1. Coming in as winners of two straight, the Mavs traveled north to take on Andre Drummond and the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills in yet another must-win affair. But really, for a team in the Mavs' position, every game from here on out is a ‘must win’. Ultimately, it was the Mavs 98, the Pistons 89, as Dallas would come away with another huge win in their playoff quest and stick in seventh, jousting Houston and Utah in the Western Conference Playoff Race.
“We pretty much know we’ve got to get above .500 to get in the playoffs, and our guys knew that,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "They came in here with an attitude of desperation, togetherness, intensity and finding a way. And that’s what it’s got to be about.”
2. J.J. Barea stayed behind in Dallas for an extra day to be there for the birth of his daughter Paulina on Thursday. Following that, he hopped on Mark Cuban’s plane to meet up with his teammates for his start in Detroit. Congrats J.J.!
3. All right, back to basketball.
Justin Anderson is really making an impact on this lineup. His relentless energy and tenacity (featuring yet another chase-down blocked shot here) has injected new life into the Mavs on both ends of the floor, but particularly on the defensive side of things. For a team that needs some young hope for the future to emerge on this roster, Anderson is certainly pulling his weight in that discussion as of late.
Of course, "old hope'' is good, too. Dirk Nowitzki scored 19 here, and did so while making unorthodox shots ... while getting hammered.
And telling the Pistons, and the officials, all about it.
4. The Mavs and Pistons would finish the first quarter all tied up at 25 apiece, with J.J. Barea leading the way for Dallas with six points. On the other side, Marcus Morris went H.A.M., scoring 16 points, including four three-pointers, mostly with a defensively overwhelmed Dirk Nowitzki watching in horror. The Mavs would shoot 58 percent in the quarter, and edge the Detroit on the rebounding front, 12 to nine.
5. We said it on Wednesday, but the way JJB steps up with Deron Williams out is really something. In his 11 starts for Dallas this season coming into Friday night’s game, Barea has averaged around 17 points per contest, and performed well above expectations for the majority of those 11 games. The Mavs have leaned on his energy and offensive production over the last three games, and it has really paid off for the most part.
6. Salah Mejri continues to make an impact while he’s on the floor for Dallas. The big man, though lacking in muscle, is a solid rim protector, and he also manages to pull down his fair share of rebounds, as well as make timely contributions on the offensive end. I’m not saying he’s ready to be the Mavs full-time starter for the future or anything, but he is a piece that the Mavs have to be happy with moving forward into next season as a potential role player in their rotation.
7. The Mavs used and explosive quarter to take control of things in the second, outscoring the Pistons 26-11 and taking a 51-36 lead into the locker room. Barea finished the half as the Mavs leading scorer with 19 points after a 13-point second frame. The Mavs would hold Detroit to just 19-percent shooting from the floor, including just 2-of-7 from three-point range.
8. Coming into this game, the Pistons sat with a 40-35 record, good for 7th place in the Eastern Conference standings. Since defeating the Mavs a few weeks ago, the Pistons are 7-4 and are trending upwards after their defeat of Oklahoma City on Tuesday. They play in a decent division, and they have been out-performing expectations this season. They’re a young, athletic and determined bunch, and they are one of the best rebounding groups in the league. Oh, and they’re also coached by everybody’s favorite used-car salesman – Stan Van Gundy.
9. That being said, Detroit has a legitimate franchise player, and a budding superstar in Andre Drummond. Drummond is currently averaging 16.7 points-per-game, while leading the NBA with a massive 14.9 rebounds per, and he’s only 22 years old. He’s a beast. Though he struggles from the line (like most centers seem to these days), he can score around the rim, and he’s elite defender and rebounder. The sky is the limit for this guy, and if he can manage to improve his free-throw shooting, the rest of the NBA needs to be on high alert.
10. The injury to Raymond Felton was definitely a blow to the Mavs in this one. He provides a clutch factor and scoring option that not many players can fill in his absence. This is the wrong time of the season for players to start dropping like flies for Dallas, and they need him back sooner rather than later.
11. Detroit made a serious push in the third quarter, but the Mavs were able to regain control late in the period and push the lead back out to 10 heading into the final frame on the heels of a 13-3 run. Holding a 71-61 lead, the Mavs left themselves primed for success behind a solid defensive effort that had the Pistons shooting just 34 percent through three quarters.
12. Devin Harris provided a real spark off the bench on Friday with 13 points, all of which came in the second half. In the absence of Ray Felton (right groin strain, sidelined as is Deron Williams with the abdominal problem), the Mavs desperately needed another scoring threat to add to the mix, and Harris provided that in spades.
13. In the end, the Mavs came away with another huge win, making it three straight W’s for Our Boys In Blue. The Mavs played a great game on the defensive end yet again, on their way to a 98-89 in Detroit. The win also put the Mavs a game-and-a-half above their rivals down in Houston, who have been nipping at their heels in the playoff race. Every game from here on out will be ‘the biggest game of the season.'
The Dirkie/Player of the game: J.J. Barea. The diminutive Puerto Rican is our pick. He scored 29 points on 13-23 shooting in 30-plus minutes. Yet again J.J. emerged when the Mavs needed him most, giving him the ‘coveted’ Dirkie award in our books.
But this is a democracy, so head over to DB.com Boards and give us your choice for the Dirkie!
Stat(s) of the night: Opponents field-goal percentage. The Mavs held Detroit to just 39 percent from the floor for the game. The Mavs have been playing very solid defensively for the past three games, and this was just more evidence of that fact.
By the numbers? The Mavs have held their last three foes under 90 points, their longest such streak since January 2012.
Detroit’s free -throw shooting. The Pistons got to the line 24 times and made just 58 percent. The poor showing from the line proved to be a major difference in the outcome of this game.
This game was over when... Wes Matthews hit an and-one layup with just over two minutes to go in regulation. This took the wind of the Pistons' sails and helped the Mavs seal the deal.
Should have seen coming... J.J. Barea stepping up yet again. Something about being thrust into a prominent role really brings it out of this guy. This week's three-game numbers: 24.3 points and seven assists per.
Couldn't see coming... Salah Mejri. Mejri did a great job of helping to slow down Andre Drummond on offense. Mejri had a couple of big blocked and altered shots. Mejri just keeps improving every time he gets extended minutes.
What's next?: The 38-38 Mavs will stay up north and head to Minneapolis to take on Andrew Wiggins and the young Minnesota Timberwolves in a 2:30 Sunday start. No matter what happened here in Detroit, the Mavs cannot afford to take a matchup with the 25-50 Timberwolves lightly, as every game from here on out is essentially a playoff game for Dallas.
The Final Word: “It was awesome. The team we’ve got in here in this locker room is special. I get here, and everybody is just happy for me and talking about my daughter. It just pushed me. … I was able to get a rhythm early, and it carried over to the end of the game.”