Things didn't look good going into this game. Tyson Chandler, Amar'e Stoudemire, Chandler Parsons, and Rajon Rondo were all out. It was the second night of a back-to-back... played on the road... against the best team in the East. But Dallas gave us hope in the first quarter, earning an early double digit lead despite several clock malfunctions and a brief rain delay. Unfortunately the Hawks ultimately remembered that they are the Hawks, and the Mavericks bench was simply outmatched. The Mavericks ended their road winning streak against Eastern Conference teams, and the Hawks won this one 104-87.
Richard Jefferson and JJ Barea got to work early, giving the Mavs a quick lead as the Hawks couldn't seem to find the bottom of the net. The motley starting crew looked surprisingly tough on defense, frustrating the normally fluid Atlanta offense and holding them to just 22 points on 38 percent shooting. The Dallas offense on the other hand was firing on all cylinders and closed the first quarter up 12, shooting over 63 percent with contributions from everyone who saw playing time except Al-Farouq Aminu.
The Mavs started the second without a true center with Dirk and Villanueva in the frontcourt and were immediately made to pay in the form of an epic Kent Bazemore dunk. The Hawks' second unit continued to take advantage of the smaller lineup, opening the quarter with 9-2 run to narrow the Mavs' first quarter lead.
The Hawks defense looked better in the second, while Dallas' looked a little worse, and by the end of the quarter, the Mavericks' double-digit lead was cut to six. Things felt particularly bleak when Devin Harris called a timeout without doing the math, leaving the Mavs with just two full timeouts for the second half. In short, this quarter looked a little bit more like the game we were all dreading when the final lineup for tonight was announced, with Dallas putting up just 17 points. Still, Dallas managed to end the half on top.
The third quarter was more of the same. The Hawks got their first lead of the night with eight minutes left in the third (on a Kyle Korver three, naturally) forcing Dallas to take one of its two remaining full time-outs. Unfortunately, that didn't seem to help, and the Hawks continued their run, going 13-0 to expand the lead to nine. The Mavs made a frustrating series of turnovers this quarter, essentially chucking the ball out of bounds on several occasions, but all things considered, the third quarter ended better than it could have with a single digit Atlanta lead.
The fourth quarter... well, everything collapsed in the fourth quarter, and this game ended the way we all figured it would. Hawks win 104-87, despite the JV Mavericks' best efforts.
- Among the two remaining usual starters, only Monta Ellis had a really stellar game. Despite struggling from deep, he led all Mavericks with 19 points on 9-14 shooting. And Ellis wasn't the only one struggling with three-point shooting: Dallas shot below 18 percent tonight.
- Dirk was quiet tonight. Several times in the first half I found myself checking the boxscore to see if I'd just happened to look away every time Dirk did something. That was unfortunately not the case. He took only two shots in the first half, and ended the night with just four points on 2-7 shooting.
- Sarge made a compelling case tonight for consistent minutes. He didn't play a lot in the second half, but he played 15 first half minutes and in that time scored seven points on 2-2 shooting (3-4 from the free throw line), grabbed three offensive and three defensive boards, earned three assists, and blocked two shots. The defense generally looked better when he was in, though that was in part because he was the Mavericks' only option at center. But I assumed that without many frontcourt options, Dallas would give up a million points in the paint, and they gave up surprisingly few.
- It's frustrating to blow a lead, but the first three quarters of this game represented a pretty good showing from a badly depleted and exhausted Mavericks team, all things considered. The fourth quarter was a disaster. The good news is that the Mavs will have two days of rest when they get back to Dallas before taking on Brooklyn on Saturday with their starting lineup hopefully intact.