Two days after a brutal loss to the Houston Rockets, the Dallas Mavericks were frustrated, and looking to take out their anger on an inconsistent Denver Nuggets group. Finally, after four straight quarters of hot shooting, Monday night was nothing short of a satisfying effort for Dallas, as they crushed the Nuggets 112-92 in a successful "Seats For Soldiers'' night.
It was the best offensive performance of the year for the 6-18 Mavs, as they shot 58.4 percent from the floor, including 46 percent from downtown. Dallas also outscored the Denver in the paint (until garbage time), as well as on the fast break, that by a 21-6 clip.
Wes Matthews led all Dallas scorers with 25 points on a scorching hot 10-14 shooting night, while also hitting five of seven from beyond the arc. Since the Thanksgiving holiday, Matthews has been the Mavs most consistent offensive threat, hitting 46.4 percent of his shots from the field, 48 percent from three, and averaging 21.6 points per game. He is doing everything he can to keep the Mavs afloat, and while it might not hold, you’ve got admire his "basketball soul.''
"He’s also leading our team really in the locker room,'' said coach Rick Carlisle. "He’s our energetic, soul guy. He’s doing a lot of things right now for us.''
Harrison Barnes supplemented Matthews' sharp night with 18 points of his own, on an efficient six of 11 from the floor, while also hitting six of seven from the charity stripe. In all, the Mavs had six guys in double figures, including Deron Williams (17 points and eight assists), Dorian Finney-Smith (13), Justin Anderson (11), and Seth Curry (10).
Perhaps the most surprising performance of the night, however, came Mavs center from Salah Mejri, who had a good deal of game-changing plays and brought tons of energy to the game. Mejri had seven points, eight boards and four blocks, but his impact on the game had a much greater impact on the game than the stat lines indicate. He got timely boards, and did a great job protecting the rim when he was on the floor.
The Nuggets, who fall to 9-16 after the embarrassing loss, were led by power forward Nikola Jokic, who chipped in 27 points and 11 boards in the game, shooting 10-12 from the floor in the process. But outside of him, and a quiet 17 points from young point guard/DFW kid Emmanuel Mudiay, the Nuggets offense was dreadful for a good majority of the game.
Dallas held Denver to just 42 percent shooting from the floor and 28 percent from downtown. Denver is in the top half of the league this season in three-point shooting, as well as a top-10 scoring offense, but the Mavs did a great job of challenging and forcing them into bad shots all night.
As far as team wins go, this might be the most impressive 48 minutes the Mavs have played all season long. (In competition with Friday's win over Indy.) Dallas has been a vastly improved team on their home floor (sans the ugly Sacramento loss) over the last five games, winning three of five.
Dallas will have another chance to keep up their strong play at home on Thursday night, when they take on an average Detroit Pistons team that ranks near the bottom of the league in offensive production. Detroit will boast the second-best scoring defense in the league (96.1 points per against as of Monday night), which will be a stiff test for the Mavs' inconsistent offensive attack.
With the way the Wes-and-Harrison combination has been playing as of late however, the Mavs will have yet another chance at a very winnable game on Thursday night. In fact, the Mavs will face only one team with a record above .500 (the Utah Jazz) over the next four games, providing ample opportunity to make some headway in revitalizing their season.
With the much anticipate date of December 15th quickly approaching (when various pieces around the NBA become trade-eligible), and the possibilities of trades involving Andrew Bogut, D-Will and possibly others (we've even brought up the idea of swapping out Wes), it is unclear what the Mavs roster will look like by the time they face this same Denver team in a little less than a week. But for now, the Mavs can enjoy this one, and move on to Detroit with some actual momentum for the first time this season. ... and these players deserve some credit for leaving the trade talk and tank talk to us ... and handling the on-court business themselves.
Said Anderson: “We’ve just got to keep working and build off this win. We won’t go away. We are not going to get down we are going to continue to build off this.''