The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Thunder

Final: Thunder 111, Mavs 110

Box Score | Highlights

Behind the Box Score

Dirk Nowitzki became just the sixth player in NBA history to reach 31,000 career points. It’s not as glamorous an achievement as reaching 30,000 last year (because “31” doesn’t end in a 0 or 5), but it’s still a testament to his scoring ability and extraordinary longevity. Between joining the 50,000 minutes club, become the franchise blocks leader, and scoring 31,000 points, this has been a month of milestones for Nowitzki.

The Dallas offense had a big third quarter, generating 33 points on a whopping 1.375 points per possession. The Mavs purchased a one-way ticket to the rim for virtually the entire quarter, constantly attacking the Thunder defense and producing several dunks, layups, and alley-oops. It was one of the team’s best, cleanest quarters of the season.

Dwight Powell has handed out 3+ assists in three of his last five games. Most centers are not known for their passing, and Powell certainly isn’t, but it’s been pretty impressive to see him make some plays with the ball. Typically he’s more of a finisher than creator, but if he can show he can do both, he can become an immensely valuable player.

Notebook

  • The Powell love does not stop there. The big man beat the buzzer at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime, laying in a put-back.

    Powell has had the best month of his career by far this February. He’s been sensational as a starter, consistently providing points and rebounds from the center position, which is something the club has been searching for all season long. His development into an elite rim-runner has been one of the biggest bright spots this season and is a testament to his work ethic as well as the Mavs’ coaching staff.

  • Nerlens Noel made his long-awaited return to action tonight, receiving his first playing time since Nov. 22. It took Noel a little bit to shake off some rust and maybe work off the nerves, but once he got back into the swing of things he made some really nice plays. This one in particular raised some eyebrows. Noel singlehandedly halted a Russell Westbrook fast break by rejecting his shot.

    Noel finished with four points, three rebounds, an assist, a steal, and a block in 16 minutes, with most of his best activity coming in the second and third quarters.

  • Harrison Barnes scored a ton of points tonight, but the most notable thing about his performance was his passing. Barnes handed out five assists, his most in a game since Nov. 29, and one shy of his season-high. Barnes, like Dwight Powell, is typically more of a finisher or shot creator than he is a facilitator, but he made a combination of simple plays and very nice passes tonight to get there.

    Barnes is going to play more small forward down the stretch this season, which means he’ll likely have the ball in his hands in a position to make plays like this much more often than he does when he’s at the 4. Developing as a playmaker would transform his game. He’s very good in isolation and is a strong post-up player, too, but if you can give him the ball 25 feet from the rim and have him make plays for others, it could change the complexion of the Mavs’ offense. It would mean relying less on the guards to do all the heavy lifting in that regard and change the geometry of the floor.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (19-43) will play the Chicago Bulls (20-41) on Friday at the United Center at 7 p.m. Central.

  • Game 62: Mavs vs. Thunder

    Barnes Scores 26 in Overtime Loss

    Harrison Barnes led the way for the Mavericks against the Thunder as he scores 26 points with five rebounds and five assists.

    The Fast Break: Mavs at Thunder

    Final: Mavs 116, Thunder 113

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    The Mavs scored 35 points in the first quarter tonight, two days after scoring 36 in New Orleans. It was the fourth time this season they’ve cracked 35 in the first, which is more times than last season (twice) and the year before that one, too (three times).

    After scoring a whopping 30 fast break points against the Pelicans two days ago, the Mavericks didn’t score a single point on the break tonight, which is a crazy turnaround. Rick Carlisle admitted that the game in New Orleans didn’t necessarily go the way the Mavs wanted it to, even though they got the win. Much of that had to do with the sometimes breakneck pace of things. Dallas played a much more controlled game tonight and still managed to score pretty efficiently.

    Notebook

  • Dennis Smith Jr. might not have put together a triple-double, but he still had an unbelievable stretch run. The rookie point guard hit back-to-back 3-pointers (including banking one in) late to give the Mavs the lead, first 108-106 and then 111-108. The next time down the floor he missed a tough contested 2 late in the shot clock, but would later add a big-time layup in the final minute to put Dallas up three points.

    He’d add three free throws to help ice it. Smith scored 19 points and added six assists and five rebounds. Those are the kinds of plays that could give him heaps of confidence moving forward, especially late in games once the pressure heats up. Smith was previously just 5 of 19 from the field in clutch situations (final five minutes and the score within five points) heading into this game, per NBA Stats. He doesn’t lack for confidence, obviously, but those are the shots that will only keep him that way.

  • Harrison Barnes scored below his season average three straight games heading into this one, but he was magnificent tonight. Oklahoma City switches pretty often but has length at almost every possession, making its defense tough to exploit via mismatches. That meant Barnes and the Mavs had to work deep into the shot clock to find good shots, often leaving Barnes one-on-one with just a few seconds to create.

    He ended the game with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including knocking down four 3-pointers, the most he’s made in a game since Oct. 28.

  • Teamwork makes the dream work. Early in the game Raymond Felton missed a 3-pointer and the carom sent the ball over the glass, resulting in an out of bounds. However, the ball got stuck atop a rail behind the backboard.

