Almost lost in the celebration surrounding J.J. Barea being named Western Conference Player of the Week is just how excellent Wesley Matthews has played on both sides of the ball in recent weeks.
The wing is averaging 17.6 points per game in his last eight contests, connecting on 49.3 percent of his three-point attempts during that time. He’s hit four treys or more in six of those eight games. Matthews has added 3.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals, and a winning demeanor on the defensive end, where the Mavericks have held opponents below 90 points in four straight games.
His contributions have been particularly important as they come at a time when Dallas needs him most. Chandler Parsons has missed the last eight games and will be out for the rest of the regular season following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Meanwhile, Deron Williams has mixed six straight contests as he battles through a sports hernia and head coach Rick Carlisle has given no timetable for his return. In their absence Matthews has stepped up on the offensive end, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by his head coach.
“He’s gotten in a much better rhythm,” Carlisle said. “He’s touching the ball more now that we have some other key guys out, and he’s delivered for us.
“He’s always gonna give you the attitude on defense, the physical presence, the toughness. And, offensively, we’ve found some things that have been effective and he’s done a terrific job.”
To be exact, Matthews has received 55.6 touches per game on offense in his last eight contests, a huge leap up from his season average of 46.7 per game, according to SportVU. While 34 of his 45 made field goals during that time have been 3-pointers, Matthews is also putting the ball on the floor and driving to the basket more often, creating opportunities for his teammates in the process, most notably for Justin Anderson on a go-ahead basket late in last Wednesday’s 91-89 win against the New York Knicks.
“I knew that the game was gonna come to me,” Matthews said after that game. “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.”
Matthews’ game has backed up his claim that offense will come easy so long as the defense is stout. During Dallas’ four-game winning streak, opponents are scoring just 86.0 points per game on 42.1 percent shooting and 30.5 percent from beyond the arc.
For the season, the Mavericks have a 48.7 effective field goal percentage following an opponent’s made bucket or free throw, according to NBAwowy.com, but that number climbs to 50.8 percent after a defensive rebound and 54.2 percent after a turnover. The Mavericks have forced 17.0 giveaways in the last four contests. It’s easy to see why they’re winning games.
Matthews needs only three more treys this season to pass Jason Kidd for third-most in a season in Mavericks history; Kidd hit 176 in 2009-10. Next up on the list is Jose Calderon, who nailed 191 in 2013-14. Should Matthews maintain his current pace, he’ll not only have no problem jumping past the Spaniard on the list, but he’ll also continue to fuel a Mavericks offense which is relying on him more now than at any other time this season.
If Matthews can extend his offensive tear and Barea continues his tour de force down the stretch, the Mavericks offense will be just fine. Dirk Nowitzki is still on this team, after all, and likely much sooner than later he’ll rebound from his four-game cold spell.
The playoff race is far from over, but Matthews has done a heck of a lot to keep Dallas in the picture.