Final: Mavs 114, Hawks 107
This was a very strange game. Rick Carlisle was ejected, there were two sets of double-technicals, and Jalen Brunson and Wesley Matthews combined to make just two shots yet Dallas was up double-digits for much of the fourth quarter. The bench carried the day for a large part of the second half, but Carlisle’s ejection seemed to give the starting unit a much-needed spark in a game that was too close for comfort. It seemed to ignite something within Luka Doncic in particular, who, thanks mostly to his 12 made free throws, breezed to his 13th 20-point game of the season. No other rookie has reached that threshold more than eight times.
Doncic ended with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. The only other Mavs rookie ever to compile that stat line was Jason Kidd, and even he needed double-overtime to get there. (Although, to be fair, he ended with 38 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists, so his line would’ve been OK if the game ended in regulation, too.) Harrison Barnes scored 25 points on just 16 shots, and he’s now made at least three 3-pointers in eight of his last 10 games. J.J. Barea chipped in with 18 points off the bench, but he left the game early with a left ankle sprain, so that’s something to keep an eye on leading up to tomorrow night’s game.
The Mavericks attempted a whopping 43 free throws in this game, a byproduct of drawing 30 fouls against the Hawks, several of which came very late in the game. The last time Dallas took at least as many was on April 4, 2015, when the club shot an absurd 54 freebies against Golden State. It’s just the sixth time this decade Dallas took at least 43 free throws in a game. The Mavs rank fourth in the NBA in free throw rate, which measures the number of free throws you attempt per field goal you attempt. The last time Dallas ranked even in the top-10 in that stat was 2005-06, and it’s the highest the Mavericks have ranked in that particular stat since the 1986-87 season, when they finished second. Doncic is very adept for a rookie at drawing fouls, but DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Powell, and Devin Harris draw their fair share of trips to the charity stripe as well. Given the number of fouls, technicals, and skirmishes not only tonight, but really all season long, I think it’s safe to say Mavs games are going to be among the chippiest in the league for a while.
Go team go…?
Quick-ish Dirk Nowitzki status update: He was listed as questionable for tonight’s game, the first time all season his injury designation wasn’t simply “Out.” Questionable is one step below probable, so he might not technically be immediately on the cusp of playing, but it’s at least a step in the right direction. Perhaps his debut will come at some point this week, although nothing can be certain. At 40 years old, Nowitzki obviously wants to be in good condition before taking the floor for the first time in nearly nine months. The Mavericks, meanwhile, have been winning games and while it would be incredible to see Dirk play again, they’re not desperate for a big to fill minutes. He will play when he’s ready, and not one second sooner. (But hopefully it’s sooner than later. I think we all miss the GOAT.)
This is going to be a bullet point about streaks. First, Dallas kept its home winning streak alive, extending it to 11 games in a row. The Mavs have exactly one more home game between now and Christmas, which makes that one (Sunday against Sacramento) very important. The road is never as kind as home cooking. Next, the Mavericks finally snapped their 10-game losing streak to the Hawks. Atlanta has had some incredible teams in recent seasons, so it’s not like it’s ridiculous that it’s been a while since Dallas beat them. But some of those losses have been a little frustrating, particularly the one earlier this season in which the Mavs led by 26 points in the second quarter before surrendering the victory late. To wit, the Mavericks are now 12-1 this season when taking a lead into the fourth quarter, and that one loss was against… the Hawks. Yep, them.
Tomorrow, Dallas heads to Phoenix to play the Suns, who have won seven of the previous eight games in this head-to-head series. That one is a little inexplicable given the Mavs have finished with a better record each of the previous two seasons, since this streak has been alive. Still, Devin Booker is an incredible talent, as we saw in the season opener. Unfortunately, Booker will miss the game tomorrow due to injury. His absence ostensibly gives the Mavs a better chance to end another noteworthy trend: The Mavs are 0-3 on the second night of a back-to-back this season. Hopefully it’s 1-3 after tomorrow.
The Mavs (15-11) are immediately headed to Phoenix, where they’ll play the second leg of a back-to-back on Thursday night. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m.