Playing on the second night of a back-to-back and resting six players, the Dallas Mavericks were in mid season form, giving up a big lead late to the Indiana Pacers before losing 93-98. Richard Jefferson led the Mavericks with 19 points, while Gal Mekel also had 19 points and handed out 9 assists.
After watching the starters handle the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle opted to rest Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Jameer Nelson, Tyson Chandler, Chandler Parsons, and Devin Harris. The bench players and training camp invitees responded by punishing the undermanned Pacers for most of the game. However, Dallas somehow lost a double digit lead in the second part of the fourth quarter. I really have no idea how. I started writing this and then the game was tied. It felt familiar after the last three seasons. But it's a pre-season game.
As with all pre-season games, it's hard to draw lots of conclusions from a game that has no impact on the standings. However, with so many minutes going to fringe rotation players and camp invitees. there's a lot to like about the Maverick performance. Instead of a play by play, I'll be giving you my thoughts on specific players:
- Gal Mekel, a player we've treated with disdain at times, looked legit. He controlled the Dallas offense and the few minutes he didn't play, the Mavericks looked out of sorts. There's been some talk that he and Bernard James are on the trade block, but a performance like this may cause the Mavericks to reconsider. Mekel's unlikely to see any time this season with a packed guard rotation in front of him, but should the worst happen, he's a serviceable fifth guard. That's all you can really ask for.
- Richard Jefferson is going to be a ridiculous ninth man off the bench. I suspect he doesn't play more than 15 minutes per game, but he's just so solid. 19 points on 11 shots is really efficient and his ability to get to the free throw line and knock down three pointers is going to be very valuable during the long NBA season.
- Al Farouq Aminu is looking really confident. I still don't have any idea what his role is going to be (Dirk back up? Small forward?), but he's certainly active (11 points and 12 rebounds in just 31 minutes). His late offensive rebound and dish to Charlie Villanueva for a dunk was a biiiig play. I'm leaning towards hoping he backs up Dirk and can simply be an energy guy in 20 minutes a game. Either way, he's a steal of a signing.
- Greg Smith is a massive human, but he looked pretty bad tonight, fouling out in only 15 minutes of playing time. Still, his size gives Dallas an aspect they didn't have from their back up bigs. Brandan Wright will probably get most of the reserve minutes, but as an emergency big, he's a nice option.
- Charlie Villanueva is a puzzle. He's played well enough to make the team, but he's so awful defensively. He hit a few big shots again, but he was also directly responsible for the bucket which gave Indiana the lead late in the fourth. His man set a back screen on Gal Mekel near the free throw line and he provided no support. Whatever the Mavericks end up doing with him will be worth paying attention to.
- Ricky Ledo was bad. We love the theory of Ricky Ledo here at MMB, but the practice of him... he's not that good. Part of that's his wild inconsistency. But his lack of defining skill hurts him as well.
- Doron Lamb, we hardly knew you. Nine minutes, three points, nothing else.
- Jae Crowder with the kind of stat line that usually gets complaints: nine points, two assists, nothing else. His defense and ball movement were really important for the Maverick lead throughout most of the game. His game will continue to defy logic because while he doesn't ever do much, when he;s on the floor good things happen. We have to admit that at some point.
- Ivan Johnson needs to go away. One good game doesn't make up for many bad ones.
- Bernard James is the odd man out, I think, if Dallas chooses to go with Charlie V. Shame too, because he has a skill set (shot blocking). It's more about the Maverick options before him than his own talent. He's really pretty solid defensively.
That's it for tonight. The Mavericks play the Grizzlies at home Monday. Thanks for joining us and let me know what you thought of the game in the comments.