The Fast Break: Mavs at Spurs

Final: Spurs 98, Mavs 96

Box Score | Highlights

Behind the Box Score

Tonight was Dirk Nowitzki’s 1,424th game, tying Kevin Willis for sixth place on the all-time career games played list. If Nowitzki ends up playing all 82 games this season, he’ll move past Kevin Garnett and into a tie with Karl Malone for fourth place all-time at 1,476. Playing all 82 would be some feat at this age, but that’s Nowitzki’s goal. (And so is staying healthy and happy enough to play season No. 21.)

Notebook

  • Dirk Nowitzki could hit turnaround jumpers over helplessly mismatched point guards until he’s 50 years old.

    The German has now scored at least 16 points in four of his last eight games and has scored 18-plus two games in a row. He’s been in a really nice run of form lately, and it remains extremely fun to watch him work when he’s got it going. That guy is 39 years old and he’s still getting buckets. Incredible.

  • Yogi Ferrell filled up the stat sheet tonight. The second-year pro finished 17 points, a career-high 11 rebounds, and six assists. He became the first Mavs point guard to have a points/rebounds double-double since Jason Kidd. Ferrell has done a nice job filling in at starting 1 for the injured Dennis Smith Jr., scoring in double-figures in four straight games. One thing that’s been tough to manage while he’s been starting, however, is finding a way to bend the rotation so that he still gets on the court alongside J.J. Barea and Devin Harris. Rick Carlisle was able to make it happen in the first half, and the Mavs immediately went on a 7-0 run. Here was the first bucket of said run.

    Ferrell hit us all with the hesi and got to the rim. It was one of many nice plays he made in this one, with most of them coming on the inglorious boards.

  • Last year was Yogimania, and now might it be time for Maximania…? That dude is ballin’ lately, and it continued tonight. Kleber scored a career-high 21 points, becoming the first Mavs rookie forward since Dirk Nowitzki to score at least 20 in a game, per Basketball-Reference, a stat that’s almost too poetic to be true. Kleber did it in a variety of ways, draining three 3s but also mixing in a nice alley-oop layup from Nowitzki and a vicious dunk.


    What’s Next

    The Mavs (8-22) will play the Phoenix Suns (9-21) on Monday at the American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Spurs

    Final: Mavs 95, Spurs 89

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Due to Yogi Ferrell starting, it takes quite a bit of maneuvering to get the Barea-Ferrell-Harris-Dirk-Powell lineup on the floor. But Rick Carlisle was able to pull it off in the fourth quarter of this one, and that group outscored the Spurs by nine points in just a few minutes with inspired play at both ends, including maybe Dwight Powell’s most effective game of the season.

    The Spurs had won the previous five games in the series at American Airlines Center heading into this one. Last season the Mavs ended a heck of a drought by winning in San Antonio, too. The Spurs remain an elite team in this conference, but Dallas has managed to play them awfully competitively now for a couple years.

    Notebook

  • J.J. Barea is a wizard. Watch these plays and then tell me that magic isn’t real.

    Show me all the evidence suggesting the opposite that you want, but I’ll tell you you’re wrong. That Barea is 33 years old and still doing this to opposing teams is a testament not only to his longevity, but also his ability to keep working to improve even at this stage of his career.

  • The Spurs are notorious for double-teaming bigger players in the post, especially when they have a mismatch, which really forces those guys to be aware and able to make good passes. When executed well, those situations can produce some really beautiful basketball, like in the sequences below.

    If Harrison Barnes can ever become the passer Dirk Nowitzki is, especially out of double-teams, he can become a really special player and a very difficult guy for opposing teams to guard.

  • Antonius Cleveland didn’t get as many minutes tonight as he did on Sunday in Minnesota, but the rookie was still able to block another mid-range pull-up, which has become one of the toughest shots to block in the league. This time around, he got Kawhi Leonard.

