Final: Mavs 97, Clippers 95
Box Score | Highlights
Behind the Box Score
J.J. Barea was a team-best +12 tonight. Unfortunately, though, the backup point guard was ejected in the second half for a flagrant-2 foul on Blake Griffin. It was a weird tussle between the two, especially given one is a foot taller than the other. But the play seemed to ignite the Mavs, even if only temporarily, and certainly injected some energy into the crowd.
It seems lately like the more free throws the Mavs shoot, the better they play. I know that might sound silly, but bear with me here. Dallas scored just 19 points in the second quarter, and attempted only four free throws. In the third quarter, though, the Mavericks attacked the basket more often, generated better shots, and attempted seven free throws. Dallas has plenty of good free throw shooters. If the Mavericks can consistently earn more trips to the charity stripe, the points are going to come much more efficiently.
This game felt all along like it would come down to the final couple possessions. The teams traded big runs early — read below for that — but all along it seemed like this would be a dramatic thriller, and it delivered. The teams swapped the lead for most of the fourth quarter before Harrison Barnes gave the Mavs a one-point advantage with a minute left. After missed shots by both teams, Barnes turned it over at one end then stripped Blake Griffin on the other to basically seal it for Dallas. That’s a big-time defensive play by a player known more for his offensive performance this season. This was a big win for a team that still has an outside shot at the playoffs, and a nice bounce-back after Tuesday night’s loss to the Warriors.
Basketball is a game of runs, and there were plenty of them in tonight’s game. The Clippers ended the first half on a 22-4 extended spurt to take a 54-48 lead, but the Mavericks countered with a 13-2 run to open the third quarter and reclaim the lead. In this case, the halftime buzzer came at the perfect time for Dallas, who committed a technical foul and surrendered a 4-point play in the closing moments of the opening act. Sometimes things can fall apart pretty quickly in a game, but the Mavericks did a good job regrouping and coming out strong in the third quarter to jump back out in front. Golden State delivered a similar blow midway through the second quarter on Tuesday night, but the Mavs weren’t able to counter as decisively as they did tonight.
Seth Curry started the game at point guard, and Nerlens Noel started at center, his second start since joining the Mavericks. Curry looked comfortable running the offense, but interestingly it was Wesley Matthews who did a lot of the facilitating from the 2-guard spot. The wing has been productive in the passing game lately, recording at least four assists for his third time in five outings. If he can complement Curry’s playmaking with some of his own, this Mavs starting lineup could survive just fine without a true point guard. That label — “true point guard” — might not necessarily be in Curry’s future, but there’s value in a guard who can create his own shot and create for others, and having Noel and Dirk Nowitzki as his big men pick-and-roll partners makes his job a whole heck of a lot easier. To Curry’s credit, he took advantage of the opportunity tonight, providing 23 points and four assists.
Nerlens Noel seems to make highlight-reel plays every night. Tonight was no different.
For the game he finished with eight points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and a steal. Remember: He’s still only 22 years old.
The Mavs (31-40) will play the Toronto Raptors (42-29) on Saturday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.