That was a tough one. After a first quarter in which Dallas shot below 20 percent, and a career night from Jonathan Gibson, the Dallas Mavericks were unable to pull out a win, losing 95-87 to the Orlando Magic.
After a brutally low-scoring game against Memphis last night, Dallas rolled out a line-up of Curry-Matthews-Finney—Smith-Barnes-Bogut. Truthfully, the start was ugly for both teams, with gameplay being stilted due to numerous traveling violations, a defensive three in the key, and even a rare first quarter 5 second violation on Vucevic for being unable to inbound the ball. After starting the game by missing their first 11 shots, Jonathan Gibson (who may currently be the Mavs’ best scorer) finally converted the team’s first field goal on a driving lay-up at the 5:23 mark. Another Gibson 3 pointer, and a Bogut tip in constituted the only made field goals of the quarter, as Dallas shot a startlingly low 18% in the opening 12 minutes. Despite this, Dallas managed to stay in the game due to Orlando’s poor offensive play and headed into the second quarter down just 1 point.
The second quarter also featured some ugly basketball. Former Toronto Raptor Bismack Biyombo asserted his dominance, dominating the offensive glass, while protecting the rim against the likes of Dwight Powell drives. After Brussino hit back to back shots early in the quarter, the Mavs found some life between Wes Matthews and Jonathan Gibson. Mixing in rim attacks and shots from beyond the arc, Gibson finished led the team into halftime with 14 points on 5 of 8 shooting from the field. He would finish the game with a team high 26 points on 50% from the field. Also, after a quiet half, Barnes showed some signs of life, by attacking Evan Fournier on the left block for the final two possessions of the half, converting a hook shot and making two free throws to give Dallas the lead 45-44.
The second half started with some welcome made shots, as Dallas’ first three for a Barnes 3, and back to back shots (long 2 and 3) by Seth Curry. As an aside, watching Seth play extended minutes reveals an intelligent player that knows his limitations. He lacks explosiveness, and isn’t particularly quick, but has a tight handle, and uses angles well. Given the state of Dallas’ offense, I wouldn’t mind watching Seth assert himself in trying to create more scoring opportunities for himself.
In a relatively bland quarter of basketball, Gibson continued his stellar play. From a dazzling open court finish high off of the glass with his left over Serge Ibaka, to a 3 and long 2 to beat the buzzer, Gibson continued showcasing his sorely needed ability to score. One bright spot this quarter was the Mavs’ relative success from beyond the arc as Gibson, Matthews, and Anderson all connected from distance. Worth noting, with just over a minute to go, Matthews went to the bench with a technical after complaining about about a no-call on a hard closeout by Fournier.
The 3 point lead established by the Gibson buzzer beater didn’t last long, as Orlando scored the first five points of the fourth quarter leading to a quick Carlisle time-out. Despite a few more spirited attacks by various Dallas players, Orlando took control by mid-quarter and never looked back. One problem with relying so heavily on Gibson was that he had a hard time staying with known Mavs Killer DJ Augustin through screens, as Augustin hit back to back 3s to widen the Magic lead. After a Jeff Green dunk to go up 88-80 with 4:12 to go, Dallas never got closer than 4. Dallas’ 95-87 loss drops the team to 2-10, the team’s worst start since 1993. Next up, the Mavs have the Spurs, Clippers, and the Cavs. Yikes.
Barnes’ shooting drops off
After a scorching start to the season, Barnes’ shooting efficiency has predictably shown to be unsustainable. Following a 5-of-17 outing against the Grizzlies, Barnes shot 3-of-13 today. Although regression to the mean works both ways, Barnes’ poor shooting couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Matthews still isn’t hitting
It’s reached a point where watching Wes Matthews play basketball has become painful. Due to his specific set of strengths (catch-and-shoot 3 pointers, defense), Matthews is the type of player that can excel when asked to play to his skill set but falter when asked to overextend. This isn’t a case of a natural scorer like JR Smith being asked to take more shots than usual, but rather a player who is quite frankly, incapable of creating for himself either being asked to or taking it upon himself to try against elite competition. A random but apt comparison: think Deshawn Stevenson in the 2007 playoffs after injuries to Arenas and Butler shoved him into a leading role. For those of you too lazy to look it up, Stevenson shot less than 20% from the field while being swept by the Cavs. He was a great role player, but not fit to star.
Gibson was incredible
Despite the loss, Jonathan Gibson saved the Mavericks today. It’ll be interesting to see how teams adapt to him. As of right now, it's clear that he has the explosiveness to beat his defenders off of the dribble. However, if his shot deserts him, teams could give him the old Barea treatment and sag off of him, closing down his lanes to the basket. Regardless, as sad as it is that a player that didn’t have an NBA job two days ago is the team’s best scorer, Gibson’s fearless drives and confident jump shot were a welcome sight today.