Final: Mavs 96, Heat 89
Box Score | Highlights
Behind the Box Score
Dirk Nowitzki had his fifth double-digit rebounding game since Jan. 17 and tonight grabbed a season-high 12. He’s really been working hard on the defensive glass since moving to center full-time, and it’s reflected in his stat lines. The trade for Nerlens Noel should help Nowitzki conserve some energy on the boards, giving the Mavs another big body to grab them. But in the meantime, he’s done his part.
Nowitzki scored eight points tonight and is now just 59 points away from 30,000 for his career. He’ll become just the sixth player in NBA history to achieve that feat.
What a win for the Mavericks. The Heat came into tonight’s game winners of 16 of their last 18 games, by far the hottest team in all of basketball, including wins against the Rockets, Warriors, and these same Mavs during that time. Both teams trailed by double-digits at various points throughout the game, yet at the end of it all, as has been the case so many times between these two clubs over the years, it came down to the closing moments, and this time Seth Curry and Harrison Barnes were able to close it out for Dallas, who improves to 2-0 in the Nerlens Noel era. (The 22-year-old was impressive again tonight.) The Mavs launched a 12-0 run in the final minutes, using gritty defense and some shot-making to turn a five-point deficit into a seven-point advantage. The young Mavs are growing more comfortable in moments like these, which is why so many of those close losses earlier in the year are slowly turning into wins.
Seth Curry is really good.
After turning in a career-best 31-point performance last week against Minnesota, Curry scored 29 more tonight. He has stayed red-hot for more than two months now, and he keeps showing new things: hesitations, deep range, off-the-dribble shooting, driving, passing, and more. He’s been better than probably even the Mavericks expected him to be, after bouncing around the league for the last few seasons. There’s no doubt he belongs, though. What’s most shocking about the way Curry’s played is he hasn’t hit any type of wall this season. He had just 48 games of NBA experience under his belt before signing with Dallas, and he’s already more than doubled that total in 2016-17. Typically there’s some drop-off around this time of year from guys who don’t have at least a season’s worth of experience, but it hasn’t come with Curry. In fact, he’s arguably maintained his upward curve and been even better lately than he was a month ago, which is kind of hard to believe.
Quinn Cook made his NBA debut tonight and, despite not knowing much of the playbook and having only one shootaround’s worth of practicing with his teammates, he seemed to be comfortable in the offense. He shot just 1 of 5 from the field, but he didn’t force anything and played within the system, and honestly that’s what matters more than the results in a player’s first game in the league. He finished with two points and two assists in 17 minutes.
When Dirk Nowitzki was at center — and even when he played power forward next to Dwight Powell — the Mavs played some zone defense. Per Mavs analytics, they ran zone on five possessions and gave up just three points, which is a very good rate, though obviously on a small sample size. I wonder if Dallas will continue to with the 2-3 zone, which they’ve used to great effect for years. It’s harder to run that defense now, though, because so many teams want to shoot a ton of 3s and that’s kind of the Achilles heel of even the best zones, especially when coupled with really sharp ball movement. Still, it’s a nice option to turn to in the right matchup, so keep an eye on that moving forward this season.
The Mavs (24-35) will play the Atlanta Hawks (33-26) on Wednesday at Philips Arena at 6:30 p.m. Central.
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