Donut 1: Mavs 113, Wizards 105
The Mavs won this Tuesday outing at the AAC (our game story featuring Harrison Barnes’ “finally!’’ moment is here) because they shot phenomenally from the field. Plus, from time-to-time, they were able to slow down the potent Washington offense.
The Wizards are shooting 46.8% from the field this season. Just below Houston (5th) in FG%.
Do I need to tell you which end of the chart your Dallas Mavs tend to call home? Yeah. 29th in FG% with 42.9%.
Not last night. Last night the Mavs shot 47.4% from the floor and they only let Washington shoot 44.6%.
It was still a game of big runs from both teams—and both squads found themselves on the wrong end of five possession deficits. But, in the end, the Mavs didn’t look fortunate to win—the Wizards looked fortunate to be in it at all.
Donut 2: The Andrew Bogut Problem
I’ve come to appreciate the game that Andrew Bogut brings to the table. I was especially excited to watch him play before he hurt his knee last month.
The man can pass, he has a nasty streak (often voted dirty by his fellow NBA players), he knows how to create and deny space.
He’s a fun guy to listen to in an interview, he’s clearly a good teammate, and he manages all of it with a nuance that is sometimes lost on a bad team.
He’s even expressed a willingness to come off the bench, especially now that Dirk is back.
The problem, of course, is that there’s nothing more nuanced than the way a knee joint struggles to hold giant men aloft, and send them vaulting up and down a basketball court.
So, when someone does something clumsy—like put their knee directly into Bogut’s already ailing knee—you get to watch your trade asset hobble off the court (again) and spend the rest of the game trying to get on the kiss cam with the new bag of ice that just became his significant other.
I’m not saying the trade market is drying up for Bogut; coach Rick Carlisle feels bad about not starting him because, as the coach says, “He’s a …. and ….. I’m just saying the man needs an Igloo cooler as his roommate, so be aware of that if before the trade deadline you bring him to your town.
Donut 3: Wes Matthews, Sharpshooter
There is a reason the NBA logo is that of an iconic player doing iconic things.
The NBA learned faster than other leagues: If people care about the players, they’ll care about your game.
The individual human narratives are the real things that keep us tuned in to an 82-game schedule. It is not, as you might suspect, just a well-manicured win/loss column.
In fact, we talk more about the games in which Greg Popovich rests his players than we do the games the Spurs win. Why? Because winning, for that team, is boring. Wins and losses are often boring. Narrative arcs—that’s high drama.
So, believe me when I tell you: I love the arc Wes Matthews is on right now.
Ruptured his Achilles vs. the Mavs—then goes to play for them. Struggles through a tough year back, struggles to start the 2016-2017 season—then, starts to play some of the strongest basketball of his career at a time when some players might see a 20 in the loss column and shut everything down.
Character, hard work, integrity—Wes Matthews is overflowing with it.
Last night, as a fraction of his reward, he made his 100th (and 101st) three pointer of the season. He’s brought his 3-point percentage up to .383, and he seems to get stronger every week.
That’s the stuff I watch for. That’s the way the game rewards me for paying attention.
Donut 4: Seth's Bests
I don’t know what kind of player Seth Curry is going to be, but he shot 5 of 8 here, 4 of 5 from three-point range, finished with 16 points, 2 boards, 2 assists, and only 1 turnover—while playing only 22 minutes.
He had a plus/minus of +18.
Oh, and he continues to be a tenacious pest on defense.
He’s already having a career year—and there’s a chance he’s only scratching the surface of what he can do.
It’s hard to say whether this team is better with Seth picking up an extra ten minutes a game—but it’s certainly an experiment I’d like to see.
Donut 5: D-Will Can Still Play
Though it may not seem like it, Deron Williams is in a very similar place as Bogut right now. He’s a guy who’s been slowed a bit by injury. He’s a guy who still has an alpha personality, but his body is trending toward role-player status.
When he plays efficiently (and has a little luck) he is still a fantastic offensive player. He had 21 points here, he had six assists, and he had the best plus-minus of any starter not named Dirk.
D-Will even had one of my favorite DEFENSIVE plays of the night (which I’ll talk about in a moment).
If this Mavs team had any shot of competing this year, it would probably be with Williams, Bogut and Dirk all coming off the bench and taking on (and out maneuvering) second-tier players.
Which is why, if the Mavericks AND Williams are careful, they might just rehabilitate his value before the deadline. As it stands now, though? DBcom writes in Mavs Premium how there should be concerns about “The Incredible Shrinking Trade Value of Deron Williams.’’
Donut 6: The Justin Anderson Play of the Game
Justin doesn’t earn this thing much anymore, and I might even need to change the name before the season is over, but for now, let’s give the award to John Wall and the Wizards’ fast break.