    Leonard made his season debut tonight and was otherwise sensational. (He’s the second key Spur to debut against Dallas this season, joining Tony Parker.) But Cleveland was still able to make some nice plays against the superstar forward, which gives you hope that he can continue to improve in his blossoming role off the bench.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (8-20) will play the Golden State Warriors (22-6) on Thursday at Oracle Arena at 9:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs at Spurs

    Final: Spurs 115, Mavs 108

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Tonight was a matchup of three of the top-four players on the active all-time wins list. Dirk Nowitzki (880) still reigns supreme at the moment, trailed by Tony Parker (831) in second place and Manu Ginobili (734) in fourth place. All three are international players, too, which is pretty awesome. By the way, Jason Terry ranks third on that liast with 752 career Ws. All in all, seven of the top-10 in active wins have played for either the Mavs or Spurs in their career. If you’re telling a story of the NBA’s last 20 seasons, you might as well start with these two teams and work your way down from there. The Lakers won five titles and the Heat peaked high as well, but the two Texas teams sustained longer periods of consistency. It’s very impressive stuff.

    Notebook

  • As has been the case for a decade or more, the Spurs double-teamed Dirk Nowitzki on the baseline pretty much every time he touched it. They did the same thing to Harrison Barnes, too, and he admitted it caught him by surprise the first time he saw that coverage last season. It makes sense to double on the baseline when you’re working at a size disadvantage because the sideline becomes a third defender and you can play passing lanes to force turnovers. Dirk has seen it forever so it doesn’t necessarily fool him at this point, but it means other players have got to make shots when the ball swings their way. Not many teams double-team Dirk anymore as consistently as San Antonio does. It takes a lot of discipline to do it.

  • Dwight Powell has been on a nice little run lately and that continued tonight. Powell ended this game with a +20 plus/minus rating, which is pretty astonishing given the final score. He gives the Mavs a vertical roll presence on offense and has quick hands on defense, which leads to a lot of forced steals. He had four of them in this one. The undersized group with him, J.J. Barea, Devin Harris, Yogi Ferrell, and Dirk continues to play really good defense, primarily out of the zone. That unit doesn’t include a wing yet manages to force a lot of tough shots and rebounds the ball well, a good recipe for any lineup.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (5-16) will play the Brooklyn Nets (7-12) on Wednesday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Timberwolves

    Final: Wolves 111, Mavs 87

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    With a made bucket at the 11:45 mark of the second quarter, Dirk Nowitzki (10,751) moved past Hakeem Olajuwon into eighth place on the all-time career made field goals list.

    The Mavericks allowed just 43 points in the first half, a new season-low. The previous lowest was 44, done three times.

    Notebook

  • This was a tale of two halves in many ways for rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and his team. The Mavericks took a 55-43 lead into the break thanks in large part to Smith’s play, but then the third quarter reared its ugly head and the offense took a turn for the worse. On the positive side, the ball was flying all over the place in the first half and a lot of that has to do with how Smith was willing to share the ball. Dallas is at its best when the ball doesn’t stick and instead finds itself in the hands of players at every position in all areas of the floor. On two occasions, Smith was able to use a downhill attack to open things up for a shooter. First, he drove it and forced the defense to collapse before finding Wesley Matthews.

    Then, for the first time his rim-running off the ball created some gravity to pull Harrison Barnes’ defender into the paint and leave Barnes open for 3.

    Typically only a big man will have such an extreme effect on a help defender when moving toward the rim, but Smith has become a pretty fearsome dunker so it was only a matter of time before defenses started showing him respect in those situations. That’s what worked well for Dallas in the first half.

  • There are still growing pains with Smith — as to be expected for any teenager playing heavy minutes in a position of responsibility at this level — and many of those things showed up in the second half. The Dallas offense slowed down quite a bit after halftime, which hurt the inside-out game that the Mavs thrived on in the first two quarters. It’s much tougher for the Mavs to attack early in the shot clock off a make than it is a miss, and it’s tougher for them to stop the other team off a miss than a make, so that chain presents a problem when shots aren’t falling: The offense isn’t helping the defense, which isn’t helping the offense, which isn’t helping the defense, and so on. The Mavs have to improve in the third quarter. It’s certainly unfair to blame Smith any more than you would blame another player on the roster; Rick Carlisle himself said the entire team is at fault for something like this. Part of Smith’s development is finding ways to continue attacking a defense after the halftime break, during which opposing teams regroup and make adjustments. I suspect as time goes on he’ll improve in that area.

