So, sure, the Mavs didn't have two of their starters. On the other hand, they were playing the Kings, who were 28-44 coming into this game and possibly the most dysfunctional team in the history of the NBA. And, oh yeah, Dallas is supposedly fighting for their playoff lives.
What I'm saying here is that losing to the Kings in late March, and doing so in such pathetic fashion, tells you everything you need to know as this team closes out the season. The Mavs lost by double digits and never once felt like they might actually win this game. Against the Kings. THE KINGS!
It got so bad that by the end of the game Carlisle basically said f*ck it, throwing out a four-big-man lineup with Justin Anderson, Charlie Villanueva, Dwight Powell, Salah Mejri, and JaVale McGee. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever write that. Yeah. This game. So what do you guys want to talk about? Here are a few takeaways.
Defense, what is that?
THE SACRAMENTO KINGS SCORED OVER 100 POINTS IN THE FIRST 3 QUARTERS. To be fair, the Kings have the fastest pace in the NBA. This is a team whose strategy is to score points, and quickly. But they're also 15 games under .500, so it isn't like you HAVE to let them do this.
Just to reiterate, the Kings shot 62% from the floor. At the end of the third quarter, they were hitting fully half of their three point attempts. As will discussed shortly a good portion of this was simply Boogie having his way with the Mavs. But Seth Curry (no, SETH, not Steph) hit half of his threes against the Mavs, scoring 14 points. Willie Trill Cauley-Stein looked like an All-Star against the various Mavs who half heartedly watched as he drained sick jumpers and maneuvered for easy layups to drop 21 on dallas. Collison chipped in 17 as well, and Ben McLemore went for 14.
As bad as it was, it honestly didn't feel like the Mavs just failed to show up. It never felt quite like they were phoning it in or just didn't show up. The Kings just had a REALLY good game while the Mavs couldn't get anything going for more than a couple of possessions at a time. Which is almost scarier than if the Mavs had looked like they just couldn't be bothered with this game.
Boogie Cousins is an unstoppable monster
Having watched this game without constantly checking the box score, I was more than a little surprised to see that Boogie didn't go for 40 points or something. It felt like he was constantly scoring and-1s, especially for a stretch there in the second quarter. He especially trashed Zaza, which eventually led to a technical against Zaza. After that we didn't see the almost All-Star from Georgia in the game again.
Salah tried. Zaza tried. Dirk tried briefly. Lee tried. Powell tried. All failed to stop Boogie, or even really offer any resistance at all. Boogie was the Borg out there. Resistance was futile. It got so bad that JaVale McGee got some serious burn. I can't remember the last time Pierre played in a game, but he started the second half of this one.
Boogie finished with 20, 12, and 5. And didn't really play at all in the fourth quarter. Say what you will about this Kings team, but dammit if Cousins isn't one of the best big men in the game today.
My favorite young players got some burn
I still can't fathom how Justin Anderson isn't getting minutes. Yes, he had one boneheaded possession to start his time in the game. But he very clearly has a lot of talent and wants to work hard for this team. Oh yeah, and two starters on the perimeter are out with injury. Simba got some burn tonight and put up 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. Maybe my favorite play of the game came late in the first quarter, when Anderson tricked his defender in the corner with a shot fake, drove into the paint while fooling another defender with a pass fake, then dumped the ball off to a wide open Dirk Nowitzki for one of the easiest layups of the big German's very long career. The kid is a basketball player. I'd love to see him play more.
And then there was Dwight Powell. I kind of get why he hasn't been playing. Until he starts hitting jumpers again, he is a poor fit for this team as a power forward, and the minutes at center are being sucked up by Salah Mejri, David Lee, and Zaza Pachulia. That said, with Boogie destroying the guys i just mentioned, both JaVale McGee and Dwight Powell were given more minutes tonight than they've had in months. And Powell looked like he usually looks, which is to say he was decent without at any point flashing any hint that he might actually be good. This hurts me to say, but maybe this is who he is.
However, Justin Anderson needs to play more. Please, Rick, give us what we want.
The Mavs are now 3 games below .500 and solidly 9th in the West. It feels like this is it. And yet, as I was writing this, the Rockets dropped their game against the Pacers, falling to 8th. Utah looks solid, and Dallas is somehow only a half game back of Houston. So I guess the Mavs and Rockets will now battle it out for who can end the season in the saddest fashion to avoid becoming fodder to the Warriors' death march to the NBA Finals.