Mavs 113, T'Wolves 98 - First Impressions
Slowly, the flashes of potential Dallas showed earlier this season are perhaps beginning to be realized.
Against a Timberwolves squad playing on the second night of a back to back, the Dallas Mavericks displayed much of that potential in a 113-98 win. The Mavericks had nearly every facet of the game working Monday night, shooting 60% from the floor for much of the night, holding Minnesota to 41% shooting behind a stout defense and dishing out 33 assists on 46 made shots.
"We're playing with more familiarity with one another, with more familiarity with the system. Our reads are better,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "We've been doing some good things in that area.''
Dallas would enjoy six players scoring in double figures, led by Darren Collison's 23 points, his second-highest scoring output of the season. Elton Brand notched a season high with 20 points on an extremely efficient 10-13 shooting. O.J. Mayo, in a complete effort, also scored 20 points, hitting eight of his 11 shots while dishing out a season-high nine assists and pulling down seven rebounds.
Collison and Mayo finished a game-high +57 on the night, furthering the hope that Dallas' young backcourt is starting to gel.
Said Carlisle said in praise of his young backcourt: "I thought the key to the game was our tempo was good, we kept the ball moving. Thirty-three assists is a really good number and we had two guys with nine. Mayo had 20 points, but I thought his nine assists and seven rebounds were really big. I think he's doing better and better defensively, which is very encouraging."
The Mavericks' frontcourt duo of Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman would finish with 10 points each, though Nowitzki would dish out a season high six assists. In fact, Mayo, Collison and Nowitzki would account for 24 of Dallas 33 assists.
Dallas is starting to put it together in other facets of the game as well, protecting the ball well for the first three quarters. The Mavericks would finish with only 10 turnovers, though they would commit half of those in the fourth quarter. Even though Dallas was outrebounded 46-33, they would make up for their deficiencies on the glass with a 41-11 edge in fast break points.
Though some of their fourth-quarter woes would return in this game, much of that can be attributed to building a big lead and then easing off the gas.
After the game, Elton Brand said, "We have a lot to improve on, but we've figured out how to close games… We've had a lot happen to us this season. With Dirk getting hurt, then coming back and getting acclimated back into the system with all the guys and I think we're hitting our groove. We have some tough games coming up but if we keep playing like this we'll be just fine."
The Timberwolves, led by sixth man and former Maverick, JJB's 23 points, simply did not have enough without Kevin Love and with a limited Ricky Rubio.
Though Dallas would outscore Minnesota in each of the first three quarters, the Timberwolves would pull within seven points in the fourth. Shortly thereafter, Dallas found another gear that the short-handed and tired Timberwolves lacked.
With the win, Dallas would tie a season-high three-game win streak, a mark they've now hit three times this year. With a healthy Nowitzki, and a team that is starting to come together in all facets of the game, the progress is evident, but there is still plenty of room for growth.
"We're crawling a little still. Sooner or later we might be able to walk," noted Shawn Marion afterwards.
Perhaps in another week or so, the Mavericks may be off and running to realizing that potential they've teased so often this season.
MAVSELLANOUS: Though Shawn Marion would score only five points, the lowest of any Dallas starter, he would finish the night +22, with a team-high eight rebounds and three assists….With the win, Dallas now sits at 16-23, keeping its slim playoff hopes alive. To make the postseason, Dallas will need to keep winning at an elite clip, as noted by Collison. "Every game from here on out is a must-win for us," he said.
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