Here are my 5 takeaways from the Dallas Mavericks’ 106-101 win over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night at American Airlines Center:
1. MEET ME AT HE RIM: I’m not sure why folks continue to underestimate Maxi Kleber as a shot-blocker. To steal a line from the great Dikembe Mutombo, don’t these guys have cable? While Kleber doesn’t have Mutombo’s impressive resume, for those who think they can just mosey their way inside the paint and score without their progress being impeded, their access will probably be denied by Kleber. Such was the case Friday as Kleber blocked four shots – two of them during the pivotal fourth-quarter crunch-time – that helped the Mavs win this game. Kleber also scored 12 points and was 4-of-7 from 3-point land. Those four treys are the most he’s made in a game this season.
2. STAGGERING POINT GUARD PLAY: For the second straight game, that shrewd move by coach Rick Carlisle of staggering the play of his point guards paid wonderful dividends. Dennis Smith Jr. starts each half at point guard, then at some point Luka Doncic goes to the bench, only to resurface and replace Smith at point guard. The move keeps everybody happy. More importantly, the ball is hopping around the perimeter – the Mavs had 24 assists against the Pistons — and the Mavs are 2-0 under this revised plan. Doncic finished the game with 32 points – two shy of his career high – eight rebounds and eight assists, and Smith added 19 points and five assists.
3. MATCHUP IN THE MIDDLE: One of the storylines entering the game was the huge center matchup between the Mavs’ DeAndre Jordan and the Pistons’ Andre Drummond. The two massive men are two of the last true down-in-the-trenches, backs-to-the-rim centers still roaming the NBA hardwood. Drummond came in leading the league in rebounds with 14.9 rpg, while Jordan was second with 14 rpg. Jordan shook off some early foul problems Friday to finish with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Drummond collected 23 points and 15 rebounds. It was an unofficial wrestling match all night as it was a joy to see some old-school center action for a change.
4. BENCH BACK AT IT: After taking a serious hit when they lost point guard J. J. Barea earlier this month due to season-ending right Achilles tendon surgery, the Mavs’ bench has slowly rebounded and returned to their formidable ways. On Friday, the Mavs reserves outscored their Pistons counterparts, 33-15. They also outrebounded them 17-16, and produced more assists (6-4), steals (4-2) and blocks (5-0). Maxi Kleber (12 points, four blocks) was the big contributor off the bench for the Mavs, with some major assistance from Dwight Powell (nine points, six rebounds) and Dorian Finney-Smith (nine points, seven rebounds, two steals).
5. HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS: After losing three of four games at home, the Mavs have righted themselves and have now won their last two games at American Airlines Center. That gives Dallas an overall home record of 18-6, which ties it with Golden State and Indiana for the sixth-best home record in the NBA. Following Tuesday’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers and Friday’s victory over the Detroit Pistons, the Mavs are 2-0 on this three-game home stand that concludes Sunday at 6 p.m. against the Toronto Raptors. The Mavs have manufactured four perfect 2-0 home stands this season. They also went 3-0 at home from Dec. 8-12 with wins over Houston, Orlando and Atlanta.