Here are my 5 takeaways form the Dallas Mavericks’ 106-100 loss to the Philadelphia 6ers on Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center:
1. END OF A BRUTAL STRETCH: This just wasn’t the end of a stretch where the Mavs played 14 games in 25 days in 11 different cities and four different time zones. This was the end of a stretch where it seemed like all 14 games were on the road. The trip included four sets of back-to-backs – including one where both ends were a home-and-home series against Oklahoma City. The Mavs also played two games in a row against New Orleans. In addition, the Mavs played at Denver, which has the best record in the Western Conference, and had a back-to-back at Boston and Philadelphia, two of the top contenders to win the East. It also included a game at Golden State, which won the last two NBA titles. The Mavs finished the 25-day excursion with a 4-10 record.
2. A RYAN BROEKHOFF SIGHTING: One thing that jumped off the charts in regards to Ryan Broekhoff during training camp was his ability to shoot the ball. Broekhoff’s shooting expedition was on full display Saturday when he scored a career-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shots in just 22 minutes. Broekhoff, who also converted three of his five 3-point shot attempts, was dialing them in from all over Wells Fargo Center as he Sixers had difficulties trying to contain the 6-7 guard. While Broekhoff’s shining moment may have surprised many, it wasn’t to the Mavs, who know he can go get buckets at a moment’s notice. And all of this came one game after he was on the inactive list. In addition, among the 19 players who played Saturday, the +12 Broekhoff finished the game with was exceeded only by the +13 Philadelphia’s JJ Redick recorded.
3. BENCH CONTINUES TO SHINE: Hailed as one of the best in the business, the Mavs’ bench showed exactly why on Saturday. Even without three of its top players in J. J. Barea, Devin Harris and Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs’ reserves outscored the team’s starters, 51-49, outrebounded the starters, 25-24, and converted more field goals than the starters – 20-18 – although they combined to play approximately 19 less minutes than the starters. Ryan Broekhoff dusted off the rust and scored 15 points off the bench for the Mavs, Dwight Powell contributed 13 points and four rebounds, and Maxi Kleber added six points and seven boards. Also, rookie Jalen Brunson finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. The reserves were 20-of-42 from the field, while the starters were 18-of-46 from the floor.
4. BRUNSON TRIPLE-DOUBLE THREAT: What a great homecoming this was for Jalen Brunson. The rookie from Philadelphia-based Villanova played his best game of the season in front of family members and friends while finishing just two assists shy of a triple-double. Not only did Brunson collect 13 points and manufacture season highs in rebounds with 11 and assists with eight, he was simply in attack mode all night. Brunson’s board work was so efficient that the only players who finished the game with more rebounds was Philadelphia’s dynamic duo of Ben Simmons (14) and Joel Embiid (12). From a psychological standpoint, while it’s something about these “homecoming” games that brings out the best in players, they also can go south. Fortunately for Brunson, he proved again that he was one of the steals of last summer’s draft.
5. MATTHEWS HAD HIS SHOOTING STROKE: Wesley Matthews continues to show that he’s in the midst of a solid season in terms of his shot-making. The 10-year veteran finished Saturday’s game with a team-high 18 points on 7-of-11 shots. He also was 4-of-7 from behind the 3-point arc. It’s the ninth time this season Matthews has made at least four 3-pointers in a game and the first time since he went 7-of-11 from downtown in a Dec. 22 road game against the Golden State Warriors. This also was the seventh time Matthews converted at least seven field goals in a game this season. Overall, Matthews is shooting 42.3 percent from the field. It’s his best season since he shot 44.8 percent from the field in the 2014-’15 season. And his 39.4 percent shooting from downtown is his best since he shot 39.8 percent during the 2012-‘13 campaign.