At first glance, the score of Friday night’s game between the Mavericks and Warriors may seem like a valiant effort by Dallas to keep things close on the road. The reality however, was that the game was far more of a blowout than the 108-99 score indicated. Golden State cruised to an easy win over the Mavs, dropping the Mavs to 10-24 on the season, and handing them their third loss in four games.
The Mavs did get Dirk Nowitzki back from the illness that caused him to miss Thursday night’s matchup with the Lakers, but with Andrew Bogut sitting out and J.J. Barea still missing from the lineup, the Mavs just wouldn’t have enough bodies to keep things close against Golden State.
Kevin Durant led the onslaught for the Warriors by notching a triple-double of 19 points, 11 boards and 10 assists, while shooting 7-14 from the floor. Durant has transformed his game since leaving Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City (a move that seems to be working out well for both of them), and is becoming more and more of a complete player as the season continues to progress.
We all knew Durant was more than capable of putting up these kinds of games, but he is just now starting to do it on a consistent basis. Sure, it helps that he has shooters everywhere to help he rack up the assists, but he is also rebounding at a very high rate, and playing great defense. He has also become a top rim protector on the Warriors’ roster, which is outstanding in and of itself.
Not to be outdone, Klay Thompson scored 29 points on 11-19 shooting, including 5-11 from downtown, while Draymond Green filled up the stat sheet with 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Steph Curry on the other hand had a quiet 14 points and five assists in the game.
The Mavs numbers ... well, they weren’t quiet as impressive, with the notable exception of Harrison Barnes, who lit up his former team for 25 points on 11-18 shooting (3-7 from downtown). Wes Matthews was the Mavs second leading scorer with just 14 points, while Dirk and Deron would each tally 11 points of their own.
Dirk had a tough time on the offensive end of the floor, shooting just 33 percent from the field, and failing to cash in on any one of his three attempts. It seems as though Dirk is still trying to knock the rust off a bit, which is something that should work itself out in due time.
One of the lone bright spots for the Mavs in their final game of the calendar year was the play of Dwight Powell, who notched his first double-double of the season. Powell scored 10 points to go along with 13 boards, and even added two blocks on the defensive end of the floor to round out his solid outing. Powell’s scoring was efficient (5-7 from the floor), and he was aggressive on the glass, which is something the Mavs have been looking for him to do all season long.
In the end, after a decent start in the first quarter, the Mavs were just outgunned early and often by the most offensively gifted team in the NBA. There was nothing they could do (or that most teams can do) to slow down the Warriors offensive firepower, especially with their best player Dirk) hampered by a minutes restriction.
“I was tired early in the first quarter, but I tried to play through it,” Nowitzki said. “I haven’t really played that much, and yesterday I was out with a sickness. I didn’t feel great, but I tried my best to be out there. And even there in the second half, I got to my spots. It’s just that everything was short.”
But even if the Big German was at 100 percent, the way Golden State plays basketball is just on another level than anybody else in the NBA not named the Cleveland Cavaliers.
If you’re a basketball junkie, and you watch a lot of the NBA in particular, it’s really difficult not to be amazed by the way they do things. Every player from Steph Curry, to Kevin Durant, all the way down to Kevon Looney, executes an unselfish brand of basketball that you just don’t see anywhere else. They all move constantly without the ball in their hands, because they know if they find that open spot, whoever has the ball will find them for the shot. They don’t care who is shooting the basketball or when. If you’re open, it’s your shot. Nobody else in the NBA does that.
Golden State, by the way, finished the calendar year (spanning parts of two seasons) 72-12 for the second straight time - the best two-year record (144-24) in NBA history, putting them ahead of the 1996-97 Bulls, who were 136-30.
The Mavs' "record pace'' and brand of basketball is a little bit different right now. They have so few consistent offensive threats outside of Dirk, Barnes and Wes that those three (especially Barnes and Wes right now) are forced to try and do everything on the offensive end of the floor. The lack of an inside presence and/or a penetrating guard kills their spacing, and forces Wes and Harrison to take one contested jump shot after another.
To put it bluntly, the disparity -- in talent and weapons and performance -- between these two teams might be the widest in the NBA, and establishes to us that even with Dirk, this team probably won’t even sniff the eighth seed in the Western Conference, and will have a top-five pick this June.
After Friday night's drubbing at the hands of the Warriors, the Mavs currently sit at 10-24… still tied for the worst record in the West, and tied for the second-worst record in the NBA. In fact, the Mavs will carry their worst-ever win percentage into the new year since the 1997-1998 season.
Will they win the occasional game against a bad team here and there? Sure, they will win a game against a bad team like the Lakers or 76ers, but at the current rate they‘re on (29.4-percent winning percentage), they will finish the season with 24-26 wins.
It’s entirely possible that one of those wins may come on Tuesday, however, when the Mavs begin a three-game home stand by welcoming a mediocre Washington Wizards group to the American Airlines Center. The Wizards, who are led by John Wall’s 23.7 points and 9.9 assists per game, are just 3-10 on the road this season, and will be heading into the second game of a back-to-back after facing the Rockets on Monday.
Noted coach Rick Carlisle, reflecting on this game and the upcoming schedule: “There were a lot of positive signs. We’ve got a travel day and we’ve got New Year’s Day off, so all of our guys have got a chance to catch their breath. And then Monday is an important practice and we’re home for three. ... I’s been a whirlwind year, but we’re inching along with health and we’re seeing some positive things ...''
That being said, if I’m John Wall and Bradley Beal, I’m licking my chops at the prospect of facing the league's lowest rated defensive unit. ... a Mavs team that right now enters the New Year as ... historically bad.