After three ugly quarters of basketball, Washington and Dallas put on quite a show in the final period, with the Mavericks coming out on top 105-102. Monta Ellis led all scorers with 34 points. Bradley Beal led the Wizards off the bench with 21 points. J.J. Barea and Brandan Wright came off the bench for Dallas to combine for 28 points on just 15 shots.
After three straight games reigning fire on opponents early, the Mavericks cooled considerably in the first quarter against the Wizards. Washington jumped out to an early lead by isolating Dirk Nowitzki while the Mavericks missed a ridiculous number of shots. Pair the early misses with some frustrating fouls, and the Mavericks were simply unable to take advantage of Nene getting into early foul trouble. The only saving grace for Dallas was Monta Ellis, who was nearly unstoppable in the opening period, single-handedly keeping Dallas afloat with 16 points.
The second quarter was bizarre, with Rick Carlisle rolling out a backcourt of J.J. Barea and...Jae Crowder? The Mavericks chipped away slowly at the Washington lead, despite committing six turnovers in the period. Carlisle played 11 different Mavericks in the quarter in an attempt to generate some kind of consistency on either side of the ball. Little seemed to work on a play-by-play basis, yet the Mavericks continued to hang around. Dirk was able to sink a baseline jumper and open three but struggled in the period, picking up a number of fouls.
Despite their mistakes, the Mavericks kept pushing and somehow went into halftime with a 54-53 lead...though it somehow felt like they were down by ten. Monta Ellis stayed in scoring mode with eight more points in the period.
After halftime, the Mavericks seemed like a team on a mission. They jumped out to a quick 10 point lead, scoring off of repeated Washington turnovers. But the lead wouldn't hold as the Wizards chipped away off of bad misses from Dallas and just enough turnovers to stifle the offense. Washington even took a brief lead before J.J. Barea steadied the ship through free throws, taking advantage of the slower Andre Miller. The Mavericks took a 76-73 lead into the final quarter.
The final period was a reward for basketball fans sitting through 36 minutes of disjointed game action: a wild, back and forth affair that was perhaps the most exciting game I've been to in person (don't judge, I've been to 10 games total in my life). It all started with two ridiculous ally-oops from Barea to Wright, each resulting in and-one situations. On the ensuing possession, Wright got called for goaltending, but the replay seemed to show Wright destroying the shot at its apex. This basket seemed to wake the Wizards up, who answered with a pair of threes out of scramble situations where Andre Miller posted up the smaller Barea. At one point, Dirk sprained his ankle and headed back to the locker room for a good portion of the period.
While Dirk was getting taped in the back, Monta Ellis and the Wizards engaged in a battle of wills. Chandler Parsons scored on an awkward drive, but then put Dallas in two bad situations, forcing a bad pass to Barea and then getting blocked at the rim by Wall on a fast break. The two teams continued to trade buckets before Barea baited Bradley Beal into an offensive foul. Dirk returned to action with his ankle taped up and, despite shooting 3-11 to that point, his gravity kept the defense occupied just enough. Barea followed up causing the turnover by dribbling the whole possession and nailing a monstrous three. Dirk then put the Mavs up for good with a backbreaking three off a pick and pop with Barea. The Wizards kept hope alive with a few more buckets, but it wasn't to be.
Dallas leaves Washington with a 105-102 victory.
Some parting thoughts:
- That was probably the most exciting game I've been to in person. I went to the occasional game from 1996 to 2002, none of them stand out. That final quarter was awesome.
- We need to talk more about Brandan Wright. For the last several seasons he's been a rising offensive force and that was on full display against Washington with rim runs, putback dunks and oops. But he's become surprisingly adept on defense! I used to kill him on Twitter when he'd look like a saloon door trying to cover the pick and roll. Now he helps and recovers and simply looks steady. Maybe it's Tyson Chandler, maybe he's simply comfortable, but his leap this season is impressive. Additionally, he looks as if he's rebounding better. He's boxing out, he's attacking the glass after getting better position, and he really looks like the full package.
- I am worried about Parsons. Not in the sense that I think he's bad or anything outrageous, but he doesn't look confident. It's a shame too because his combination of size and basketball IQ make him really dangerous. I think he'll get it at some point, but tonight was not that night. He continues to come up short against higher quality teams though and that is a bit alarming.
- Sooooo remember when we all thought J.J. Barea wasn't going to get minutes? During pre-game media availability, Rick Carlisle talked about the need for someone to step up. Through the first three quarters, no one really answered the call. During the final 15 minutes of game time, Barea stepped up in a huge way. He'll probably frustrate Dallas fans more often than not, but when he's allowed to cause havoc in short bursts he can be mighty effective.
- Greg Smith is an enormous human.
- Holy cow Bradley Beal is good. He attacked Tyson Chandler at the rim repeatedly and won. His shooting, size, and ability to drive... he's the real deal. I don't know if he'll ever be a superstar, but he's going to be an excellent player for a really long time.
Basically: the Mavs are a lot of fun. We'll have an Aftermath sometime tomorrow!