The Dallas Mavericks won their tenth game of the season Thursday night, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 101-89. Wesley Matthews led a balanced Maverick effort with 20 points, 6 rebounds, and a pair of assists. Julius Randle led the Lakers in defeat, scoring 18 points on just ten field goal attemps.
Dallas jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead in the first period, before giving up a 15-0 run to the young Lakers. The Mavericks righted the ship by the end of the quarter, trailing 26-27. The Lakers jumped out ahead again to start the second period on a quick 10-0 run. Dallas battled back on the strength of bench play and trailed the Lakers 50-57 at the half.
The third quarter saw the Mavericks blow the doors off Los Angeles, scoring 31 points to the Lakers’ 13. Strong play from Dorian Finney-Smith, excellent rebounding, and Wes Matthews catching fire were key reasons for the run. Dallas took an 81-70 lead into the final period. The Lakers were never able to gain any momentum in the fourth quarter as the Mavericks continued to pile on points in the paint and from beyond the arc, ending the game up 101-89.
Dallas has now won three of their last five, with all three wins on the road.
Now, on to some finer points:
Dallas won the game in the third quarter.
For years, it’s always seemed as if the third quarter is usually where things fall apart for the Mavericks, no matter who is on the team. The statistics don’t back this up at all, and yet the feeling is there because Dallas has experienced their fair share of third quarter collapses.
Thursday evening, it was the Lakers’ turn to struggle. After taking the pressure to Dallas in the first half, the Mavericks turned it around through good defense, excellent rebounding, and a shockingly good offensive performance. Dorian Finney-Smith was the catalyst on both ends, hitting an open three, getting steal which led to a Deron Williams lay in, and getting a fantastic offensive tip in, all within the first few possessions.
Wesley Matthews gave the Mavericks the lead with a big three and Dwight Powell continued his first half effort of strong rim running leading to easy baskets.
The Mavericks are last in the NBA in a few team statistics, including rebounding. Dallas ended up +3 in offensive boards and +8 over all, which made the game significantly easier down the stretch. Five Dallas Maverick players grabbed six or more rebounds, which was important with Andrew Bogut on a minutes restriction coming back from injury.
Dorian Finney-Smith is the most important Maverick rookie since...
DFS had a superb game, including a highlight dunk that was wiped away on a horrid offensive foul call on Andrew Bogut. But it’s the little things where he’s proving his value as a rotation forward.
He has good defensive instincts. He moves the ball to the right spot on offense. He plays really hard. His per game stats aren’t particularly impressive, but in a frustrating season he’s the most important Maverick rookie since... Devin Harris? Rodrigue Beaubois? Marquis Daniels? I hope he continues to grow and contribute this season.
Youth isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
Some of us (like me!) really want Dallas to blow this whole thing up. The Lakers are a great example of what’s tantalizing about the prospect of a rebuild, but also what’s frustrating as hell.
On paper, the Lakers and Mavericks match up reasonably well. Through one half of basketball, Los Angeles looked like the better team, attacking and getting to the line 14 times to 5 for the Mavericks. They went on a 15-0 run and a 10-0 run in under 15 minutes of game action. The knockout punch was there for LA repeatedly. Then the second half started and shots didn’t fall as easily and Dallas went on a small run themselves. Instead of buckling down and getting back to what worked, they started complaining to refs, hoisting bad outside shots, and were lazy about getting back on defense. It was a winnable game in every sense for LA but the inexperience and youth reared it’s ugly head.
The Mavericks are nearly playing .500 basketball in December!
Okay, so they’ve won seven games and lost nine. If the impossible happens against Golden State Saturday night, they’d end the month 8-9, which is really crazy to think about considering how badly they started the year.
Can they make the playoffs? The math says it’s not out of the question. Considering they’ve done all this with Dirk Nowitzki on the mend (or sick, as he was tonight), with Andrew Bogut hurt, and with J.J. Barea hurt, it might even be possible. I still don’t think it happens, but even for a tank commander like myself, it’s fun to see the Mavericks win games.
Check back tomorrow morning for a Golden State Warriors preview!