Final: Rockets 93, Mavs 92
Box Score | Highlights
Behind the Box Score
Despite shooting only 42.9 percent from the field in the second quarter, the Mavs scored 1.167 points per possession, well above the league average, which usually floats around 1.02. The key? Dallas took 12 free throw attempts and collected five offensive rebounds, giving the club not only extra looks at the basket, but also unguarded attempts from the charity stripe. During that quarter, James Harden picked up his third foul, as well.
The Mavs’ defense got better by the quarter. After allowing 1.417 PPP in the first frame, Dallas allowed 1.160 in the second, 0.773 in the third, and 0.619 in the fourth. The Rockets scored only 13 points in the fourth. That’s a vastly improved performance over Dallas’ showing Friday night. If there’s a positive to take away from this one, it’s that the defense dialed it up when it had to.
This is hopefully the end to what has truly been a bizarre first three games of the season for the Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki missed both legs of the home-and-home against Houston, which certainly affected not only the Mavs’ preparation for the game, but also their execution on the court. Nowitzki is still a huge piece of this offense; his impact on opponents’ spacing alone is enough to swing another few points the Mavs’ way on any given night. Two of the first three games coming against the same team is also a strange occurrence. Dallas’ next opponent is the Jazz, who are suffering from injury woes. With two full days in between games, the Mavs should hopefully get Nowitzki back in time to take the full starting five to Utah.
Wesley Matthews had an enormous third quarter in this game, scoring 10 of his 25 points. It was good to see Matthews have such a loud frame after difficult shooting performances in each of his first two appearances this season, though his final stat line might not suggest it. It also brought the Mavs back into the game, having trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half, but the closed in to as little as one in the third. He also played straight-up unreal defense on James Harden in the fourth quarter and hit a trey to tie with 4.1 seconds left.
J.J. Barea and Deron Williams both faced minor injury scares to varying degrees in the second quarter. Williams took a hard foul on an inbound pass and briefly left the game, appearing to favor his right knee. After trainer Casey Smith checked it out on the bench, Williams put a sleeve on his right knee and returned to the game, immediately driving the lane and drawing another foul. Barea, meanwhile, took a fall on a fast break moments later and appeared to tweak his left knee, but despite a few grimaces here and there, he seemed to rebound just fine, connecting on both free throws after the foul and hitting a 3-pointer in the same quarter. With Devin Harris out for at least another couple weeks, the Mavs obviously are keeping a close eye on the rest of the guards’ health, hoping things can remain normal until Harris eventually returns. Elsewhere in the backcourt, Seth Curry got the start at 2-guard with Dirk Nowitzki out.
Nowitzki missed his second consecutive game due to illness. The Big German participated in shootaround and went through his usual pregame routine, but apparently didn’t feel well enough to play. The Mavs are understandably being cautious with their 38-year-old star, but at this point there is no reason to believe he’ll be unavailable to play in Utah, given he traveled with the team and had been listed to start the game until literally the last possible second. Stay tuned for updates regardless.
The Mavs (0-3) play the Utah Jazz (1-2) at Energy Solutions Arena on Sunday at 8 p.m. Central.