Well, that was a frustrating loss! The Mavericks quite couldn’t climb back from an early deficit and dropped their third game in a row, losing to the Timberwolves 101-92.
The Timberwolves took advantage of a lifeless Dallas team to run up an early 21 point lead, built in large part on Karl-Anthony Towns’ phenomenal opening period. Towns had a first-quarter stat line that a lot of guys would be proud of at the end of the night: 20 points, three rebounds, two assists, and a steal.
But Dallas buckled down on defense in the second and held Towns to just a very human four points. Dirk Nowitzki reminded everyone that he is still Dirk effing Nowitzki, nailing THREE back-to-back threes to bring the Mavs within eight at the end of the first half.
The Mavs continued to close the gap in the third, thanks in part to Andrew Bogut’s savvy defense on KAT and some well-timed shots from Dirk. They pulled to within three before the Wolves, despite their remarkable capacity for blowing big leads this season, built the lead back out to seven.
Minnesota opened the final quarter with their abysmal bench, and the Mavs took advantage but couldn’t close the deficit before the starters came back in. The Wolves’ lead ballooned to 13 with three minutes left, and that was it for the Mavs. Dallas drops to last place in the West.
Here are four things we noticed during tonight’s game.
There are problems with a Dirk-Barnes front court
Tonight’s game really showed the issues with having Dirk and Harrison Barnes manning the frontcourt. Andrew Bogut was back in the starting lineup, but only played 18 minutes. And when he wasn’t on the court, it was ridiculously difficult for the Mavericks to stop a player like Towns. Poor Harrison Barnes looked like a normal sized human trying.
Towns’ first quarter tonight was just unreal. He earned his crazy 20-point stat line with just nine field goal attempts, including a few three-pointers, and ended the night with 34 points (on 15-19 shooting), 11 rebounds, and four assists. And to be fair, he did some of that even with Bogut in the game. But as Doyle wrote earlier this week, Dirk at center is an enormous defensive liability and that gives the team very little leeway to have a bad night on offense.
We’ve reached peak Bogut
Speaking of Bogut, this game was Andrew Bogut in a nutshell. While he wasn’t very effective in the first half of the game, Bogut decided to turn it up a notch in the third and reminded us all what he’s capable of. He played a major role in the Mavs’ third quarter rally, hustling like crazy and drawing two successive offensive fouls on KAT. He even scored a basket!
And then... he left the game with a hamstring strain. **shrug emoji**
You got to earn your free throws
This one isn’t so much something we learned as a question I would like the answer to: how is it possible that the Mavericks only attempted nine free throws over the course of an entire game? Nine free throws is ridiculously low, but that doesn’t fully convey how ridiculous it was. Six of those nine free throws came in the last half of the fourth quarter. The Mavericks attempted just one free throw per quarter up until then!
There was a moment very early in the game when Dirk faced down a three-on-one fast break that ended in an effortless Zach LaVine layup and it seemed like an omen of things to come. And in a sense, it was, because this was a crappy loss. But in another sense, it was not at all because Dirk (finally) looked like himself again!
Nothing soothes a rough game like a vintage Dirk performance. Tonight he set a season high for threes, nailing five of his 10 attempts. He went 8-16 overall for 20 points and added in five rebounds and four assists (and five fouls, too, but who’s counting?). Although he’s had flashes of Dirk-ness in previous games, this was by far his best of the season and a joy to watch.