It’s okay to be excited after watching the Mavericks (2-10) take care of business against the Wizards (5-5) in an exciting road victory. The Mavs finally looked like a competent basketball team, shooting the ball well and executing on offense. Let’s not get carried away, but let’s celebrate a few things.
The first quarter saw the Mavericks most of us expected. An efficient offensive team, shooting the ball well, sharing and taking care of the basketball. Dennis Smith Jr. paced Dallas with nine points and four assists in seven minutes as he electrified out of the gate. Both teams shot north of 60 percent from the field and from three as the Mavericks took a 36-34 lead at the end of the first frame.
The Mavericks started the second quarter hot going on an 8-0 run, but eventually both teams cooled off as the game wore on. However, a balanced attack allowed Dallas to outscore the Wizards 28-19, pushing their lead to 11 as the Mavericks took a 64-53 lead into the half. Barnes poured in 16 points in the first two quarters, followed by J.J. Barea with 10 and Smith Jr. with 9.
The third quarter was somewhat of a back and forth affair with the Wizards threatening the Mavericks’ lead with outside shooting and Wall free throws, but Barnes steadied the Mavs with another outstanding quarter with timely scoring and rebounds. Salah Mejri provided the energy as he recorded three blocks and personally victimized Kelly Oubre multiple times with a trademark Salah Swat. Dallas outscored Washington by three in the quarter taking a 90-76 lead into the fourth.
Things got interesting in the fourth quarter, though as the Wizards opened the frame on a 12-0 run. The Mavericks stopped the bleeding after a pair of Smith Jr. free throws and a Wesley Matthews three on an assist from Junior in which the rookie had some kind of court awareness to know where Matthews was. The Wizards put the pressure on, but the combination of Smith Jr. Barnes and Mejri proved to be too much. The Mavericks held on 113-99 notching their second win of the season and first on the road.
Back to the basics
It seems like a role reversal from all of the other games this season, but Dallas finally did the little things right. They out rebounded the Wizards 53-39 and limited them to three offensive boards. The Mavericks tallied 26 assists, turned it over three times less than the Wizards, and outscored them 42-34 in the paint.
This was Mavericks’ basketball we expected at the beginning of the season. Control the pace, don’t beat yourself and do the little things right. Tonight showed a glimpse of the type of team Dallas can be, so let’s see if they can string together another well-rounded game with this one.
Another solid night from Barnes
Barnes was a rock all night for Dallas. When the Wizards threatened with a run, Barnes answered with points of his own. It might have been the quietest 31 point 9 rebound game I’ve seen in a while as Barnes was an efficient 11-18 from the field, hitting both of his three-point attempts and knocking 7-8 down from the line. Barnes has showed major improvement in his game thus far, and tonight was further evidence. It’s unfair to expect this kind of night from Barnes routinely, but he led the charge on the road against a team with deep playoff aspirations. That’s big time.
A career night for the rookie
Smith Jr. started the game aggressive, looking to attack and put pressure on the defense, and it just had the looks of a spectacular night for the 19-year-old. He scored 22 points and became only the second Maverick to score 20 points this season. He showed a complete game grabbing eight rebounds, dishing eight assists and committing only two turnovers. He had plays of the highlight variety and of the subtle variety. He routinely blew by a premier point guard in Wall and made him work on the defensive end all night. Simply put, it looked like Junior was tired of losing and wanted to do something about it. That’s what you want in a franchise point guard.
Mejri makes noise.. again
After disappearing in the Mavericks previous game, Mejri came to play in the nation’s capitol. In 25 minutes as the first big man off the bench, Mejri scored 10 points, grabbed 12 boards and blocked five shots. In fact, Mejri played so well, he relegated the other Maverick bigs to bench duty for the entire second half. Mejri’s aggression gets him in trouble at times, but tonight, it’s exactly what the Mavericks needed. He patrolled the paint, cleaned up on the glass, and was a huge reason why Dallas kept Washington at bay during their run in the fourth. He was a team high plus-15 and just might become the preferred backup big in Carlisle’s rotation.
- Wesley Matthews was also fantastic. He scored 14 points, grabbed eight rebounds and tallied six assists to go along with two steals. He was hyper-efficient shooting 50 percent from the field and draining four of his seven three-point attempts.
- Nerlens Noel played six minutes tonight. And when he did play, he looked good. Mejri was outstanding and certainly outplayed his counterpart, but six minutes? Something is up. It’ll interesting to see how the center minutes shake out.
- The backup point guard situation with Barea and Devin Harris makes the Mavericks very fortunate. Barea scored 10 points and passed out six assists in only 16 minutes (partly because DSJ was so good). Harris contributions didn’t necessarily show up in the stat sheet tonight, but he is a valuable guard to bring off the bench, and generally comes up with many timely plays.
- Lastly, it was an exciting win, but (back to reality) it was only the Mavericks’ second win. I’ll be interesting to see how they come out Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Another night of solid basketball against a playoff-caliber team, and then we can start letting our minds wonder a little more.