When you are the worst rebounding team in the NBA and among the worst offenses in the NBA, you make it difficult on yourself to win games. As the Mavs 9-23 record (entering Thursday’s visit to LA) has indicated over the first chunk of the regular season, that has indeed been the case. Every once and a while however, the shots are going to fall, and the boards are going to let balls bounce your way … and that’s what happened here as the Mavs defeated a young and frustrated Lakers team, 101-89.
There is no denying that the Lakers have a wealth of young talent (the key word there being young). Brandon Ingram is a long and athletic wing that, if he can can light that fire, could be a very special player. D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle are also very dangerous young players who have a chance at being great.
Truthfully, if you look at where the Mavs and Lakers are right now, the Mavs could learn a lot from the way the Lakers have built that young core. And make no mistake about it, that core has a chance to be very scary one day. If the Lakers had the fortune of having a Dirk, a Harrison Barnes, or a Wes Matthews to help guide this group, they would be a lot farther along in their post-Kobe rebuilding project.
But they don’t, and the Mavs, minus Dirk (illness) and J.J. Barea (calf strain), were able to use that youth against them, Dallas coming back from 11 points down in the first half to win by a double-digit margin.
The aforementioned Matthews and Barnes led the way for Dallas, with Matthews scoring 20 points on 6-14 shooting, while Barnes (who shot just 35 percent from the field) tallied 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists for the game. Deron Williams, while not scoring at a high rate (just eight points on 3-6 shooting), did a great job distributing the rock with 11 assists. … and D-Will was the leader, according to the Mavs, in recognizing who to get the ball to, and when — Matthews often being that “hot’’ guy.
The big guns did their jobs well enough, but it was the role players and the younger guys for Dallas — yes, the Mavs have young guys, too — who deserve most of the credit for the Mavs win here.
The bench, which was led by Devin Harris (14 points) and Dwight Powell (14 points), combined for 42 points on 60-percent shooting from the field. Seth Curry also contributed seven points with three steals, while Salah Mejri had four points, six boards and a block. The bench was efficient, full of energy, and put the Mavs in great position to close the gap on LA in the first half, and shut the door on them in the second.
Mavs rookie Dorian Finney-Smith also had a nice game, scoring 12 points in 32 minutes, and playing his usual brand of high-energy, tough-nosed defense.
Everyone contributed on the glass for Dallas as well, as they out-rebounded the Lakers 42-34, including 10-7 on the offensive glass. And hey, when you’re the worst rebounding team in the NBA, you need everyone to get after it on the glass, and that’s exactly what happened here.
“We played smart and efficient, and we didn’t have a lot of catastrophic turnovers to get them going and get the building going,” coach Rick Carlisle said of his team’s effort. “So credit to our guys. They did a good job at both ends of the floor.”
The Lakers on the other hand, after a red hot start from Nick Young (17 points on 5-6 from downtown), imploded in the third quarter, allowing the Mavs to outscore them 31-13 in the frame. In fact, after allowing the Lakers to score 57 first-half points, the Mavs outscored LA in the second half 51-32 thanks to pesky defense and timely shooting.
Randle led the way for 12-24 LA, scoring 18 points on an efficient 50 percent from the field, but D’Angelo Russell and Lou Williams (the Lakers two leading scorers) were held to just 25 points between the two of them on 36-percent shooting. Williams is the Lakers’ leading scorer on the year at around 19 points per game, so to hold him to just 10 was huge for the Mavs defense.
"The few games we’ve won this year, we don’t let teams score 110, 115. It’s 90,’’ D-Will said. “I’d rather win ugly any day than lose pretty."
The Mavs, now 10-23 (4-14 on the road), will now set their sights on the defending Western Conference champs, the Golden State Warriors, in what will be Dallas’ fourth game in five nights. Golden State (28-5 and 13-2 at home), currently lead the NBA in points per game (117.3), field goal percentage (49.7-percent), opponents field goal percentage (42.9-percent), and are fourth in the league in three-point percentage (38-percent), and sixth in rebounding (45.5 per night).
To say this Harrison Barnes homecoming will be a tough game for the Mavs is beyond an understatement, considering the Warriors a essentially the best in the league at everything the Mavs are terrible at. But the Mavs would surely take a 1-1 record on a back-to-back West Coast road trip over 0-2 and call it a day before returning home for three very winnable home games to start the New Year.