With 4:10 to go in the 4th, Harrison Barnes went up for a jump shot that he took a little flat. The Wizards’ Bradley Beal tipped the ball to John Wall for one of Wall’s 3 steals of the game.
Wall, a force to be reckoned with in a 5-man set, only needed to beat the aging and sometimes defensively drowsy Deron Williams.
Instead, Wall got a little out of control under the basket, Williams kept the play in front of him, and slapped the ball out of Wall’s hands, off Wall’s knee, and then avoided it as it spilled out of bounds.
Donut 7: Scotty Brooks has a Type
The trend continues for Scott Brooks and his alpha players.
John Wall was 10 of 19 and Beal was 10 of 26.
The saving grace for the Mavs is that the more efficient and talented Wall took 7 fewer shots than Beal. In fact, Beal may have shot the Wizards out of the game last night.
Wall was an efficient 10 of 19 and took six free throws for 27 points.
On the other hand, while Beal notched 25 points last night—he also went 3 of 11 from behind the arc, didn’t get to the line as often, and missed almost as many shots as Wall took.
I don’t know enough about the politics of that Washington team, but I do know that Scotty Brooks is no stranger to watching the wrong player take the wrong shots at the wrong time.
If I’m an opposing team, I’ll take a Bradley Beal shot over a John Wall shot any day of the week. The problem is, Bradley Beal will take a Bradley Beal shot over and John Wall shot, too.
Donut 8: A Quarter is Worth More than 25 Pennies
Part of the reason the Mavs started the New Year with a draft-pick-wounding 5th win in 9 games?
Nine points from Harrison Barnes in the 4th quarter.
The man has more 20-point games this season than he had in his first four years combined—but that doesn’t even begin to tell the story of how much talent and fight Barnes has.
Those nine points in one frame stand out for two big reasons:
First: Those are the kinds of numbers we used to get from Dirk, and you can never have enough players who will step up in the crunch and make plays.
Second: Even averaging over 20 points a game this season, Barnes’ career scoring average is 11 points per game. That means what used to be a full-game output for Barnes is now what he brings to winning time. That’s probably why winning time has started to happen more frequently for the Dallas Mavericks.
Donut 9: Dirk the Role-Player
If you only think of Dirk as a living monolith, it can be hard to appreciate his stat-line from last night.
Instead, just think of Dirk as a role-player, and ask yourself the honest question: Can’t every team use a guy who draws a lot of defensive attention, excels at the pick-and-roll, and contributes 11 points and 9 rebounds?
He did that in only 24 minutes.
The Wizards Markieff Morris, at age 27, only had 13 points and 5 rebounds in 26 minutes.
I’m not saying we can’t long for those 30-point, 11-rebound performances from the past. But there’s a lot to love about a guy giving you a near double-double in very limited minutes.
Donut 10: That One Streak
Do you know why it’s hard to understand this Dallas Mavericks team? Because, outside of one stretch of this game, they seemed to be the superior team.
And, before you scoff at the value of being superior to a 16-18 Wizard’s squad, I want you to remember that before back-to-back losses to the Mavs and Rockets, the Wizards had won 9 of their previous 12 games.
The problem with that one stretch, is that it was so brutal, it kept the Wizards in the game (and at times in control of the game) well into the 4th quarter.
With 2:25 left in the first half, the Mavs had a 58 to 49 lead.
By the time the half-time buzzer sounded, the Wizards had a 67-61 lead.
In only 145 seconds, the Wizards went on a John Wall-fueled 18-3 tear.
I know the NBA is a game of runs—but we’ve watched teams like the Rockets, Clippers, and even the lowly Kings use that type of run to bury this Mavs team in a 20-point hole.
That’s why I keep reminding everyone that the other team that knows how to bury shots (and the teams trying to stop them): The Golden State Warriors. … Still the most likely playoff opponent should the Mavs find some way into the Playoffs.
Donut 11: Oh Playoffs, Why Do You Taunt Me?
Right now, the 2nd place Toronto Raptors are 3.5 games back of the Cavs for 1st in the East. The 4th place Charlotte Hornets sit eight games behind the Cavs, and 4.5 games behind the Raptors.
In the West, the 3rd place Rockets are 3.5 games out of first, and the 4th place Clippers are eight games out of first.
The Dallas Mavericks are currently 4.5 games out of 8th place.
I’m not saying it’s likely that the Mavericks will find a way to climb up that ladder—I’m just saying this: if you believe there is any shot for the Clippers to pass the Rockets/Spurs, then it ought to be a similar feat for the Mavericks to overtake the Sacramento Kings.
Not easy, to be sure—but easy enough that Team Draft Pick can’t rest easy just yet.
Donut 12: The Final Word
This tweet from Tim MacMahon featured a perfect exchange from two great teammates:
If they’re not careful, the new management is going to conspire with the help, and they’re going to climb out of the cellar.