In the second game of the home and home matchup with Denver, in which Dallas' 3 starters who sat out Wednesday returned, the Mavericks won handily, 97-89. Dirk finished the game looking awesome, with 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 4-5 from three in 30 minutes of play. Chandler Parsons was Dallas' second highest leading scorer with 18 points and 6 rebounds and shooting 6-10 from the floor. Aaron Afflalo led the Nuggets with 16 points.
This game opened auspiciously. After struggling pretty seriously for well over a month now, Dirk opened the game by hitting a wide open three, a pair of free throws, and a jumper from the left elbow, and the Mavs went up 13-2 on the Nuggets in the first 3 minutes of the game. As of the first 3 minutes, Dirk was on pace for 160 points, and the Mavs were on pace for over 200.
The Mavericks didn't play poorly from there by any means, but the game did go downhill somewhat: after firebombing the Nuggets with three point shooting and transition dunks, the Mavericks' scheduled basketball brain farts hit when Dirk was taken out, and coupled with their trademark stretch of bad defense, it wasn't long before Denver was competitive again, especially behind this vicious Wilson Chandler dunk.
Wilson Chandler just murdered Tyson Chandler on this dunk. https://t.co/n696KQnG1E— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) January 17, 2015
The Nuggets ended the first quarter trailing by only 5, 24-29.
The Mavericks were admittedly crafty when things got rough: Chandler Parsons and Devin Harris in particular were really good at finding ways to scramble the defense when spacing was tight, and either create shots or draw fouls. Not all of these resulted in tangible stats and results (Al-Farouq Aminu missed 3 WIDE open 3's in the first half alone) but they did a good job keeping the Mavs in it when the Nuggets tried to pull back.
Mostly though, the Mavs continued building big leads with versions of the Dirk-Rondo pairing on the court, and just struggled mightily to not lose those leads when the bench units were subbed in. This, probably, will be the story of the Mavs for the rest of the season.
The Mavericks ended up ahead of the Nuggets by 7 at halftime, 49-42, after a last second, very odd, corner "bounce" by Monta.
The Mavs picked it up in the 3rd quarter though, breaking the cycle of "good stretch with starters, bad stretch with the bench," putting together a nice stretch early behind solid play by Dirk, Rondo, and Parsons, and coming out to as much as a 14 point lead through the quarter. The Mavs didn't make a ton of 3's in that stretch like they did early (despite 2 Dirk 3's in this quarter), but they got a lot of nice shots at the rim, including this murderous Parsons dunk.
The Mavs built their lead out of moving the ball creatively, moving players around lots of screens, and playing solid defense. Given their mediocre shooting roster, you might imagine this is a formula Dallas will try to go to more often.
Dallas ended the quarter ahead by 8, 73-65, with Dallas shooting 48% to Denver's 37%.
The Mavs mostly coasted their way to the win from there, making smart plays, playing solid defense, and getting to the rim (or getting Dirk open) on way to a double digit victory over Denver.
- The story of this game is that Dirk appears to be back. After so long struggling, he came into the game and immediately hit 2 threes, and he would end the game with 4 made threes, and 8-18 from the floor. He hit a trademark and-1 off-balance jumper, too, which seemed to be a particular godsend in a season where Dirk hasn't seemed to be able to do anything requiring athleticism. We're all praying that this means he's the old Dirk again. We really need him to be the old Dirk again.
- Al-Farouq Aminu was terrible in this game. Every time he was subbed in for Dirk, the offense came to a grinding halt as the Nuggets just decided to ignore him completely, and sink into the lane. Aminu pulled up without hesitation from 3 every time he got the ball in an absolutely infuriating manner, and the Nuggets got a bunch of free possessions out of him as a result. I want to like him really bad, but there's a reason Carlisle wasn't playing him. Aminu was a -4 in a game where Dallas was ahead in all of the game he played.
- Dwight Powell got lots of backup minutes for Tyson early, and he deserved every one of them. He's so good at doing the little things the Mavs need to win, and he makes so few mistakes. It's hard to believe he's a rookie. Aside from a couple smart, gorgeous passes, heady rolls to the rim, and killer pindown screens, I noticed the Mavs running sets where they were spotting him up in the corner. That guy is great to watch.
- Jusuf Nurkic -- the Croatian rookie to watch for Denver (and personal favorite of mine) -- was awesome as a rim protector and drive deterrent in Wednesday's game in Denver, but he really struggled tonight; he's not quick enough on his feet for someone like Tyson and not experienced enough to deal with Dirk's craftiness. The Mavs abused him all game, and it was a real testament to what makes the Dirk-Tyson combo so deadly.
- Monta still looks really tired from Wednesday. Monta sad the second half of Wednesday's game for rest, but it really looks like he could just use a whole week. He really didn't do a much by his standards, even if he really picked it up in the 2nd half, and his defense was insanely lazy, giving Afflalo open threes all game. It might not be bad to just give him some time.
- Now that Carlisle's inserted Dwight Powell into the lineup, he's trying a few new lineups to capitalize on Powell's shooting and passing. In particular, I noticed a JJ Barea, Rajon Rondo, Richard Jefferson, Powell, Dirk lineup that really caught my eye; it's a fun combination of shooting at every position, solid defense, atheleticism, and passing. I'd really like to see more of that. Did I mention that Powell is fun?
- I've been noting a lack of offensive variance lately as Dallas has eschewed pet play "flex" offense type stuff, but they ran a lot more of it this game, and I noticed way more pindown screens than I'm used to as well. It's hard to say why they stopped doing it, and then why they're doing more now, but I'm happy to see it.
- Parsons has a completely reasonable stat line, but this was one of his better games as a Maverick. He seemed to do all his best work when the bench units were floundering, and he made a lot of nice plays in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. He played smart, didn't have any particularly awkward plays, and just looked really good overall.