Final: Pelicans 105, Mavs 98
Box Score | Highlights
Behind the Box Score
In an unusual turn of events, the Mavs took 10 free throws in the first quarter alone but didn’t attempt another one until the third quarter. (Dirk Nowitzki took six of those himself, reaching that milestone for just the sixth time all season.) Dallas didn’t necessarily play any more or less aggressively early or later in the game — at least as it relates to drawing fouls — but the Pelicans committed a bunch of off-ball and touch fouls in the opening few minutes of the game, which helped the Mavs get into the bonus by the 8-minute mark. The rate at which teams attempt free throws is a very good indicator of success or failure, so the goal is to get there as often as possible within the flow of the offense.
The Mavs quickly erased a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter behind some red-hot shooting from beyond the arc. I know this sounds really simple, but here’s the value of the three-point shot: Nowitzki and J.J. Barea hit back-to-back treys to cut a 10-point lead down to just 4. That’s the reason teams shoot so many 3s: When you make them, you can build a huge lead very quickly and you can erase a huge lead very quickly. Making half of your 3s is the same as hitting 75 percent of your two-point shots.
Dallas really rode Nowitzki down the stretch, as the Pelicans kept switching smaller players onto him and refusing to send a double-team. Dirk drew a couple fouls, hit a couple shots, and made a few nice passes out of the post-up sets, which led to some very easy offense for the Mavs. This game was a good example of what makes him such an effective player: Even though he struggled from the field by his standards, he still made an enormous impact on the game simply by having the ball in his hands. Although New Orleans didn’t double-team him, the entire defense was still paying complete and total attention to Nowitzki. He was the primary focus, and everyone else was secondary. There aren’t many players in the NBA who command that type of respect.
In one of the more unique matchups we’ve seen this season, Rick Carlisle put Wesley Matthews on the Pelicans’ Ryan Anderson, a power forward, even when Dallas wasn’t playing small. Although Matthews gave up several inches in height to Anderson (and most 4s), he makes up for it with strength and a low center of gravity in the post. Earlier this season, Anderson had back-to-back strong showings against the Mavs, but Matthews didn’t get a crack at him in either game. But Carlisle’s willingness to put the smaller Matthews on a bigger player — and his strong performance — is perhaps a hint that, moving forward, the 2-guard might be deployed against the other team’s best or most versatile offensive player, regardless of position.
Another weird thing happened in this game that didn’t have much to do with matchups. Late in the third quarter, Nowitzki drove the lane and missed a shot, but Carlisle thought he was fouled. As New Orleans moved the ball up the floor in transition, Carlisle picked up a technical foul for arguing with the official. However, it also eliminated any chance of a Pelicans dunk. Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry then received a tech for taking a little too much exception to Carlisle’s move, and those two techs canceled each other out, so the Pelicans didn’t even earn a free throw. Not only did Carlisle save the Mavs a fast break, but he even kind of saved them a free throw, too.
J.J. Barea started again in this game, although Deron Williams returned to the lineup last night in Miami. Carlisle has been very fluid with his starting lineups this season, so Williams could find a place in that group at any time, whether it’s the next game, the next week, or the next month. It should be noted, however, that he suffered hamstring tightness in the second half and was ruled out for the rest of the game. This year more than ever, the starting five has been selected more on playing form and minutes restrictions than anything else, so the only thing you can expect is that you don’t know what to expect.
The Mavs (19-15) play the Sacramento Kings (13-20) Tuesday at American Airlines Center. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. Central.