Final: Mavs 113, Nets 104
Not sure what else can be said about J.J. Barea that hasn’t already been said since the beginning of last season, so I’ll just give you his stats: 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting, eight assists against two turnovers, two steals, and a +8 rating in 26 minutes off the bench. He was primarily matched up against Kyrie Irving, who very well could be the best non-LeBron point guard in the NBA. (Devin Harris, meanwhile, was +15 in just 17 minutes, and he basically exclusively played with Barea.) The Mavs have scored 111.8 points per 100 possessions with Barea on the floor this season, per NBA Stats, which is the highest mark on the team of anyone who has played at least 50 minutes. Without him, they score just 102.1, which is the lowest of anyone on the team. He’s the engine, the guiding force, of maybe the best bench in the league. The guy is a hero, and DeAndre Jordan treated him as one after Barea hit a dagger in the fourth quarter.
Henceforth, Barea shall be carried everywhere he goes. That’s just the law.
Luka Doncic got the surprise start at point guard tonight, with Dennis Smith Jr. out due to a right wrist sprain. (He should be back on Wednesday night.) He was positively spectacular in the first quarter, stringing together a dazzling display of assists.
He also drained a 3-pointer late in the shot clock which nearly blew the roof off the building less than eight minutes into the game.
Doncic’s eight assists matched his career high. He also hit at least three 3s in a game for the eighth time this season, most by far among rookies. His next closest in that category are Trae Young and Landry Shamet, who have done it four times apiece. We are witnessing something special developing in front of our very eyes. He reveals more and more of his game every time he takes the floor, and while he certainly has plenty of things to improve on, he’s already so far ahead of where he “should” be as a rookie that it’s difficult to get too upset with his drawbacks, as few as there are. Doncic already has incredible feel, vision, and touch for a 6-foot-8 wing, let alone the fact that he’s 19 years old. And he’s only going to get better.
Rick Carlisle rolled with Barea and Maxi Kleber late in this game, in favor of Harrison Barnes (who scored 20 points) and Dorian Finney-Smith (whose defense and energy gave a much-needed boost when things went stale). Carlisle has shown over the years that he’s going to ride the hot hand, or hot lineup, on any given night, even if it means sitting starters. The coach did say that had he given the two starters their typical dosage of minutes in the second half, they would’ve been pushing 40 for the game, and he wants to avoid that as much as he can this season. Fortunately, Barea had a terrific scoring game and Kleber was able to provide a similar defensive presence as Finney-Smith, so the two backups were relatively seamless replacements. Carlisle glowed about his team’s depth after the game, and for good reason; every single backup player has a positive on-floor net rating this season. Every single one. That’s quite a stat. Depth helps you win, there’s no question about it.
The Mavs (9-9) will play everyone’s favorite rival, the Houston Rockets, on Wednesday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.