Wesley Matthews is the type of player who always leaves it all out on the floor, but while he’s putting his body on the floor, he typically hasn’t been a guy who puts the ball on the floor too much.

That is, until last night.

Matthews drives the lane just 2.6 times per game this season, according to SportVU. More than half of his field goal attempts this season have come without taking a dribble. As good a three-point shooter as he is, however, with Chandler Parsons and Deron Williams out with injuries, the Mavs need attacking and playmaking from all the healthy players, no matter their position.

His response to the problem presented: He drove the lane seven times in Wednesday’s win, scoring nine points on those plays and dishing out a key assist to Justin Anderson which gave the Mavs an 88-86 lead, their first advantage since the 11:29 mark of the third quarter. All four of his made field goals came after he took at least three dribbles, per NBA.com. For the season, he averages only 0.8 made field goals per game when taking at least three bounces. So not only must Matthews continue guarding the opponent’s best player every night — against the Knicks his assignment was world-class scorer Carmelo Anthony — but he also must initiate offense more frequently on the other end.

That’s an awfully demanding workload for the Mavs’ wing, but he’s predictably up for the challenge. His final stat line: 16 points and four assists, his most in a game since March 12. In his last six games, he’s averaging 17.5 points on 46.5 percent shooting, including 51.1 percent from deep. He’s connected on 24 three-pointers in his last six contests. Perhaps none of those performances were more meaningful than the one last night, when his late-game offensive takeover — and key strip against a driving Anthony with 10 seconds remaining to give the Mavs the ball back up one point — propelled the team to a win.

“I knew that the game was gonna come to me,” Matthews said. “I knew I was gonna stay engaged, especially on the defensive end, and just let that continue to spark and continue to fuel everything. And when the offense comes, just be ready for it, stay confident. I missed a lot of shots early on, but just stay confident.”

To put into context just how important attacking the lane is to the Mavs’ offense, the club scores a solid 1.16 points per possession this season when the ball enters the lane via either pass or drive, according to team analytics. When Dallas fails to get the ball into the lane, the team scores only 0.88 points per possession. The goal, then, obviously, is to drive the ball as often as possible. Chandler Parsons was able to do so effectively, particularly playing as a small-ball power forward, but now he’s out for the season, so there’s a high demand for other players to fill that void. J.J. Barea has done so in spectacular fashion as of late, and Matthews made some beautiful plays himself last night to generate some easy — and flashy — points for Dallas.

Ironically, or maybe perhaps not so much, all of Matthews’ finest sequences in the game came when he played power forward. (Maybe Dirk Nowitzki has forever blessed that position!) The Knicks had probably scouted Matthews as more of a three-point shooter than an attacker, or at least that’s how New York defended him last night. Watch how Derrick Williams sets himself after Matthews comes off Nowitzki’s screen.

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Williams puts himself in position to contest the shot. Identifying the driving alley and realizing there’s no one to contest the shot, Matthews attacks the basket and drops flips up a nifty shot.

On the ensuing defensive possession, Matthews came away with a loose ball and pushed it up the floor. The Knicks defense couldn’t set itself, so as a result center Robin Lopez was guarding Matthews. Having seen him attack the basket roughly 20 seconds earlier, Lopez flinches after a Matthews head fake, creating the space the wing needs to fire a three-pointer.

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Those two plays illustrate how dangerous a player becomes when he can shoot the ball, drive the ball, and play multiple positions. He becomes so difficult to defend, especially when guarded by a much bigger player. Moments like that can also build a player’s confidence and get him into a nice rhythm, and that combination of events leads to fantastic plays like this one.

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At least offensively, that minute-and-a-half stretch was probably Matthews’ finest in a Mavericks uniform.

If he can maintain that level of aggression and effectiveness when driving the lane, he’ll become one of the most dynamic players on the roster. We already know what Matthews can do defensively — that has never been in question — and he’s already had one of the most prolific seasons behind the arc in franchise history, having already made the sixth-most 3s by any Maverick in a season, with seven games to spare. But his off-the-dribble game was huge in last night’s win and potentially unlocked another element of the Mavs’ offense.

Matthews has stepped up his offensive game when the Mavericks, in the thick of one of the tightest playoff races in recent memory, need it most. And he’s done it while also maintaining a physical, scrappy approach on the defensive end. It was his play on Anthony last night which put the Mavs in position to seal the game. Oh, and he’s leading the team in minutes played.

Big players make big plays in big moments, and Matthews was certainly up to the challenge last night.

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