Editor’s note: This is a new feature, The Morning After, that’ll be in-depth follow-ups on games that are interesting, intriguing or exciting — win or lose. It won’t be a regular thing (who cares about blowouts to the Warriors, etc.) but let us know what you think!
Yes, I know, I know — right now it is not optimal for the Dallas Mavericks to win basketball games. I 100 percent understand this is the correct course of action for the Mavs to start their post-Dirk rebuild, which has properly begun with the Mavs well-under .500.
Except the Mavs have won five of nine and are still in arms reach of the eighth seed in the West due to some disappointing teams ahead of them. So of course now is the time to panic.
Whatever. The Mavs’ roster outlook regardless of this season’s results is real dark by 2019 unless they miraculously hit pay dirt in free agency, which is unlikely. They’ll have plenty of time to tank very soon and they still are likely to get a top-10 pick this year.
The Mavs won a game. Neat. Let’s take a deeper dive into some of the interesting things about the way in which they won last night.
- Harrison Barnes has had gaudier point totals, but that was by far his best game in a Mavs uniform, simply for the well-rounded and balanced presence he brought to the game. The 26 points were nice, for sure, but it was the five assists and nine free throw attempts that caught my eye the most. Barnes is looking more and more comfortable not just scoring from the free throw line-extended area, but has started to distribute a bit more. He’s making nice passes to the corner and it’s opening up another part of the Mavs offense. As bad as the overall numbers look, Dallas has some pretty good spot-up guys (Deron Williams, Seth Curry, Devin Harris, obviously Dirk) so Barnes has options if he keeps attacking the rim and being aware of the new double teams he’s seeing when he starts to isolate in the mid-range. Kudos to Barnes for showing some actual growth from Game 1 to Game 35.
- Dwight Powell has been a revolution. Christ, I never thought I’d say that. I’ve never been a big Powell guy, especially with how he profiles as a rim protector, but he’s showed some development this year that’s actually shocked me. He’s a great — not good, but great — pick-and-roll rim runner and it transforms the Mavs’ offense. More of this in detail later in the week from me, but Powell was at it again Tuesday night, screening and rumbling his way to the rim to free up space for the Mavs guards. Dallas hit 17 threes and Williams, Curry and Harris all had stand-out games. He’s picked up so many subtle skills, like when he sprung Curry free for a late clutch-three in the fourth quarter by circling back to Curry to set the screen after his initial pick and roll failed. That’s some next-level offensive awareness.
- Dirk at center makes sense since he and Andrew Bogut are just too slow to play together, but good lord the Mavs already shaky 3-point defense looks even worse with Dirk being strung out in more pick-and-roll opportunities. Washington hit 11 threes and it should have been more.
- That said, I still get uncomfortably sports-happy anytime Dirk nails a shot.
- Dorian Finney-Smith went 0-for-1 from the floor, scored zero points and I still felt he was indispensable in the fourth quarter and could not be taken off the floor. He had six boards (including a subtle clutch board late in the fourth quarter when he snatched an offensive rebound from Bradley Beal that prevented the Wizards from getting the score to a one-possession game). His defense was everywhere in the final frame — I don’t remember Otto Porter doing anything in the final five minutes of this game.
- The downside of the rise of Finney-Smith? Justin Anderson got five minutes tonight. There’s obviously a lot of time left for Anderson to work his way back to a consistent spot in the rotation and prove his worth, but it hurts now after what he showed last year. Rick Carlisle loves having dual ball-handlers in his bench units and with Harris and Curry healthy, that means there isn’t a lot of room on the wing with Wes Matthews, Finney-Smith and Barnes. Sigh.
- Bogut off the bench was...weird. I’m not sure how much I liked it, because that meant Powell not being the first big off the bench and less minutes for him. Powell only got 13 minutes against the Wizards, his lowest total since Nov. 25. Bogut looked fine before he banged his knee late in the game, but there’s still that sluggish, slow feeling the Mavs offense gets when he’s on the floor. Bogut is a good passer, but it’s tough watching the Mavs completely stop down to let Bogut try to pass into a crowded lane from the top of the key. It led to a patented Bogut turnover-to-instant-fast-break play that I dreaded from the first week of the season. You can’t deny his defensive presence though and Bogut was a plus-7 on the night. I guess I just wish the game didn’t look so ugly when he’s on the floor. It’s effective at times, but yeesh.
- Randy Wittman is gone, but the Wizards inexplicably going away from John Wall pick and rolls when it’s absolutely cooking will live forever, apparently.
- I’m a big fan of confident Seth Curry. Dude quietly shot 49 percent on 3.8 three-point attempts per game in December and he kept it going against the Wizards. He’s so much better at the two — Williams and Harris getting healthy has been huge for his productivity.
- The Wizards bench is such an utter dumpster fire and you look at the Mavs bench with cheap-o Curry, relatively cheap Harris, averagely-paid Powell and you just kind of shake your head. It’s these little reminders that the Mavs front office actually knows some things. Washington can’t get a guard on the floor who can do anything off the bench and the Mavs have Curry for $3 million a year this year and the next. Dallas just kills it filling out the end of their roster.