Final: Pacers 130, Mavs 121
Box Score | Highlights
Highlights: Mavs vs. Pacers
Deron Williams led the way with 25 points, Dirk added 22 and Harrison Barnes scored 19 in Wednesday's opener against Indiana.
Behind the Box Score
The first quarter saw the Pacers push the ball on offense, particularly after Mavs turnovers or missed shots at the rim. In both situations, it’s tough for the defense to get back and set itself before the speedy Pacers would attack the lane, resulting in some easy buckets. Indy scored 11 points in transition in the opening frame and drove the ball into the lane on 15 possessions in the first quarter alone, scoring 22 paint points, and both numbers are too high for the Mavs’ liking. (The club was able to curb that drive rate later in the game.) There does appear to be a correlation between turnovers and paint points allowed, at least for the Mavericks, who generally did a good job last season of keeping teams away from the rim in halfcourt situations.
After attempting just 37 corner 3s all of last season, and making only 11, Dirk Nowitzki drilled one from the left corner early in the second quarter. The Big German can usually be found launching long-range Js closer to the top of the arc, but in this one he actually took two from the corner, the most he’s taken in a single game in quite some time. It’ll be interesting to see if he takes more of them this season than in recent years. Statistically the corner 3 is an easier shot, but Nowitzki has always seemed to prefer the straight-on shot instead (and it’s tough to argue with the results he’s produced).
Nowitzki drained four 3-pointers total in this one despite getting off to a slow start from the field. He started hot from deep last season as well, so the key for the Mavs is finding a way to help the German sustain this quick start as the schedule picks up.
As regular season games go, this was about as entertaining as they come. It was end-to-end, close, competitive, and unpredictable. There were huge momentum swings and each team seemed to come up with a few haymakers, particularly in the second half. As the games add up, the Mavs will become more familiar with one another and these close, late-game situations will become more just a bit easier. That obviously isn’t to say the team played poorly in those moments tonight — Harrison Barnes’ game-tying 3 with just 2.3 seconds left stands out, of course — but this team will become even more comfortable in clutch situations as the season wears on. Credit to Dallas, as well, for coming up with a terrific look on the last possession in regulation despite not having a timeout beforehand.
As this was the first game, we saw all sorts of lineup combinations from Rick Carlisle, surely testing everything he’s got to see what works best for Dallas. In the second quarter he seemed to find something, running out a Barea-Williams-Matthews-Barnes-Nowitzki group with 3:26 left in the second quarter. That fivesome quickly cut the Pacers’ 14-point advantage in half before the intermission, using wide-open space on offense to score easy buckets from all over the place. Defensively, that group lacks a true rim protector, but against a team like Indiana that isn’t such a bad thing, given Pacers center Myles Turner has more of a perimeter-oriented game at this point in his career. Barnes played a lot of minutes in this game at power forward, as well, which could be something that continues later on this season. However, with Quincy Acy and potentially Dwight Powell also vying for playing time, that is certainly subject to change based on what Carlisle sees on tape, and also on the opponent on any given night.
Another bizarre, but very effective, lineup featured Barea, Williams, Seth Curry, Justin Anderson, and Dirk at center. That lineup totally blitzed the Pacers by playing at a frenetic pace on offense and coming up with enough stops on defense, especially by forcing a few turnovers. That group launched an insane run, outscoring the Pacers by eight points in a matter of minutes, to claim Dallas’ first lead of the night, 97-96, with just over eight minutes to go in the game. If you can’t beat ’em at a slow pace, dial it up a bit and see what happens. That group was able to capture some magic.
Deron Williams was sensational in this game, scoring a team-high 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting, including hitting five 3s, a feat he only accomplished once last season. Williams had a couple unforced errors early in the game but he recovered, almost single-handedly keeping the Mavs in the game in the middle two quarters by draining several 3s coming off Andrew Bogut screens and consistently finding ways to create his own shot. Nowitzki wasn’t being hyperbolic over the summer when he called Williams the team’s best player last season. He certainly was the most effective clutch player in basketball, and so far this season, at least, he’s continued to produce in Dallas.
The Mavs (0-1) play the Houston Rockets (0-0) on Friday Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m. Central.