Mavs beat short-handed Hawks, 98-88

Ronald Martinez

Atlanta left their starters at home but still kept things competitive in the second-to-last game of the preseason.

There's only so much you can take away from a game like this. Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver -- none of them were in the building on Wednesday. After playing in Atlanta on Tuesday, most of the Hawks regulars didn't make the flight to Dallas.

The Mavs win came against the Hawks second and third stringers, who put up quite a fight before ultimately falling short, 98-88. Of course, in the preseason, wins and losses are generally not high on a coach's priority list. As Nick Saban would say, it's all about The Process.

The story of the game was Atlanta rookie Dennis Schroeder, who is already making the Mavs look a little silly for passing up on him in this year's draft. The German teenager looked like a lottery pick against Dallas, going for 21 points on 8-12 shooting. He showed his youth with 7 turnovers, but the talent is clearly there.

To be fair, a lot of guys would look good with Jose Calderon and Gal Mekel defending them. An opposing PG having a big scoring night is going to be a theme for this team all season. You can slide Shawn Marion and/or Monta Ellis on them, but that still leaves your PG's trying to defend much bigger NBA wings.

We saw both the good and bad of Mekel on Wednesday. On the plus side, he looked more comfortable running the offense and finding guys in the right spots on the floor. On the negative, he had 4 turnovers and is clearly still struggling with the athleticism of the NBA game.

With Devin Harris and Shane Larkin still M.I.A., Mekel looks like he'll start the season as the backup PG. He will have his moments, but I worry what happens when the book on him gets around. Attack his dribble, force him to be a scorer and isolate him on defense. I'm not sure he has an answer for that.

Dejuan Blair looks like he has the backup center spot locked down, with 6 points and 10 rebounds in 18 minutes tonight. If he can be a productive rebounder, there is a spot for him on this team. Sarge James played only 5 minutes; he's going to have a hard time staying on the floor if he can't be an offensive threat.

Atlanta is the kind of team that Blair can have success against. They started two 6'8 guys -- former Mav Elton Brand and Mike Scott -- and brought 6'10 (European rookie Pero Antic) and 6'7 (training camp body Eric Dawsen) off the bench. They had no one who can really punish Blair for his lack of height.

The Hawks are just a small team in general. They run out of a bunch of two-PG lineups, which is where Vince Carter can just kill teams. He's too big for under 6'4 guards to handle, especially ones on the second unit. Even with their starters, though, Atlanta doesn't have anyone who can match up with a big wing like Vince.

Jared "J-Flight" Cunningham was one of those who tried. The Mavs first-round pick in 2012 made a triumphant return to the AAC, playing more minutes tonight (27) than he did all of last season (24). He had 14 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists on 3-6 shooting and went 6-11 from the FT line.

Unfortunately, looking at the Hawks roster, I'm not sure where the minutes are for him. They are fully stocked with small guards, with Teague, Schroeder and John Jenkins all ahead of him, and that's before Lou Williams returns from injury. Cunningham might stick in the NBA, but it won't be easy.

True story: on press row tonight, someone was asking a scout about Rodrigue Beaubois and it took the scout about half a minute to figure out who he was talking about. Then he shrugged his shoulders and said there was a reason he wasn't on a team. That's basically what other teams think about our draft picks.

Everyone misses on picks; it's leaving points on the board that really kill you. Let's just hope Larkin can play or passing on Schroeder could really end up hurting.

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