Donut 1: Mavs 98, Wolves 87
Basketball will always be a game of runs, so of course there were times vs. the Timberwolves when things got closer than they finished.
For the most part, the Dallas Mavericks had control of this basketball game. The Wolves grabbed an early lead and it did take 5 made shots in a row (plus a Devin Harris FT) to pull the Mavs into a 21-21 tie—but for the most part the Mavs won each quarter of the game.
Their biggest challenge came in a very Wolves heavy third quarter in which the Mavs saw a 9 point lead shrink to 2 points.
By the end of the third quarter the Mavs had calmed down, reopened the lead to nine points, and were never really threatened again. Get more game coverage here and keep up with more Donuts below!
Donut 2: Bogut to LA/Toronto?
Look, I have no idea where Bogut will wind up (especially if he spends more of his time in a suit over the next month than he does on the floor)—what I do know is that he needs to end up in a city where they shoot movies.
When I caught a shot of him in a suit, he looked like someone who’d rough a dude up in a Guy Richie movie. He already has the accent and the bulk to stand around looking menacing—and if Mark Cuban can have a featured role in a Sharknado movie, we can get Andrew Bogut some work as a heavy in an action movie.
The Mavs announced that Bogut will be out for the “foreseeable future” (whatever that means) and he’s missed the last two games.
He was averaging 5.7 boards, 1.7 assists and 1 point per game over his previous 10 appearances. So, maybe he should get some headshots together either way?
Oh, and in other center-trade-related news: Fish has the scoop: "A Big Angle And A Big Change: Mavs Source Speaks On Hassan Whiteside Trade Idea.''
Donut 3: Dirk on D
Dirk did a little half-hearted trash talking after the game when he was asked about his block on Zack LaVine:
"Those kids better learn,'' Dirk deadpanned. "Nah, I'm kidding."
I think it’s worth a little trash talk. The Big German wound up with three blocks on the day, to go with six defensive rebounds.
I’m not saying he’s the world’s best starting center—but he’s a pretty solid option when running with that small lineup.
Donut 4: J.J. Barea—Fashionably Late
J.J. Barea didn’t have a single bucket until the closing moments of the third quarter (though he had been to the FT line). From that point on he went 5 of 5 from the floor.
He scored 11 Mavs points in a row bridging the 3rd and 4th quarters en route to 15 points for the game.
Those 15 points had a lot to do with the Mavs closing out the game with a win.
When asked about scoring 11 straight, he said:
“I knew we did a good job in the first, and in the second we were cutting it close. I knew the bench had to do a better job in the second half, and I was aggressive and got in a little rhythm. I made a couple shots and kept being aggressive.”
Donut 5: Speaking of Bench Problems
You know I love weird stats, so check out this stat line:
4 of 19 shooting, 10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, one steal two turnovers.
That’s not one player having a rough day. Those are the entire combined stats-lines of the Timberwolves bench vs. the Mavs.
It gets even worse when I tell you that Nemanja Bjelica was responsible for all ten points, 4 of the 9 boards, 1 of the assists and the lone steal.
Both J.J. Barea (with 15 points) and Devin Harris (with 10 points) had better scoring performances off the bench than the T-Wolves could manage as a unit.
Even Salah Mejri, in only 18 minutes, managed 4 points, 8 boards, and a block all by himself.
Not sure what the long term aspirations for a Towns/Wiggins squad will be—but none of those aspirations are going to happen if they don’t get more from their bench.
Donut 6: Dirk on Offense
I don’t know what to expect from Dirk or the Mavs on any given night, but I can tell you that Dirk still looks like a guy with a lot of good basketball in him. He was 7 of 14 vs. the Timberwolves (despite a slow start).
He hit 3 of his 4 three-point attempts and had a couple of really nice assists.
I already mentioned his 6 defensive rebounds—but I forgot to mention the rebound he went up and fought for that wound up credited to Seth Curry.
It’s not much when you’re talking about a HOF'er with skins on the wall—but Dirk is averaging nearly 14 points, 1.7 assist and 5 rebounds over the last 10 games. I’m encouraged by this, even if it winds up dragging the Mavs further out of the lottery.
It shows up in the highlights.
Coach Rick Carlisle sees it, too.
It is pretty clear we are picking up the pace with Dirk and Barea back in there.,'' he said. "We are showing signs of making some progress ... (Dirk) is doing better every single day. The fact that we are getting more playmakers out there with him
contributes on some level but it is really more about what he is doing and the work that he has put in
to get to this point.''
