Final: Wolves 97, Mavs 92
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Behind the Box Score
The Mavericks have now led at halftime in seven of their last eight games.
Sixteen of the Wolves’ first 33 points of the game were second chance points, meaning they came after recovering an offensive rebound. Karl-Anthony Towns spearheaded the Wolves’ effort, helping them get off to a 33-27 lead. To the Mavs’ credit, though, they only allowed four such points the rest of the way and managed to get right back into the game. Rick Carlisle often talks about the precious nature of possessions, and that’s an example of what he means.
Antonius Cleveland had himself a game. Before tonight, he’d never played eight minutes in a game as a pro, yet in this one he earned every one of his 18 minutes. The rookie finished with three steals and two blocks, playing super-active defense against a tough opponent in Andrew Wiggins. Both of his blocks came against the young Wolves star, made possible by solid footwork and his exceptional length.
If he can keep producing like this, especially against longer wings like Wiggins against whom Cleveland is needed most, the rook could certainly earn himself some more playing time moving forward.
Lately there’s been something about Harrison Barnes and third quarters. The forward has now scored 33 points total in the team’s last four third frames, nine of which came tonight. That quarter has caused the Mavs some problems at times this season, but Barnes had personally averaged 5.2 points per third before tonight’s game. Perhaps the club can play through him for the first few minutes after every half in an effort to establish some rhythm and keep things under control until the “death lineup” of three guards, Dirk, and Powell comes in.
The Mavs (7-19) will play the San Antonio Spurs (19-8) on Tuesday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.
Final: Wolves 112, Mavs 99
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Behind the Box Score
The Mavs were on the second night of a back-to-back against a well-rested Wolves team playing at home, so it might not have been the easiest thing to push the pace all night. However, when Dallas was able to get up the floor, the club scored at a high clip. The Mavs scored 1.27 PPP when they got the ball across midcourt in three seconds or less, against just 0.73 PPP when they didn’t. 1.27 points per possession will win you an NBA title if you score that for an entire game. The problem, though: Dallas only got it across in three seconds or less 52 times, versus taking four seconds or more 45 times. Rick Carlisle has preached pace all season long and if you were watching the broadcast tonight you could probably hear him yell “PUSH! PACE! PUSH!” over and over and over again. The Mavs have got to continue pushing the tempo off of makes as well as misses. When they do, they are really, really tough to stop.
Dennis Smith Jr. finished with an even plus-minus tonight, which is notable given the disparity in the final score. To be fair, he made up a lot of that with the team’s late push in the fourth quarter, but it’s not like the Mavs were throwing in the towel at that point in the game. Dallas was able to get to within 13 points with four minutes left in the game, which as we saw last night is still enough time to get back into it. This was one of his better games.
More on Smith. This might have been his best game as it relates to getting to the rim. One of the cardinal rules of defensive basketball is to stop the ball-handler in transition, but no one did that for the Wolves on the following play, so Smith just took it all the way himself.
He’s also getting better at using crafty moves to create driving lanes. In the next play, he ball-faked Karl-Anthony Towns out of his way, who was the only guy standing between him and a dunk.
Smith led the Mavericks with 15 rim attacks, one night after attacking 11 times against New Orleans. You love seeing that number in double-digits and hopefully as the season wears on he can keep it that high, or maybe even higher. There’s no doubt he’s got speed and explosiveness, but once he can begin mixing in more change-of-speed stuff, that could unlock another level. One thing he’s had to learn is that opposing NBA centers are also extremely athletic so they can block you if you’re running right at them. But, as a guard, if you can change speeds and directions en route to the rim, you can really take advantage of your speed advantage because they simply aren’t quick enough to adjust in time to get in position to contest the shot without fouling — or even at all.
Maxi Kleber is making a case to become a consistent rotation player. Kleber didn’t play last night but he scored 11 points the game before in L.A. and recorded four points, three rebounds, and two assists tonight in 22 minutes. As he continues to become adjusted to the speed of the NBA game, Kleber is beginning to show off his skill set, including nice touch in the post and some ball-handling ability on the perimeter. He’s a really talented player for a guy his size, with the ability to score from basically anywhere on the floor and solid floor vision. He’s the right kind of big man for this offense because he never lets the ball stick for too long. If he doesn’t have a good look right off the catch, he always reverses the ball to the guard on the opposite wing and goes to set a screen. It’s tough for big men in the high post or at the top of the arc to keep things moving so smoothly, but Kleber has an advanced feel for the game for a rookie because of his ample experience playing in Europe. I think as time goes on he’ll get more minutes, especially on second nights of back-to-backs, and hopefully he’ll continue proving himself in those opportunities.
The Mavs (1-10) will play the Washington Wizards (4-4) on Tuesday at Capital One Arena at 6 p.m. Central.
Final: Mavs 98, Wolves 87
Box Score | Highlights
Behind the Box Score
Mavs vs. T-Wolves
View photos of the Mavs’ 98-87 win over the T-Wolves.
The Mavericks scored 1.167 points per possession in the first half. The league-wide average always hovers somewhere around 1.03 PPP, so that means the Dallas offense was absolutely sizzling in the first two frames, en route to 56 points. It’s the second straight game the Mavs have scored at least that many points in the first act. The big catalyst today was free throw attempts — Dallas took 17 free throws as a team in the first two quarters, which is as many or more as they’d taken in their previous four games. When you can get that many attempts from the charity stripe, the points are going to come efficiently.
Dirk Nowitzki enjoyed his third straight game with at least three 3-pointers. That’s tied for the second-longest streak of his NBA career, with his longest, four games, coming in November 2001. Even at age 38, Nowitzki is doing things he hasn’t done in some time. He also moved into ninth place all-time in minutes played, at 47,620.
The second quarter belonged to Dirk Nowitzki. The highlight reel below pretty much says it all, and his final shot approaching Steph Curry range sent the AAC into a frenzy.
Dirk has now had two pretty efficient scoring nights in a row, counting back to the Mavs’ win in Mexico City on Thursday night. Obviously the better Nowitzki plays, the better the Mavs’ chances are of winning.
Dirk dunked on Thursday night, and Wesley Matthews dunked today. It was his first slam of the 2016-17 season, and it was a good one — a two-hander against Karl-Anthony Towns after a baseline drive.
Matthews might not dunk often, but he’s so much more explosive this season than he was last season, now more than a year removed from recovering from a ruptured Achilles. Maybe the dunks will start coming more often for him.
Harrison Barnes has been on an offensive tear lately, and while his numbers tonight might not have dazzled the same way they have in recent contests, it should be noted that in this game he was matched up almost exclusively Towns, one of the better defenders in the league. Barnes has tremendous strength for his size, but Towns is strong, too, so Barnes found it difficult at times to create separation at the rim. Still, he reached double-figures in scoring for the 40th straight game to begin his Mavericks career. He might not score 25 every night — yet — but he can still be counted on to give you some scoring every game.
The Mavs (13-27) play the Chicago Bulls (20-21) on Tuesday at the United Center at 7 p.m. Central.