    If this were a playground game, the players would have had to get resourceful to find a way to get it down. But this the NBA, land of giants. So J.J. Barea decided to use one of those tall humans to his advantage.

    The only problem is it didn’t work. BUT it gave us a funny gif. Happy New Year.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (13-25) will play the Golden State Warriors (29-8) on Wednesday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Thunder

    Final: Mavs 97, Thunder 81

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    The Mavericks allowed just 37 points in the first half, the fewest they surrendered in the opening act all season. They held teams to 37 or less six times last season.

    Dallas extended its streak of winning third quarters to four games in this one, outscoring OKC 26-18 in the frame. The Mavs won the previous three by nine, 12, and most recently 19 points. It’s so much easier to start closing the door on a win — or erasing a huge halftime deficit, as was the case on Wednesday — when you can stay positive in the penultimate frame.

    Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 19 points in this one.

    Notebook

  • Harrison Barnes is a much more patient scorer this season, and that’s been a big reason for his success lately. When combined with anticipation and a feel for the game, playing at a more comfortable speed allows Barnes to score buckets like this, where he sees the baseline double-team coming and goes up for a shot-fake without traveling or panicking.

    Much has been written about his ability to get to the free throw line more often this season, too, and the next play is a great example of some of the tricks he’s picked up to allow that to happen.

    Barnes worked his smaller, lighter defender down into the paint and turned around for a shot fake. He fooled his man, but he didn’t fool Steven Adams — with the first one, at least. There were only about six seconds left on the shot clock and Barnes had picked up his dribble, but he stuck with the play and pump-faked again, and this time Adams bit. That was all Barnes needed to get to the line. That’s a really simple play that wouldn’t have been possible had Barnes rushed the shot or not felt the second defender coming. He’s turning into a really, really good scorer.

  • Dennis Smith Jr. basically owns the Mavericks’ all-time teenager record book. We’ll all have to set that stuff in stone, though, as today the rook turned 20 years old. So begins his 365-day quest to top Dirk’s numbers. That’s for another discussion, though. This was Smith’s second matchup with Russell Westbrook, and unlike the previous meeting, this time around Smith was tasked with the responsibility of guarding the reigning MVP for the majority of time he was on the floor. Once can imagine how tough it must be to try staying in front of that guy, but tonight Smith did his best and for the most part kept Westbrook on the outside. That didn’t stop him from breaking 25, but that’s what the best players always do. Smith overcame two early fouls in the first quarter to score 15 on his birthday — and score a win, which for him is the best part.

  • Rick Carlisle is always a really entertaining guy to watch on the sideline. He can be animated when calling a timeout, he sometimes walks very far onto the floor to call a play, and he always becomes very familiar with the officiating crew. Watch here as Carlisle buddies up with the nearest official and then shares his thoughts on Carmelo Anthony’s footwork.

    Melo certainly dragged his pivot foot, and Carlisle made sure the refs were on top of it. They might have been anyway, but it never hurts to reinforce the point. His applause after the call made it even better.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (5-15) will play the San Antonio Spurs (12-7) on Monday at the AT&T Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs at Thunder

    Final: Thunder 112, Mavs 99

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Harrison Barnes finished with 13 rebounds in this one, a night after grabbing 12 against Cleveland. This was the first time in his career he’s recorded consecutive 12-rebound performances.

    Notebook

  • Dennis Smith Jr. was coming off a stretch of back-to-back games with at least seven assists and two turnovers or fewer, but tonight he committed five giveaways. Playing point guard is never easy, but doing it for two nights in a row is like jumping from learning your times tables to solving a quadratic equation. Aside from the physical rigors of playing the game, there’s a lot of mental exhaustion involved too, and you wonder if that may have played a role in Smith being a little looser with the ball tonight. The Mavs will have a day off tomorrow, though, so hopefully he and the team can regroup and come back sharper on Tuesday night.

  • Harrison Barnes is becoming a consistent scorer again, now with 20-plus-points in four of his last five games, the lone exception being a 17-point outing. For this team to win games, Barnes has got to score a lot, and score it efficiently. The team result obviously wasn’t there tonight, but Barnes scored 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including connecting on two of his four 3-point attempts. This team’s foundation at the moment is clearly Barnes and Smith, so those are the two guys who must consistently bring it on a nightly basis. Barnes has been at that point, and Smith is starting to get there.

  • Smith has done a terrific job for the most part with avoiding frustration when he attacks the basket and takes contact but doesn’t get a call. He drives almost 13 times per game, per SportVU, but earns just 1.8 free throw attempts per game off those drives. He takes plenty of contact in those situations but usually just doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. As he continues to attack, though, he’ll earn more whistles. The key in the meantime, though, is to continue to be aggressive. He did that tonight, attacking the lane 15 times, but he got rewarded with only one free throw attempt.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (2-12) will play the San Antonio Spurs (8-5) on Tuesday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs at Thunder

    Final: Thunder 109, Mavs 98

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Down three point guards due to injury and Dirk Nowitzki due to rest, the Mavs had to find creative ways to generate offense tonight. With the German, the club runs more pick-and-rolls, and without him the offense is more isolation-oriented. Tonight the Mavericks ran 31 isolations, per Mavs analytics, and the team was able to produce 35 points on those possessions. That’s a remarkable clip, as even most good isolation players score closer to 0.9 points per possession.

