The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Chicago Bulls 99-98 to give the Mavericks their first three game winning streak of the 2016-17 season. Harrison Barnes scored 20 points while old war horse Dirk Nowitzki posted a double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Jimmy Butler led the Bulls in defeat with a near triple double: 24 points, 12 assists, and 9 rebounds.
The Bulls started the game with a 7-0 run after Deron Williams started the game with two ugly turnovers. Harrison Barnes broke the seal for Dallas with an above the break wing three. Wesley Matthews scored the next possession on sweet isolation step back elbow jumper. The Bulls extended their lead to 17-10 after Michael Carter-Williams and Paul Zipser combined for three straight three pointers. After a timeout, the Mavericks went on an 8-0 run of their own, which included a pair of fantastic assists for dunks from Seth Curry. The Bulls used a timeout of their own and immediately retook the lead and finished the quarter up 28-24.
The second quarter began with a Dwyane Wade steal and dunk to give the Bulls a six point lead. The Mavericks rallied back to take a 33-31 lead after a Dirk Nowitzki jumper. The Seth Curry show continued with a small barrage of buckets as Dallas eventually built a 9 point lead. The Bulls quickly whittled the lead down to two before a Wesley Matthews three followed by a turnback the clock drive and layup from Deron Williams gave Dallas a 54-47 lead at the half.
The Mavericks piled on big to start the third period, getting ahead by as many as 13 mainly as a result of Seth Curry lighting up Chicago. Through the remainder of the quarter, the Bulls slowly worked their way back into the game through strong play from Jimmy Butler and some incredible shot making from Robin Lopez. By the end of the quarter, the 13 point Maverick lead shrank all the way down to two, with Dallas leading 76-74 heading into the final quarter.
The fourth opened with both teams repeatedly exchanging buckets. For the Bulls, rookie big man Christiano Felicio finally made his size felt through screens and rolls to the bucket. J.J. Barea eventually extended the Maverick lead to five before Jimmy Butler willed the Bulls back into it and even took a one point lead. That lead ballooned to four before Harrison Barnes brought Dallas roaring back with a three off a drive and kick from Deron Williams.
The Mavericks retook the lead again, this time through a Deron Williams drive and nifty up and under. A Dirk free throw gave Dallas a two point cushion with under a minute and a half to play. Doug McDermott tied the game at 96 with a ridiculous runner. Harrison Barnes missed a go-ahead jumper with 38 seconds remaining and Jimmy Butler responded with an absurd 18 footer with 22 seconds left. Dallas did not take a timeout and responded with a Wesley Matthews three pointer. The Bulls were unable to get a good shot off despite having 11 seconds after a timeout. Dallas wins 99-98 to improve to 14-27.
Let’s talk about that final play, shall we?
This might well be the best play the Mavericks have run all dang season. The timing helps, but considering it was without the benefit of a time out is interesting. Usually Rick Carlisle is dictating the plays, but tonight Rick let Deron Williams call the shots down the stretch because “Rondo knows everyone’s plays.”
The set up went like this: Deron Williams brought the ball up with both Dirk Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes setting a staggered ball screen above the three point line. Wesley Matthews as on the left wing, with Seth Curry on the right wing. Facing the basket, Williams started on the left side and ran his man through both screens, forcing Nikola Mirotic to switch on to him. Williams uses a brief hesitation and gets past Mirotic with ease.
Mean while, on the right wing, Seth Curry floats down to the right corner and on the left wing Wesley Matthews fakes a back door cut. With Dirk and Harrison up at the three point line, Matthews’ defender Dwyane Wade had to make a judgement call. He thought his man might have been cutting but Williams also had a free path to the bucket. He opted to try to help Mirotic and since Matthews faked the cut, he had floated back out to the left wing and was wide open. That was beautiful basketball.
See the whole sequence here:
Former Marquette teammates trade go-ahead buckets in final 30 secs but Wes Matthews gets the win over Jimmy Butler pic.twitter.com/LyJR092oYa— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) January 18, 2017
Can Jimmy Butler be a model for Harrison Barnes to emulate?
This may be going out on a limb, but bear with me. The NBA’s best position in terms of raw talent, is the playmaking forward, which can include both small and power forwards. In general order, I’d rank the best guys in this position into the following tiers:
Tier One - LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard
Tier Two - Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Anthony Davis
Tier Three - Gordon Hayward, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony
Ignore whether or not I left someone out, consider my intent. All of these players are All-Stars who tend to lead their team. Can Harrison Barnes join the elite ranks of forwards? Many might argue he’s there already, but at bare minimum, even skeptical me has to admit he’s pounding on the doors with both hands.
But he still has a way to go. Compare Barnes’ stat line to Butler’s:
Harrison Barnes: 20 points on 8-17 shooting (2-3 from three), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 free throw attempts
Jimmy Butler: 24 points on 5-12 shooting (0-1 from three), 9 rebounds, 12 assists, 16 free throw attempts.
Now, the Mavericks have a much more balanced roster than the Bulls. Barnes doesn’t have to do what Butler does for the Mavericks to win. Still, the room for growth is there, mainly through ball handling and figuring out how to draw a foul. Some of it is the refs not calling things (I counted three drives tonight which should’ve drawn whistles). Butler could be a good model as their both big and strong wings who don’t have the other worldly athleticism of the other forwards I listed.
This starting line up is really, really fun
Deron Williams, Seth Curry, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, and Dirk Nowitzki make up the delightful starting line up which has allowed the Dallas Mavericks to go streaking for the first time this season. Over the past three games, these five have combined to shoot 51 percent from three (29 of 57).
It’s unclear how long the Mavericks can survive playing this line up because the competition the past three games has been weak to say the least. But it’s fun and right now with Dallas still being 13 games under .500, fun is what I’m here for.
There are readers out there who probably are fairly unhappy about the winning streak. Look, I get it. But the Mavericks have communicated to us both directly and indirectly that they aren’t going to start tanking and writing/complaining about it during recaps or even op-eds gets old.
The Mavericks are currently 4-3 in an eight game stretch the need to go at least 5-3 in to keep that slim playoff hope alive. Even this far under .500 the Mavericks are 4 games out of the 8 seed. So until things get dire, I say we enjoy the wins because they could be few and far between the rest of the year.