held in check for the entire second half. Dallas simply played harder than Indiana, and that’s all Rick Carlisle can ask for; there are many things in life you can’t control, but you can always control effort. The Mavericks brought the energy tonight and remained in control of the contest pretty much throughout. A very nice win to finish this 2-2 homestand.

  • Tonight was the first time I can remember in Harrison Barnes’ career as a Maverick that the opponent was switching smaller players onto him with consistency. These same Pacers did it a few times early in the season opener, but for the most part opponents have kept either wings or bigs on Barnes whenever he’s the big in a pick-and-roll. Tonight, though, Indiana was switching the guard over to him, whether it was Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, Aaron Brooks, or someone else. Barnes went to work in those matchups, using his size and strength to exploit that size advantage. It’s something Mavs fans should be used to seeing by now, as that’s been a huge part of what’s made Dirk Nowitzki so successful for so long. The 24-year-old had similar success in those situations — though much fewer and farther between — while with the Warriors. If Barnes can demonstrate over an extended period that he can dominate smaller players, that’s one more step toward becoming an extremely difficult assignment for any defense. He finished with 25 points and eight rebounds.

  • For the second time this homestand, Dorian Finney-Smith set a career-high scoring mark. He finished tonight’s game with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, adding seven rebounds and a steal. His play has been lauded this season by both his head coach and Mavs owner Mark Cuban. It used to take more of a nuanced eye to notice the impact the undrafted rookie was making on games, but lately his play is becoming louder and louder.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (5-17) play the Houston Rockets (16-7) on Saturday at Toyota Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs at Pacers

    Final: Pacers 130, Mavs 121

    Box Score | Highlights

    Highlights: Mavs vs. Pacers

    Deron Williams led the way with 25 points, Dirk added 22 and Harrison Barnes scored 19 in Wednesday's opener against Indiana.

    Behind the Box Score

    The first quarter saw the Pacers push the ball on offense, particularly after Mavs turnovers or missed shots at the rim. In both situations, it’s tough for the defense to get back and set itself before the speedy Pacers would attack the lane, resulting in some easy buckets. Indy scored 11 points in transition in the opening frame and drove the ball into the lane on 15 possessions in the first quarter alone, scoring 22 paint points, and both numbers are too high for the Mavs’ liking. (The club was able to curb that drive rate later in the game.) There does appear to be a correlation between turnovers and paint points allowed, at least for the Mavericks, who generally did a good job last season of keeping teams away from the rim in halfcourt situations.

    After attempting just 37 corner 3s all of last season, and making only 11, Dirk Nowitzki drilled one from the left corner early in the second quarter. The Big German can usually be found launching long-range Js closer to the top of the arc, but in this one he actually took two from the corner, the most he’s taken in a single game in quite some time. It’ll be interesting to see if he takes more of them this season than in recent years. Statistically the corner 3 is an easier shot, but Nowitzki has always seemed to prefer the straight-on shot instead (and it’s tough to argue with the results he’s produced).

    Nowitzki drained four 3-pointers total in this one despite getting off to a slow start from the field. He started hot from deep last season as well, so the key for the Mavs is finding a way to help the German sustain this quick start as the schedule picks up.

    Notebook

  • As regular season games go, this was about as entertaining as they come. It was end-to-end, close, competitive, and unpredictable. There were huge momentum swings and each team seemed to come up with a few haymakers, particularly in the second half. As the games add up, the Mavs will become more familiar with one another and these close, late-game situations will become more just a bit easier. That obviously isn’t to say the team played poorly in those moments tonight — Harrison Barnes’ game-tying 3 with just 2.3 seconds left stands out, of course — but this team will become even more comfortable in clutch situations as the season wears on. Credit to Dallas, as well, for coming up with a terrific look on the last possession in regulation despite not having a timeout beforehand.

  • As this was the first game, we saw all sorts of lineup combinations from Rick Carlisle, surely testing everything he’s got to see what works best for Dallas. In the second quarter he seemed to find something, running out a Barea-Williams-Matthews-Barnes-Nowitzki group with 3:26 left in the second quarter. That fivesome quickly cut the Pacers’ 14-point advantage in half before the intermission, using wide-open space on offense to score easy buckets from all over the place. Defensively, that group lacks a true rim protector, but against a team like Indiana that isn’t such a bad thing, given Pacers center Myles Turner has more of a perimeter-oriented game at this point in his career. Barnes played a lot of minutes in this game at power forward, as well, which could be something that continues later on this season. However, with Quincy Acy and potentially Dwight Powell also vying for playing time, that is certainly subject to change based on what Carlisle sees on tape, and also on the opponent on any given night.