Donut 7: Winning Plays
Three times vs. the T-Wolves we got to see Mavs guards keeping possessions alive by out-hustling their opponent.
J.J. Barea had it the easiest, as he barely had to work to keep a ball in-bounds and get it back into the hands of his teammates.
Seth Curry’s dive along the sideline to scoop the ball behind him was pretty cool.
But, my favorite moment came from a mishandled pass that deflected off of Devin Harris in the 2nd quarter. Harris fully extended, while keeping his feet in bounds until the last possible moment, allowed his teammate to get into position, and then deflected the ball into his hands as he splayed out of bounds.
The result: instead of a turnover, it led to FTs by J.J. Barea. Plus, it was one of the coolest plays I’ve ever seen.
Donut 8: Williams With Grit
I know I’m sometimes critical of players—even the players that I like. Premium members can read an entire piece in which I question the ebbs and flows of Deron Williams’ trade value.
I have nothing but praise for his play of late.
Yeah, like every NBA player, he’s had an off day here and there—but over the last 10 games he’s averaging 14.3 points and 7.4 assists on nearly 46% shooting.
He was good against the Wolves (13 points, 10 assists) and even better against the Suns in Mexico (23 points, 12 assists).
But, what really sold me on Williams was watching him tweak something during the game, but keep playing antagonizing defense, and aggressively driving and kicking the basketball.
He looked like he wanted to compete. It didn’t matter to him that he was playing for a team that needed a win to climb 4 games back in the playoff race. He showed pride, grit and efficiency—and those things are worth even more when they go along with that potent stat-line.
Donut 9: Karl-Anthony Towns
Karl-Anthony Towns played just fine vs. the Mavs. He had 18 points (two of them window-dressing on the final play of the game), he grabbed 9 rebounds, he had three assists, a steal and a block.
But his 8 of 17 from the floor for the game—well that’s a far cry from the player who started 8 of 9 in the first quarter last week vs. the Mavs.
Keeping Towns in check had a lot to do with the Mavs success in this game. Not bad when your makeshift centers, in a mostly small lineup, can hold a guy like Towns in check.
Donut 10: Gorgui Dieng
Dieng almost picked up the slack for his team. He was 10 of 12 from the floor with a game high 21 points. He added 8 rebounds to that tally—even more impressive because five of those were offensive rebounds.
He did get a little greedy when he took (and missed) a three-pointer in the 4th—but I’ll admit that I was relieved every time his teammates forgot how hot he was, and went to someone else.
Dieng, Towns, and Wiggins make me want to add this team to my League Pass rotation—and they weren’t even on my radar a week ago.
Donut 11: Guard Play
I’ve hinted at it a little bit, but the Mavericks beat the T-Wolves because every one of their guards game to play.
Williams, Harris, J.J. Barea and Seth Curry all showed up and put in some work.
Seth struggled with his shot (going 2 of 9 for 7 points), but he was tenacious on defense (with three steals), he dove out of bounds to rescue a possession, and while he went uncredited with an assist, he was an offensive catalyst a number of times (making the first good pass in a sequence of good passes—or getting out on the break and letting someone else finish things off).
They won’t all have their shot every night, but if each of them keeps playing with the grit and attack-first mentality we’ve seen over the last couple of games, these guys can get some real work in. They might all earn a spot on some other team’s playoff roster in the process.
Donut 12: The Final Word
In some ways, despite the loss, the final word goes to Ricky Rubio and Karl-Anthony Towns. Rubio was 2 of 9 from the floor—which isn’t that far off his normal numbers (he’s shooting .379 from the floor this season).
In the final possession of the game, Rubio had the ball deep in the paint, with about 5 seconds to go, and his team down by 13 points. Instead of taking a shot himself, or just dribbling out the clock, he pushed the ball to Towns who shot and scored to add a little window dressing.
The problem I had with this wasn’t a team going and getting all the points they could. It was the question it created for me: Was Rubio so aware that he had 9 assists that he really wanted to get to 10? Maybe, maybe not. Did it mean that KAT wanted the ball and a couple more points just to beef up his stats? Maybe, maybe not.
What I can tell you is Rubio was as close to wide open as you can get in the interior of the NBA court—because the Mavs weren’t trying to stop him. Meanwhile, Towns had to accept the pass late in the clock while facing far-better defense.
If Rubio wasn’t stat padding, he should’ve taken the shot himself. It was a better shot and he’s a professional player. Instead, his pass stank of a guy so aware of his individual stats that he went looking for his 10th assist instead of the smartest basketball play.
Easy to notice in the final moments of a game—but I wonder how many small moments the T-Wolves give up to other plays just like that.