Following a painful loss at the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night, The Dallas Mavericks returned to the friendly confines of the American Airlines Center on Friday to take on the struggling Brooklyn Nets. Friday also saw the return of big man Zaza Pachulia to the lineup for Dallas, which provided a much needed boost to the Mavs rotation -- a "gaudy'' boost, as coach Rick Carlisle termed it.
"It was a really important thing for us,'' Carlisle sakd after the 91-79 win, "because of (Zaza's) strength and experience versus (Nets center Brook) Lopez. He’s puts some pressure on him on the other end putting the ball in the basket; 16 and 12, those are gaudy numbers at our center position. It was production we needed.''
In the first quarter the Mavs got off to a quick start, and finished the period on a 14-4 run en route to a 25-18 lead. Hotel Zaza led things off for Dallas, and finished the period with six points and three boards, with Chandler Parsons -- blossoming in an expanded role -- contributing five points of his own as well. Dallas’s pesky defense frustrated Brooklyn in the early going, causing the Nets to turn the ball over four times.
The second quarter was equally frustrating for the Nets, as the Mavs forced them into a lot of low-percentage looks, and their field-goal percentage dipped under 39 percent. Offensively, the Mavs continued to force the issue with Brooklyn, with the Big German having an exceptional quarter, and finishing the first half with 10 points and two blocks. The Mavs bench also outscored the Nets bench 15-0 in the first half, which was a big part of their success. After leading by as many as 18, however, the Nets were able to cut the lead back down to 12 before the end of the half.
Despite making a run at the Mavs lead in the third, Brooklyn was unable to sustain their push, allowing the Mavs to end the quarter on a 13-2 run and take a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter. Raymond Felton, so often the butt of jokes but who seems to live for crunch time, nailed a midrange jumper as time expired to put the Mavs up 71-55.
Pachulia was huge for the Mavs in this one -- yeah, "gaudy'' -- securing his career high 21st double-double of the season with his aforementioned 16 points and 12 rebounds. For the game, the Mavs out rebounded the Nets 49-44, while holding Brooklyn to 36 percent from the field. Dallas on the other hand, shot at a 46-percent clip, including 38 percent from three.
"These guys are a hard team to play,'' Carlisle said of the 12-35 Nets. "Lopez has averaged a bundle of points here; he’s averaged 28 the last four times he’s played here, and he’s had two 38-point games. He’s a load.''
There's some truth there. But here's more: Truthfully, if its not for the Nets outshooting the Mavs 23-14 in free-throw attempts, this game is never really close.
Brooklyn’s frustration came to a head in the fourth quarter when Andrea Bargnani pushed Mavs rookie center Salah Mejri to the ground. That moment in the game really personified the Nets' night in a nutshell, as they were reduced to non-basketball activity.
CP would end the game as the Mavs leading scorer with 19 points and 10 rebounds. The UberMan also contributed 12 points and eight rebounds of his own. For Brooklyn, Lopez ended the game with 28 points and 12 rebounds (he did get his numbers, in the end), and was the Nets' only real offense for the entire game.
“I played in the Eastern Conference for a long time and faced him a lot of times,'' Zaza said of Lopez. "He can shoot from both sides and has really soft hands with a soft touch. He’s a load ... and I had to make him work and at the end of the day it’s a team effort, five-against-five. It’s not a one-on-one game and defensively we helped each other and did a good job.”
Unfortunately for Brooklyn, when your bench gets outscored 34-2, you’re not going win very many basketball games in the NBA.
“We needed it,'' Carlisle said of his second wave of talent. "Our bench is one of our calling cards – it has been for years. I thought Barea and Felton both played huge roles. I thought Villanueva’s minutes in the first half were really key; he came in, helped us stretch the lead. Mejri came in in the second half and played solid. We didn’t have to stretch Zaza out too much, so that was big. I thought Parsons played a really strong game. He hit a couple of huge shots at key times to keep the lead up. I thought his baseline shot in the fourth kind of put the game away. Dirk was out and we didn’t have to bring him back, so that was big.”
The Mavs didn't get much from ex-Nets star Deron Williams (six assists, but eight points on just 3-of-14 shooting) but Mejri playing ahead of JaVale? Some zone defense? Dirk at the 5? A steady diet of Parsons pick-and-rolls until the opponent stops it (which it never did)? This was an opportune night to try some things ... most of which worked.
Back to Parsons for a moment. The 19/10 is big, and part of a fine run for CP, who is shooting 57 percent over the last seven games. "This whole process has been one day at a time for me," said Parsons. "Good game, bad game, hot streak, playing horrible. I just take it day-by-day, try not to look ahead."
But the "playing horribles'' are shrinking. Is his improved level of contribution the result of playing more 4? Of playing better regardless of the spot?
“That’s a good question,'' Rick said. "I think it’s probably a little of both, but the 4 minutes are going to get you closer to the basket, and I think that is a factor. I think if we go back and look at the stats, he’s been rebounding well at the 3 as well. He’s picking up his game and this is the right time to do it for us. We need his production. We need his playmaking. His defense is becoming a real factor. He gives us the two-way option of the big guy at the 3 and the speed at the 4.
"He’s getting there, he’s getting there.”
After a tough four-game stretch, the Mavs have gotten to 27-22 and really needed an easy one to end the week, and for the most part, that’s exactly what they got. Now heading into Sunday to begin a five-game in seven-night stretch, the Mavs will face an atrociously bad Phoenix Suns team with a chance to put two straight in the win column, and close the gap on the Memphis Grizzlies for the fifth spot in the West.
The Mavs with a continued crack at No. 5? That's "gaudy'' enough for now.