The Mavs are bad but they are making a habit of beating bad teams lately. Dallas did it again Wednesday night, taking down an also-bad New York team 103-95 on Tuesday night.
It was pretty obvious Carmelo Anthony was ticked off about the news that came out earlier in the day about the Knicks talking to the Cavaliers about swapping Melo for Kevin Love. Melo played mad all night and single-handedly kept New York in it.
The Mavs led almost the whole night, but could never gain separation until the fourth quarter. New York kept it close all night mainly thanks to Anthony, who had 30 points, 21 of them in the first half.
Dallas got even production everywhere, even with the injuries piling up. Pierre Jackson played way more than he ever should (24 minutes) but Seth Curry, Dirk Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes were also brilliant offensively. Every Knicks run was answered by a bucket from that trio, it felt like.
Once the Mavs defense got on track in the fourth quarter, they were able to break the game open a bit. Dallas had a nine point lead with three minutes left thanks to some aggressive defense and held on from there.
Seth Curry is the truth
I’ve written a lot about Curry lately, but it’s hard to lead with anything else tonight. Curry continued his sensational month of January, scoring 20 points on 8-of-19 shooting. On a night where Wes Matthews and J.J. Barea were out and Deron Williams left the game early, Curry was the guard production tonight.
He’s looking more comfortable in the pick and roll and playing a bit on his own as a lead guard. Devin Harris is still around to let him play off the ball a bit, but it was good to see Curry still thrive even when he had more ball-handling responsibility, which hasn’t been the case all year.
This dude will be playing out the second-year of his $6 million contract next season. I still can’t get over that. Every other NBA franchise has to do the Game of Thrones “shame” walk every time he makes a bucket.
The Mavs defensive versatility finally shows up
Before the season, I was confident the Mavs would have an improved defense with the addition of Bogut and Barnes plus more time for Justin Anderson. It appeared the Mavs had the tools for a modern NBA defense — rim protecting stud + many long-armed and athletic wings + size at point guard (Williams at least). It didn’t materialize that way out the gate and the Mavs defense has been mostly bad all year as I failed to consider a bunch of young guys who have never played together might take some time to learn how to play defense together.
Tonight though, that potential was seen. Despite Anthony lighting up whoever guarded him through three quarters, the Mavs did a great job limiting the damage. Courtney Lee was the only other Knick who had a decent offensive game. Dirk’s son was only 4-of-11 from the floor. Dallas played Dorian Finney-Smith and Justin Anderson a combined 51 minutes and when you add that to Barnes and the returning Andrew Bogut, there were a ton of long arms out there.
The Mavs switched a lot in the second half and dared the Knicks to beat them with mid-range jumpers, which finally dried up for Melo in the second half. The Mavs practically suffocated the Knicks in the fourth quarter when they built up their nine-point lead. Dallas had 10 steals and seven blocks tonight — all those long arms on the floor just terrorized New York in the second half. Hell and Curry ain’t so bad on defense. He got three steals tonight and is hot on the trail of Matthews for team-lead in total deflections this season. Curry’s steals don’t feel cheap either, he rarely gambles by shooting the passing lanes.
Andrew Bogut is fine
Health wise, this is true. But also in general. I haven’t been the biggest Bogut fan this season, mainly because the Mavs have looked OK when he’s missed games and I’d rather see Dwight Powell and Salah Mejri hold down the fort at center since they’ll actually be on the team next season (presumably). Even then, I can’t deny Bogut gives Dallas something neither of those dudes can — sturdy and beefy rim protection. Bogut can block like Mejri without giving up paint position since he’s stronger and while Bogut is a downgrade at offense, he’s on another planet on defense compared to Powell.
I liked Bogut off the bench and Rick Carlisle finding minutes for Powell anyway by matching him up with Dirk. Bogut was a force tonight, with three blocks in 21 minutes and plenty of discouragement at the rim. He had another one of those mind-numbing turnovers at the top of the key that led to an instant fast break, but the Mavs did a good job of not just letting Bogut hold the ball a ton at the top of the key while he was in there. The Mavs offense continued as normal, which means they can reap Bogut’s defensive upgrade without slogging the game down too much on the other end of the floor
Being so, so, so wrong on Barnes, Parsons
It isn’t a secret that the majority of the editors and senior writers on this site thought it was a big mistake the Mavs were letting Chandler Parsons walk and replacing him with Harrison Barnes. Parsons’ playmaking and shooting was just so strong before his latest knee injury and Barnes looked like he had lost a puppy during that summer’s NBA Finals.
I can’t remember the last time I was so thoroughly and totally wrong on an off-season move like that. I should have an “L” tattooed on my forehead. Barnes has been wonderful. Remember when this staff would have jumped for joy before the season started if Barnes averaged 14 to 15 points a game? Damn.
Barnes had another good night, shaking off two straight rough ones, with 23 points and five rebounds. He added seven free throw attempts and he continues to look more comfortable taking the ball to the rack and making decisions. He made a somewhat egregious pass out to the three-point line to Finney-Smith when he had a clear layup but Finney-Smith was open still and Barnes had good vision. He’s making the right reads and he’s developed a ton of floor gravity this season. New York shaded their entire defense toward him when he posted up, having at least four defenders with a foot in the paint whenever he made a catch. The fact that Barnes is seeing the toughest defense of his NBA career and still being efficient is incredible. He was 8-of-15 from the floor and had two turnovers.
What’s even more delightful is how Barnes and Dirk are meshing together. There was a slight worry about Dirk’s return messing with Barnes’ mojo after he came alive starting in Dirk’s spot. Credit Carlisle for not messing up a bad thing and letting his 24-year-old cornerstone keep developing at his most comfortable spot on the floor. Dirk at center still opens the floor for Barnes at his pet spots, with the greatest floor spacing big of all time happy to hang back, suck in defenders or reap the rewards when the defense shifts toward Barnes. Dirk is finally transitioning to a secondary role when he and Barnes are on the floor and holy shit, who would have thought that HARRISON BARNES was going to be the guy to get Dirk there. Crazy.
Get well soon, Deron Williams — seriously
So is Pierre Jackson’s bit that he’s a shorter and worse Jonathan Gibson?
If Williams misses a bunch of time, get those tank wheels lubed up again.