    Notebook

  • Harrison Barnes can score in so many different ways, but what stands out to me most about his game is his ability to finish around the rim with his left hand. Whether it’s a running float/hook hybrid shot, or a simple dribble-drive and finish, Barnes has demonstrated he’s got very good command and touch with his weak hand, which will prove to be a useful tool for him throughout his career. It means defenders can’t overplay him to his stronger right hand, and in combination with his fading runner floater shot thing (even he hasn’t thought up a name for it yet), Barnes can now shoot his shot depending on what the defender is showing; he can simply read and react to the situation. His tool box is already diverse, and he’s still only 24 years old.

  • Justin Anderson enjoyed his third straight game in double-figures. The sophomore went seven consecutive appearances without even playing double-digit minutes, but in his last three games he’s taken advantage of extra playing time and has produced every time out. Credit to him for staying ready and continuing to work hard and focus despite going through what he himself has said has proven to be a tough year. He expected to play more this season, and now that he finally is, he’s not letting the opportunity pass him by.

  • Stats don’t always tell the whole story; you can still take plenty away from watching the game and paying close attention. Dorian Finney-Smith was tasked with defending Russell Westbrook tonight, and through the first half the MVP candidate scored 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Those are impressive numbers for one half. However, he had zero assists and committed two turnovers, so Finney-Smith and the Mavs defense were able to limit his teammates’ involvement, to a degree. OKC shot 25 free throws in the first half, with many of them coming off of Westbrook passes. Still, the Mavs took a lead into the break, and Finney-Smith’s defense had something to do with it. Keep in mind he usually defends 3s or 4s, and tonight he was defending one of the most explosive point guards in the history of the NBA. Westbrook certainly got his in the second half, but he didn’t have it easy. That guy is just that good.

  • Without Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, and J.J. Barea tonight, Pierre Jackson got his first career start, sharing the backcourt with Seth Curry. Jackson got off to a terrific start, scoring nine points and dishing out four assists through less than two quarters, but he suffered a strained left hamstring and was forced into an early exit. Stay tuned for updates on his status between now and Sunday, when Dallas visits San Antonio. Hopefully he’ll be available, because he played some very nice basketball in the fourth quarter last night against New York, and also tonight against Oklahoma City.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (16-30) play the San Antonio Spurs (26-19) on Sunday at the AT&T Center at 6 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Game 5

    Powell Finishes Alley-Oop

    J.J. Barea finds Dwight Powell for the alley-oop dunk.

    Final: Thunder 118, Mavs 104

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Dirk Nowitzki came into tonight averaging 19.5 points per game in the playoffs. He nearly matched his average in the first half, scoring 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting. He ended with 24. There’s only one Nowitzki, and he made some spectacular plays in this series.

    The Mavs scored 1.542 points per possession in a sizzling second quarter in which they scored 37 points but on only 50.0 percent shooting. They did it by not turning the ball over and grabbing six offensive rebounds, which led to all sorts of easy put-back points, mostly by Dwight Powell.

    Notebook

  • Zaza Pachulia had a monster game, stuffing the stat sheet for maybe the most impressive passing performance by a center in franchise history. The Georgian recorded nine dimes, the second-most by a center in Mavericks history, topped only by Kurt Nimphius’ 10 during the 1983-84 season. (He did it twice that year.) Pachulia was very effective dishing out passes from the elbow as usual, but he also made plays on the move in pick-and-roll situations. With so many playmakers hurt for this team, someone needed to step up and help to move the ball, and Pachulia did a very good job.

  • Dwight Powell might not have received major playing time earlier in the postseason, and he wasn’t even playing steady minutes late in the regular season, but he had a huge game tonight, especially in the first half. Powell was effective on both ends of the floor, using his size and athleticism to battle OKC’s big men on the glass while also contributing in the pick-and-roll and on put-backs offensively. The second-year big man made the most of his minutes in this game, as he was promoted to the third big with both Salah Mejri and David Lee out due to injury. The young big man could have a strong career should he continue improving as either a 4 or a 5 — or, ideally, both. Tonight showed the potential is certainly there.

  • With no Deron Williams tonight, Justin Anderson earned the first starting nod of his postseason career. The Mavs ran an alley-oop play for him on their third possession of the game — what many might remember as the “Roddy play,” named after former Mavs guard Rodrigue Beaubois. Anderson also drew the first assignment on Russell Westbrook, which is a pretty tough task for a rookie. Westbrook got off to a hot start in the first frame, scoring 13 points, although that had less to do Anderson making mistakes than it does Westbrook being a terrific player. He hit a few mid-range and 3-point jumpers in the opening minutes, and if those shots are falling he is nearly unguardable should you make any adjustments and press up more on him, as he has the quickness and force to drive the lane and finish either through you or over you.