  • Another bizarre, but very effective, lineup featured Barea, Williams, Seth Curry, Justin Anderson, and Dirk at center. That lineup totally blitzed the Pacers by playing at a frenetic pace on offense and coming up with enough stops on defense, especially by forcing a few turnovers. That group launched an insane run, outscoring the Pacers by eight points in a matter of minutes, to claim Dallas’ first lead of the night, 97-96, with just over eight minutes to go in the game. If you can’t beat ’em at a slow pace, dial it up a bit and see what happens. That group was able to capture some magic.

  • Deron Williams was sensational in this game, scoring a team-high 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting, including hitting five 3s, a feat he only accomplished once last season. Williams had a couple unforced errors early in the game but he recovered, almost single-handedly keeping the Mavs in the game in the middle two quarters by draining several 3s coming off Andrew Bogut screens and consistently finding ways to create his own shot. Nowitzki wasn’t being hyperbolic over the summer when he called Williams the team’s best player last season. He certainly was the most effective clutch player in basketball, and so far this season, at least, he’s continued to produce in Dallas.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (0-1) play the Houston Rockets (0-0) on Friday Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • Game 1: Mavs at Pacers

    Highlights: Mavs vs. Pacers

    Deron Williams led the way with 25 points, Dirk added 22 and Harrison Barnes scored 19 in Wednesday's opener against Indiana.

    Mavs face injury concerns heading into Wednesday’s season opener

    DALLAS — With the preseason now behind them after limping to just a 2-5 mark in exhibition play, the Dallas Mavericks will try to make the necessary adjustments needed before Wednesday’s regular-season opener in Indiana.

    Falling to a lopsided 101-75 loss Friday night in Denver to conclude the preseason, the Mavericks admittedly weren’t able to jell with their new-look team during seven exhibition contests. The Mavs will now attempt to address their miscues on the practice court, reconvening as a team Sunday after a much-needed day off. And after trimming the roster down from 20 to 15 by requesting waivers on Kyle Collinsworth, Jaleel Cousins, Keith Hornsby, Jonathan Gibson and C.J. Williams, the Mavericks will now turn their attention to the Eastern Conference perennial power Pacers.

    “Truthfully, there’s going to be a lot of questions about us, because we played poorly in preseason,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle confessed following Sunday’s team practice. “Our starters struggled, and we’ve got a lot of work to do. These three days of practice before we play Indiana are extremely important, because they’re a tough matchup. I mean, they’re an improved team. They’re faster and more athletic than us, and so we’re going to have to be much improved by Wednesday to be where we want to be.”

    Looking to hit the ground running on the road Opening Night, the Mavericks will quickly try to forget about their lackluster preseason. The Mavs also hope to have the full roster at their disposal, despite injuries to a few of the projected top contributors off the bench.

    The Mavericks played the final four games of the preseason without backup big man Quincy Acy, hoping he can be ready by Wednesday night after practicing Sunday with his right foot sprain. The Mavs also took the floor minus reserve guard J.J. Barea during the final three outings after he suffered a left elbow sprain during a practice last week. Now, after also seeing veteran reserve guard Devin Harris exit Friday’s loss with a right great toe injury, the Mavs could find themselves shorthanded in the backcourt and leaning heavily on newcomer Seth Curry when they take on the Pacers.

    “Well, if J.J. can’t go, then Curry is going to be our backup point, and we’re just going to have to figure out something,” Carlisle explained. “I knew that coming into this that we have some veteran guys that are in their 30s, and we have some fragility at that position. But we have four guys if you count Harris as a point guard, which he can do, but he really hasn’t played it the last three years. But if we’re down a couple of guys, we’re going to have to be resourceful and figure it out. It’s not an ideal situation, for sure.”

    Curry, 26, led the Mavericks in scoring during the preseason, averaging 10.7 points per outing on 40.7 percent shooting while coming off the bench in six of the seven games. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound combo guard also showed that he can do a bit of everything on the court, pulling down 2.0 rebounds, dishing out 2.0 assists and collecting 1.2 steals a game this preseason in less than 19 minutes an outing. That said, Curry vows to be ready to step up if his veteran teammates aren’t able to play Wednesday night, hoping to give the team a lift to begin the regular season.

    “It doesn’t change my approach at all. I don’t know what it means for me on Wednesday, but my approach has been the same all preseason,” Curry confidently said. “Every day I’m just coming in and working hard to just be ready for my opportunities. And when I get on the floor, I’m just being aggressive and trying to make the most of my minutes.”

    Note: The Mavericks will now begin the regular season on Wednesday in Indiana, traveling for an Opening Night matchup against the Pacers. The game will tip off at 6 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN.

    The Mavs return to American Airlines Center for the home opener on Friday night, hosting the Houston Rockets. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

    Injury updates:

    Quincy Acy (right foot sprain) — day-to-day

    J.J. Barea (left elbow sprain) — day-to-day

    Devin Harris (right great toe injury) — doubtful