With the end of the regular season closing in, the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets played a close, hard-fought game, with the Mavs coming up victorious. Both teams were guilty of a few ugly stretches, as things are clearly reaching the point of desperation for the two Texas squads, but the boys in blue earned the "W".
J.J. BAREA, POINT GOD?
J.J. Barea continued his sensational scoring run, and has gone from overpaid to indispensable in less than two weeks. He led Dallas (again) with a game-high 27 points, and tossed in 8 dimes and 5 boards for good measure. How in the world is he doing this? Don't ask me.
After notching just four 20-point games prior to his being inserted into the starting lineup recently, Barea now has four straight 20-point games. The last seven contests he is 21-42 from three(!), averaging nearly 23 points and 7 assists a night. Again, I don't know how he's doing it. With Dallas down 82-85 with three minutes left, Barea hit a tough leaner and drew the and-one on Patrick Beverly. He'd sink the free throw to tie it up and Dallas wouldn't trail again.
If you thought Rick Carlisle had a man crush on J.J. before...
MAVS WINNING WITH THEIR...DEFENSE?
The shorthanded Mavs have compensated for their lack of offensive firepower with grit and hustle at the other end, and while they won't be confused with your all-time defensive juggernauts, they deserve to be commended for flipping the script in a big way. When this team was bottoming out back in mid March, giving up 110+ almost nightly, it would have been unthinkable that they could have a defensive stretch like this, allowing under 90 points in all five of these wins.
Salah Mejri (who blocked three shots and was active all night) has been a part of this run, as has the bouncy rookie Justin Anderson. If you want to look at key moves from Rick Carlisle that have turned things around, start there.
COLD STARS MAKE PLAYS WHEN IT MATTERS
Dirk Nowitzki has been very cold shooting the ball during the win streak, but perhaps the defensive play of the night came when the Big German made a clean strip of a driving Harden with five seconds left on what would have been the go-ahead basket. Dirk does not look like he has his legs on offense but kudos on finding a way to make an impact elsewhere.
Wes Matthews also played his butt off in this one, smothering James Harden every time down the floor. The absence of Parsons and D-Will have badly overextended Wes on offense, forcing him to be more of a ballhandler than he's normally used to. Basically, the Mavs need every drop of production they can get, and while Wes didn't have a great shooting night(4-12 from three, 6-18 overall), he's clearly leaving it all out on the court.
So, a big win, but a long way to go before you can buy those playoff tickets. How are you feeling, Mavs fans?!