Postgame: J.J. Barea
Mavs G J.J. Barea talks about Wednesday's win over Houston.
Final: Mavs 88, Rockets 86
Box Score | Highlights
Behind the Box Score
Wesley Matthews drained four 3-pointers tonight. He’s now reached that milestone in seven of his last nine games, including his third straight. He also hit his 177th trey of the season, moving him past Jason Kidd for third on the Mavs’ all-time single-season three-pointers made list. Next up is Jose Calderon, at 191. Matthews’ productive tear has continued, and that obviously means good things for the Mavericks.
The Mavericks enjoyed one of their finest offensive quarters of the season in the second frame, scoring 34 points on 63.6 percent shooting, good for a rate of 1.478 points per possession. Dallas outscored Houston 34-22 before the break, taking an eight-point lead into halftime. The scoring came at a good time, too, as the Mavs shot only 28.6 percent from the field in the first quarter.
Huge, huge win for the Mavericks and for their playoff chances. The victory puts them two full games ahead of the Rockets in the standings, with four games remaining on the schedule for both teams. Dallas put on an offensive blitz in the second quarter and hung on with defense and energy in the second half, just scoring enough to eke out a win against one of the more talented teams they’ve played in recent weeks. And who could’ve guessed it: Dirk Nowitzki, who scored only seven points all night, made a huge defensive play in the closing seconds, stripping James Harden en route to the rim and resulting in a turnover and Mavs ball. Think the German doesn’t play defense? Think again. Big players make big plays in big moments, and that Nowitzki strip was perhaps the biggest play of the season for this team.
J.J. Barea put on yet another impressive showing in this game, scoring 27 points and dishing out eight assists, besting his averages from last week, when he was named Western Conference Player of the Week. The Puerto Rican has played the best basketball of his career when the Mavericks have needed his production most, filling in for the injured Deron Williams and picking up even more of the playmaking slack following Chandler Parsons’ season-ending surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Barea has been magnificent running the show for the Mavericks. Everything and everyone is under control when he runs point, and he makes finding his teammates look easy. That’s a dangerous combination for a point guard, especially one enjoying as ridiculous a shooting streak as he is.
Salah Mejri has had such a positive impact on the defensive end during the past few weeks. At 7-foot-2 he has a surprising amount of quickness and he is able to defend with both hit feet and his hands — not necessarily his body — which for the most part keeps him out of foul trouble and helps put him in position to contest shots. For example, in the second quarter he covered enough ground against a Jason Terry drive to take away an alley-oop lob or dump-off pass while still contesting Terry’s layup, which bounced off the rim and eventually out of bounds. Offensively, he has the springiness to finish above the rim, a necessary trait for a big man in the pick-and-roll. Although his final box score line on any given night might not reflect how important he’s been to the Mavericks lately, the team plays a notably different style on the floor, and it’s been awfully effective lately.
The Rockets pulled off a rare feat at the end of the third quarter, scoring on an out-of-bounds play with 0.2 seconds left on the clock. Dwight Howard tapped in a wild lob pass, and somehow it bounced all over the rim before finally falling through the hoop. The bucket put Houston ahead, 71-70, entering the fourth quarter. What set up the play was the more compelling part, however, as Salah Mejri viciously denied a James Harden layup attempt. Obviously it would have been better had the ball bounced out of play with 0.0 left on the clock, but Mejri rejected the shot with authority nonetheless. His mythical “block” list grows longer.
The Mavs (40-38) play the Memphis Grizzlies (42-36) Friday at American Airlines Center. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. Central.