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5 things we learned from the Mavs’ confusing victory over the Clippers, 90-88

Sweet victory tastes sweet.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

That. Just. Happened.

I’m proud of the Mavs. I know that the #teamtank people won’t like to hear this, but the Dallas Mavericks aren’t a garbage basketball team. They’ve had some bad injury breaks, and they’re definitely not a good basketball team, but they have been quietly mediocre lately. A lot of that is energy and just sheer will.

I can’t quite describe it, but something feels different. Good game, guys. Good game.

Dirk back!

I may have been half-asleep due to this late late game, but it genuinely warmed my soul to see Dirk play tonight. He only played 15 minutes, but dammit if those 15 minutes weren’t absolutely Dirktacular. 17 points on 58 percent shooting. 4 rebounds. 66 percent from 3. Oh and did I mention he started at center?

Dirk was particularly wonderful in the post. He looked energized and excited. His footwork could only be described as “vintage Dirk.” At one point, he used a move to work around two defenders, missed the layup, then fought off a crowd to get his own rebound TWICE and put it back.

There are words to be said about where a good Dirk puts this team for the rest of the season, but I’m not here for that right now. We got to see Dirk have fun playing good basketball for 15 minutes tonight. Enjoy it while you can folks.

Harrison Barnes confuses me

Barnes was the leading scorer (as usual) and was a key factor down the stretch. He looks so good in isolation when the Mavs just need him to get them a score. He gets right there into the midrange and finds himself a bucket, much like Dirk would.

So why is it that he played 38 minutes tonight, but I feel like he was only in the game for like 20? Am I the only one who feels like he just absolutely disappears for large stretches? And as is often the knock on him, he only earned 3 free throws tonight. I’m not trying to give him a hard time. He’s still growing into his role as the main guy, and Dallas wouldn’t have won this without him. That last shot was beautiful. But I remain confused. But like, good confused?

Wes Matthews was handsy tonight (in a good way)

Full disclosure: Wes’s shooting tonight was bad, bordering on bleeeerrgh. BUT he did everything else so so well. In particular, he ruthlessly and single-mindedly went after the ball tonight. He was only credited with three steals, but he was constantly reaching in and getting a piece of the ball, deflecting passes, and making life miserable for the LA offense. And yes, I said only three steals—it felt like way more.

I hate to say bad things about Wes, but I’m not sure I loved that he kept gunning for shots late in a close game where he was shooting 37 percent for the night. And the free throws. Love you Wes, but hit those free throws.

Three pointers were a problem

The Clippers shot 45 percent from beyond the arc tonight. The Mavs shot 24 percent. And yet the Mavs.... won. I honestly have no idea how Dallas stayed in the game basically all night with a discrepancy like this. Grit? Determination? Je ne sais quoi?

Maybe it’s just in the games I’m watching, but this feels like a problem that has happened before. All of the Mavs’ perimeter shooters are streaky, and we know this by now. Not sure anything can be done about it. But the perimeter defense has to be better. Between Matthews, Barnes, Anderson, and Finney-Smith, Dallas should have a good perimeter defense. Not sure what the dealio is.

Speaking of discrepancies—the bench

Here are the other obvious area where LA destroyed the Mavs tonight. The Clippers bench put up 54 points, otherwise known as 33 more points than the Mavs bench. Yeeeesh.

Dallas could really use at least one reliable bench scorer. They don’t have one. That’s never more obvious than comparing the Mavs bench guys to Jamal Crawford, but still. J.J. Barea is probably that guy when he comes back, so get healthy soon little guy! Mavs need more than 21 points from the bench.

Soooo wow I realize this recap sounds pretty negative. On a night your Mavs beat the Clippers in LA. Sorry for that! Tonight was fun. Given the issues I’ve harped on, I don’t quite understand how they did it, but the Mavs gave the Clippers hell tonight.

***blah blah boilerplate admission that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin didn’t play***

Wooooo! Mavs win! Now go sleep, and then wake up and be merry and stuff.