Final: Mavs 93, Timberwolves 87
Box Score | Highlights
Behind the Box Score
After taking a season-high 44 three-pointers in Friday’s loss at Milwaukee, the Mavericks made it a point to come out of the gates aggressive and get to the rim. Dallas got the ball into the paint on eight of its first nine possessions in this game and 14 of its first 18 overall. That type of penetration generally leads to better outside looks as well, as the defense will tend to collapse just a little bit harder in an effort to limit Mavs rim attacks. That trend continued throughout the game, as the Mavs got the ball into the lane on 32 first-half possessions, while the Wolves did just 14 times in the same span. There was no question as to who was the more aggressive team.
The Mavs have now limited opponents to five or fewer made three-pointers in back-to-back games for the first time this season. The Timberwolves don’t hoist many treys to begin with, but the Mavs closed out aggressively all game and made things difficult in general on the edge, mostly by preventing them from getting the ball into the paint. If you can’t penetrate, it’s hard for shooters to get open.
You’ve got to love the Mavs’ lineup of J.J. Barea, Devin Harris, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, and JaVale McGee. The Mavs’ “second unit,” which includes two starters, has been running teams out of the gym lately. Tonight that group was a +12 when it was on the floor. Barea and Parsons work well together with McGee in the pick-and-roll, while Nowitzki spaces the floor and Harris gives the Mavs a constant fast break, change-of-pace threat. It’s probably the Mavs’ most versatile, explosive offensive group, reminiscent of the Mavs’ second unit from the 2013-14 season which included Harris, Nowitzki, Brandan Wright, Vince Carter, and Jae Crowder. That lineup has shooting, athleticism, speed, veteran savvy, and a pesky defensive attitude that usually forces opponents into turnovers or mental mistakes. It’s easily the lineup I’m most excited to see moving forward.
Dallas overcame a tough start, trailing 12-4 early in the first quarter as the Wolves hit their first five shots, by answering with an immediate 10-2 run to nearly erase the deficit, and eventually the club took the lead and never looked back. Zaza Pachulia was chief among several Mavericks who expressed frustration with the way the club has been playing early in games lately, so it was good to see the carrying out of their wishes by playing hard right away, especially on the road against a team the Mavericks lead in the standings. That type of sense of urgency is going to be extremely important moving forward for the team, as its next 10 games is pretty tough, including tilts with the Cavaliers, Thunder, Spurs, and Bulls, and that’s just scratching the surface.
Both teams got off to a bit of a slow start in terms of jump-shooting, especially from outside the paint. Minnesota was 5 of 17 from the field outside the paint in the first frame, while the Mavs were 2 of 10. More interestingly, the Mavs took just one shot from the left side of the floor in the opening period, and it wasn’t even outside the paint. You don’t see a shot distribution like this very often.
Nowitzki has now scored 20+ points in four consecutive games, his longest such streak since Jan.-Feb. 2014 (7). He shot it beautifully tonight, even nearly connecting on a 30-foot, Steph Curry-range trey to beat the shot clock in the fourth quarter. He was on fire all night long, which is good to see, as his shooting percentages in recent weeks haven’t been where we’ve come to expect them. Great shooters like Dirk only need one good shooting night to get back going again, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he continues to light it up as we head into the All-Star break.
Neither Wesley Matthews nor Deron Williams hit a field goal in the first three quarters of the game. That the Mavs still won despite that fact speaks volumes to the club’s depth and the ability for reserves to step up and make major contributions to a win. You just aren’t going to have it every night in this league, but when your teammates can step up when the shots aren’t falling, it’s much easier to brush it off and attack the next game confidently.
The Mavs (22-16) play the Cleveland Cavaliers (25-9) Tuesday at American Airlines Center. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. Central.