This was the most uninteresting must-win game I've seen the Mavericks play in some time. The Knicks are bad and have nothing to play for. The Mavs are bad but have something to play for. Somehow the Mavs still sleepwalked through most of the game and needed a heroic effort from a couple players to pull it out.
J.J. Barea was the hero we needed
I'm not sure how badly the Mavs would have gotten spanked if not for JJB tonight. Barea dropped 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting on a night Dallas couldn't even break 42 percent from the floor. I can't emphasis how much the Mavericks were total garbage on offense tonight -- missed shots, listless motion in the halfcourt, bad passes, terrible finishing at the rim. The Mavs did it all. Barea was so crucial that the Knicks were pretty much playing a box-and-1 defense against him and face guarding him away from the ball to make sure he didn't even have a chance to do any more damage in the final minutes. We all rag on Barea here from time to time, but he earned his keep tonight.
The only thing for sure about the Mavericks is nothing's for sure
Rick Carlisle went with the same starting lineup from the win against Denver on Monday, but once again, the Mavs were scrambling to find some combination of players that would work.
The Dwight Powell experience lasted one game, apparently, as Powell looked woefully ineffective in his stints on the floor. The starting lineup found itself completely overwhelmed to start the game, falling down as many as 11.
Nothing seemed to really work. Carlisle was forced to put J.J. Barea in with Raymond Felton, a pairing that's been a disaster all year. He couldn't keep Barea off the floor because he was the only Mav worth a damn on offense tonight. Zaza Pachulia and David Lee took some turns in the middle, both being somewhat effective as Powell disappointed.
The real surprise was Justin Anderson, who was part of the closing lineup as Carlisle went to a small-ball look with Anderson at the four. It paid off, as Anderson had a big-time bucket off a cut late in the game and came up with some big time rebounds in the final frame, along with a steal. So great to see Carlisle trust the one big athletic wing the Mavs have to do big, athletic things.
Iron Man shows up in crunch time
I was cursing Wesley Matthews pretty hard after he comitted a silly foul on Carmelo Anthony late in the game that gave the Knicks the lead. Fortunately for my sanity, Matthews more than made up for it as he stonewalled Carmello in the final seconds as the Knicks had a shot at the win. Matthews played Anthony pretty well a couple possessions in the fourth quarter, something the Mavs desperately needed as Melo sort of had his way for most of the game on his way to 31 points.
It wasn't just that big stop -- Wes put in seven points in the quarter, including a pretty massive three pointer to cut the deficit to one with minutes remaining. Matthews has obviously not been the player we've wanted him to be as he recovers from his surgery, but it sure was nice to see him get those buckets and then shutdown one of the best scorers in the league when it mattered most. That's why the Mavs are paying him.