Tonight's game started with both teams gunning. Marcus Morris had 12 points in the first six minutes and seemed determined to give the Mavs a tough time for the remainder of the game.
But after ending the first tied at 25, Dallas went on a 17-0 run to open the second quarter, thanks in huge part to the team's decision to actually play defense, which resulted in an almost six-minute scoring drought for the Pistons. The Mavs ended the first half up 51-36.
The third quarter opened with a 1-11 shooting from the Mavs, allowing Detroit to regain some of the ground they lost in the first. Marcus Morris tied the game with a three-pointer (his sixth make of the night on seven attempts from deep), but Dirk put the Mavericks back on top and the threes finally started falling for Wes Matthews and Devin Harris. The end of the third saw Dallas up 71-61.
The Pistons made another run in the third, cutting the Mavs' lead to two, thanks in part to a pretty egregious no-call on Andre Drummond who was guarding Dirk. But after playing a stellar first half, JJ Barea gave the Mavs two well-timed threes to keep the Pistons from closing the gap.
Up five with 4:33 left in the game, the Mavericks began intentionally fouling Drummond, the worst free throw shooter in the league, forcing Detroit to bench their best big man. The tactic paid off. The Mavs expanded their lead and got the win, 98-89.
Tonight's win should give Dallas a much-needed boost in the close race for one of the final playoff spots in the West.
JJ Barea is not the worst
Barea (who I was previously convinced was, in fact, the worst) has been amazing lately, a driving force behind the team's three recent wins. He scored 18 points and shot 50 percent from three against Denver with 11 assists, and he contributed 26 points on 10-18 shooting and seven assists against the Knicks.
Tonight was no exception. Barea ended the night with 29 points on 13-23 from the field, including two HUGE threes in the fourth quarter that helped stave off a Pistons run.
He was a little cooler in the second half after scoring 19 in the first, and he was definitely looking much more for his own shot tonight, shooting more often and only notching three assists, but it seems unlikely the Mavs get this win (or the two previous wins) without Barea's hot hand.
Making this even sweeter is the fact that he apparently welcomed a baby daughter last night. As a fellow newish parent, I would've given the guy his own recap section just for staying awake through tonight's game. Congrats, JJ!
Dirk (sort of) ends his dry spell
On the other side of the coin is Dirk Nowitzki. After playing well through a pretty awful stretch of losses for the Mavs, Dirk has been in a bit of a shooting slump lately. He was 5-23 in the win against the Knicks and 4-17 against the Nuggets, and while he gave the Mavericks an impressive 19 points, he attempted (and made) just one shot from deep and went 8-18 overall.
Still, Dirk's obviously earned the right to a few off games. He's carried this team for so long enough that it's nice to see his teammates picking up the slack.
The team's defense is inconsistent
Team defense (and the lack thereof) made a huge difference tonight, allowing the Pistons to stay close early on and to get back in the game a few times. This is something the Mavs have struggled with missing Deron Williams and Chandler Parsons. Of the players who've given serious minutes this season Williams and Parsons provide some of the Mavs' best perimeter defenders. Missing those guys hurts.
The team's defensive rating is over seven points worse than it was before Parsons' injury, and while the team did have the misfortune of playing the Warriors twice in that stretch, they also gave up 133 points to the Kings. It's a small sample size, sure, but it still doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in a team that will need some tough wins and good luck down the stretch to make the playoffs.
Tonight's game wasn't without impressive defensive, though. Salah Mejri was fantastic, grabbing seven rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes despite the presence of Andre Drummond, who leads the league in point-rebound double-doubles. He also did plenty that wasn't recorded in the box score, hassling the Pistons relentlessly in the restricted area.
Also, while his contributions were a little tougher to quantify, Justin Anderson hustled non-stop on both ends of the floor, giving the Mavericks a little of what they've been missing in Williams and Parsons.
A new franchise record for made threes
Tonight's game set a new franchise record for the number of threes made in a season. Wes Matthews' three in the third tied the previous franchise record (735), and he broke it on the next possession.