On the second night of a back to back for both the Mavericks and the Rockets, both teams had key players missing. For Dallas, it was their "big 3" of Dirk Nowitzki, Wes Matthews, and Chandler Parsons. For Houston, it was Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley.
A lot of folks in other corners of the internet are going to want to talk about Houston and how bad they are, considering this shorthanded Mavs win. They'd be right -- Houston has been much worse than anyone expected, but that's a story for their blog to write. And even if Houston is worse than expected, Dallas is so much better than I think any of us could have hoped. To me, here were the biggest Mavericks takeaways of the night.
The Mavericks have some serious team chemistry
With the big guys getting a rest for the fourth game in five nights, the Mavericks rolled out a starting lineup of Deron Williams, Raymond Felton, Zaza Pachulia, Justin Anderson and Charlie Villanueva. Even with the Rockets also a bit shorthanded, I didn't expect this to be a competitive game -- in fact, I still expected Houston to run away with it.
Boy, was I wrong. The Mavericks positively obliterated Houston in the first half. HOW, I don't know. It was a lot of Justin Anderson threes and Jeremy Evans dunks and John Jenkins reprising some preseason heroics and Raymond Felton hitting big crunch time shots and Dwight Powell being EVERYWHERE.
I know Houston has been worse than expected this season, but for Dallas it doesn't seem to matter some nights whether it's Dirk and Wes or Anderson and Charlie V. The Mavericks' chemistry just WORKS. All the credit in the world to the guys in the locker room and to the second best coach in the NBA, one Rick Carlisle. This team is so much fun.
Dwight Powell is for REAL, y'all
We've joked about Powell being the player the Mavericks actually traded for last season -- and of course, he wasn't -- but someone in the scouting department really did their homework. Powell was everywhere tonight. Being pesky on defense. Hitting clutch shots. We've been begging for a Dirk backup for years, someone who was young and who could help the Mavs transition when the Big German finally decides to transition into life after basketball. It's still early, and by no means am I saying Dwight is the next Dirk, but MAN am I thrilled he is on this team.
Relatedly, for the first time in a while it really does seem the Mavs have some promising young talent in players like Powell, Anderson and Jenkins who are getting significant shots because of the early recovery from injuries. Taking a longer-term look at the season, seeing what these young guys can do early on may be a blessing in disguise come late season, hopefully playoff run time.
Zaza Pachulia is better than anyone could have hoped
As Chandler Parsons noted after last night's Lakers win, "I didn't know he was this good, to be honest with you."
Pachulia had double-doubles in the wins over the Clippers and Lakers, and he really just seems to be so so smart. He knows exactly where to be, he's patient under the rim, and generally likable. He hits his free throws! (hehe)
He continued the trend of strong play tonight, with 10 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. The stats may not seem like much, but he really did seem to impact the game at every turn. But don't take my word for it, here's a sampling from Twitter from tonight's game:
zaza olajuwon— Austin (@garooya) November 15, 2015
Zaza Pachulia just denied Harden the ball. In the backcourt. Then recovered and stole it on the cut pass.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) November 15, 2015
Was that a half-assed one-legged fade from Zaza that went in?— Mavs Moneyball (@mavsmoneyball) November 15, 2015
Contract Year Raymond Felton?
CONTRACT YEAR RAYMOND FELTON!!!! He had 15...FIFTEEN...points in the fourth quarter to put away the game for the Mavericks. Good lord. Talk about things none of us really expected this season.