  • In yet another lineup shake-up, Maxi Kleber got the first start of his career, joining the typical core of Smith-Matthews-Barnes-Dirk. Kleber has been a pretty consistent on-off positive for the team most of this season, and frankly he earned more minutes after his performance Tuesday night against San Antonio. Kleber had a pretty quiet night on the stat sheet but sometimes that’s going to happen to you when you go up against a star like Karl-Anthony Towns. It’ll be interesting to see who gets the start tomorrow night against Milwaukee.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (2-14) will play the Milwaukee Bucks (8-6) on Saturday at American Airlines Center at 8 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Spurs

    Final: Spurs 97, Mavs 91

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    This was by far the slowest game in terms of possessions the Mavs have played in a while. The Spurs rank toward the bottom in pace and the Mavs aren’t too far ahead of them, so you know when two slower teams meet, the possessions will be few. That means they come at a premium, because you’re not going to get too many chances with the ball. Things like turnovers and allowing offensive rebounds can be even more costly in a game like this

    JJ Barea had been shooting just 2 of 10 on 3-pointers in his last two games before this one, but tonight he shot 3 of 6 to get back on track and bust the slump.

    This was Dennis Smith Jr.’s seventh straight game with at least 15 points. It’s the longest such streak by a Mavs rookie since Jamal Mashburn did it 15 consecutive times from February to March 1994. Keep the team’s rookie record book and an eraser handy, because Smith is going to find his name on more and more all-time franchise lists. He finished with a career-high 27 points tonight.

    Notebook

  • Harrison Barnes has said many times in his years as a Maverick that having to bang with bigs in the post on defense takes a toll on his legs when it comes time to hoist jumpers on offense. You never want to assume, but Barnes’ shooting line tonight makes you wonder if having to defend LaMarcus Aldridge down low affected him on the other end. Make no mistake: Barnes is fully capable of exploiting a quickness advantage against bigger, slower defenders, but the Spurs are so good defensively that as a unit San Antonio is capable of making up for that and still forcing difficult shots. Barnes still managed to break into double-figures and went to the free throw line five times, which was good to see. The good news is there aren’t many teams in the NBA who have the combination of system and personnel that the Spurs do. Most nights, Barnes, has the edge in this kind of matchup.

  • Maxi Kleber got some significant playing time tonight due to the absences of Devin Harris and Dorian Finney-Smith. The German rookie was effective in his time on the floor, too, scoring five points and blocking a shot. He threw down one of the better dunks we’ve seen in the building this season:

    And he soon after followed it up with a blocked shot and another dunk:

    Rick Carlisle said this morning that Finney-Smith will be out “a while,” and while Harris likely won’t miss too much more time, the fact remains that there are wing minutes to be had on this team. If Kleber can continue to be productive, he could be the one to claim that playing time.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (2-13) will play the Minnesota Timberwolves (8-5) on Friday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs at Spurs

    Final: Mavs 105, Spurs 101

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Dirk Nowitzki swatted a Kawhi Leonard 3-pointer at the end of the second quarter. It was his first 3-point block since Nov. 22, 2014, and just his fifth overall since 2006, according to Basketball-Reference. He finished with four blocks, his most in a game since Jan. 29, 2016, and just his second four-block game since the end of the 2013-14 season. Even at age 38, Dirk does stuff we haven’t really seen him do too often.

    This was the Mavs’ first regular-season win in San Antonio since Nov. 26, 2010. They had previously lost 12 straight games at the AT&T Center.

    The Spurs missed eight free throws, while the Mavericks missed just one. Those points mattered a whole heck of a lot tonight.

    Notebook

  • On the floor for the Mavs during a game-deciding run were Yogi Ferrell, Seth Curry, Dorian Finney-Smith, Harrison Barnes, and Dwight Powell. The oldest player of that group is Curry, 26. Dirk Nowitzki and Wesley Matthews contributed heavily, of course, but the Mavs’ youngsters were able to create even more separation and help to close the deal down the stretch. During one sequence, Barnes made a terrific pass out of a double-team to Curry for 3, Ferrell made an excellent drive and dish to Powell for a dunk, and Barnes hit a couple tough mid-range Js in-between. Some of the vets checked back in in the closing moments, but the fact remains: All of a sudden, wins like this can make young players believe in themselves even more and continue to build their confidence. That can only mean good things for the Mavs, who escape San Antonio with perhaps an unexpected win, but one whose benefits could be on display moving forward for this team for potentially some time.

  • This was point guard Yogi Ferrell’s Mavericks debut, and less than 36 hours after putting pen to paper to sign his 10-day contract, the 6-foot rookie was starting. He is the first player in franchise history to start his first game of a 10-day deal with Dallas, per the TV broadcast. Rick Carlisle has praised Ferrell for his smarts and basketball IQ, and that element of his game was on display tonight. It’s not that he did anything super fancy or Jason Kidd-esque, but Ferrell played within himself and within the Mavs’ offensive system, which isn’t an easy thing to do in a player’s very first game with a team. He finished with nine points (including two very late, equally clutch free throws), seven assists, and two steals in this one. I would imagine he could be the starter again tomorrow night at Cleveland.

  • Seth Curry scored a career-high 24 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including a late layup to put the Mavericks up five. We are running out of ways to say Harrison Barnes is good, and the same truth is becoming evident with Curry. He also added a career-high 10 rebounds to go along with five assists and a steal, in perhaps his finest performance as a pro.

  • Justin Anderson didn’t receive a ton of playing time tonight — only seven minutes — but he looked good once again. The play which stood out most was a dribble-drive around LaMarcus Aldridge in the first half, with Anderson putting on the burners to get past the big man and finish at the rim. Those are the “simple” plays he needs to make to remain a vital cog in the Mavs’ rotation. The second-year wing is competing with Wesley Matthews and Dorian Finney-Smith for minutes, and Finney-Smith’s baseline drive and dunk was one of the highlights of the game, so while playing time might not come as consistently as the younger two of the group would hope, but they’ve got to continue taking advantage of the opportunities when they earn them.

  • An issue with Andrew Bogut’s hamstring flared up in this one, and he was ruled doubtful to return in the second half. He ultimately did not retake the floor. Stay tuned for updates on his status for tomorrow night’s tilt with the Cavs in Dallas.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (17-30) play the Cleveland Cavaliers (32-14) on Monday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Spurs

    Final: Spurs 94, Mavs 87

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Dallas launched a huge 15-0 run in the third quarter, using some hot shooting and terrific team defense to turn a 12-point deficit into a Mavs lead. The Mavericks shot better than 50 percent in the frame while the Spurs shot under 40, with the points per possession advantage going to Dallas, 1.130 to 0.783.

    The Mavs limited the Spurs to just 0.88 points per halfcourt possession in the first quarter, per Mavs analytics, but still trailed 21-17 at the end of the frame because of turnovers and second chances. Dallas gave it away five times in the frame and allowed the Spurs a total of eight points off of fast breaks and offensive rebounds. Conversely, Dallas scored five second-chance points but none on the fast break. In many ways, offensive execution can help your defense — avoiding giveaways limits fast breaks and increases your chances of scoring.

    Notebook

  • Wesley Matthews has been scorching lately (which you already knew) and he continued his red-hot run tonight, scoring a game-high 26 points on 8-of-19 shooting, including knocking down five more 3-pointers. This little roll he’s been on isn’t so little anymore. And while it might be silly (and unfair) to think he’ll continue shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc for the rest of the season, this has certainly been a not-so-subtle way of putting his slow start out of memory. His per-game stats across the board are now right at or better than they were last season, and his shooting numbers have been incredible these last couple weeks. He’s been fun to watch.

  • The Spurs were without Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Pau Gasol tonight, which is plenty of firepower. But both Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge played for San Antonio, and the Mavs held them in check beautifully, especially through the first 40 minutes, containing the two stars to just 26 points combined on 7-of-24 shooting. The Dallas defense has done a very good job this season, even when taking into account the sheer volume of injuries the club has incurred. But between Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, and rookie Dorian Finney-Smith, the Mavericks still start four quality defensive players. The offense has lacked explosiveness at times, but the defense has been very good for large chunks of the season.

  • Devin Harris made his season debut tonight, after missing the first 16 games of the season with a foot injury stemming from a shoe issue in the final preseason game. He finished scoreless in just 11 minutes, reaching his minutes limit in the first half. Harris’ return helps to alleviate some of the depth concerns in the backcourt, as the Mavericks have been without him and J.J. Barea for much of the season, and Deron Williams has also been dealing with injuries and minutes restrictions for most of the campaign as well. Hopefully the other injured Mavs will be back into the mix soon. It’s unclear if Harris will play tomorrow night in Charlotte.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (3-14) play the Charlotte Hornets (10-8) on Wednesday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.