After a big win against Utah, Dallas continued its strong play winning big against the Orlando Magic 112-80. Led by Wes Matthews with a game high 20 points, every single Maverick got on the board.
As a starting point, I realize that the Orlando Magic aren’t exactly the best team in the league, but its game likes these that make you think that the now healthy Mavs (minus Bogut) are too good to tank. With Deron Williams rejoining the starting line-up in his first game back from injury, the Mavs were up for the task from the opening tip. While Orlando struggled to score, pretty much every Maverick not named Harrison Barnes shot the ball well early on. Leading the way was part time archer, and soon to be first time participant in the All Star Weekend 3 Point Contest, Wes Matthews, going a perfect 4-4 from distance. Dallas finished the quarter on a mini 8-3 run to go up 29-23.
The second quarter was just beautiful Mavericks basketball. Between Dirk and Mejri, Dallas continued to do a great job limiting Nikola Vucevic, while absolutely cooking on the offensive end. Yogi Ferrell drive and dump to Dwight Powell for a dunk? Check. Harrison Barnes kick out to Powell to Dirk for three? Check. Seth Curry step-back three? Check. Deron Williams for three? Check. Wes Matthews to Mejri? Check. For those of you who missed the game, you get the picture. This quarter was an example of what the level that the Mavs offense is capable of operating at when everything is clicking. Dallas shot an impressive 14/23 from the field for the quarter, and took a 61-35 lead behind a 12-0 run to close the half. Key difference in the half? Dallas shot 9 of 17 on threes. Orlando? 0-9.
The third quarter started much the same way the first half went. Dallas started with back to back threes on account of Yogi and Dirk, while Evan Fournier continued to be the only Magic player finding any success on the offensive end. While the Mavs cooled down as the quarter went on, good news for Dallas was that Orlando continued to struggle. Of particular note was the play of Justin Anderson, who despite having a smaller role than was expected coming into the season, hasn’t hung his head one. Although his numbers weren’t particularly gaudy, Simba showed off an aggressive baseline attack that led to free throws, a collected spin move and hook shot, and an absolutely gorgeous pocket pass that eventually led to a Barnes basket.
After heading into the final frame with a 32 point lead, Dallas cruised the rest of the way. The fourth quarter fanned the already strong contingent of Nicolas Brussino fans, as he often had the ball in his hands playing the role of point-forward. Brussino did not disappoint as he made some great passes, including consecutive pinpoint bounce passes to a back-cutting Justin Anderson, and another to Dorian Finney-Smith leading to an Orlando timeout. Behind Brussino’s playmaking and shotmaking (10 points on 4-6 shooting) and strong play by Anderson and Powell, Dallas snagged another coveted W, making it 11 wins in their last 16.
- One of the most impressive things about the growth of Harrison Barnes has been his developing court vision. At the beginning of the season, we were marveling at his ability to score, while accepting that passing, especially in traffic, was not a strength. Although he still has a ways to go, Barnes has been making the right reads and passes in bang-bang split second situations with far more frequency than before. A great development from this improved court vision is Barnes’ use as the roll man in the pick and roll. In improving his vision and passing ability, Barnes has opened up a multitude of offensive options that Dallas was unable to take advantage of before. A Barnes roll could lead to a basket for Barnes, a kick out to Curry in the corner, a dump-off to Powell, or a pass back to Dirk. A few months ago, the same set up would have likely led to a hard take from Barnes regardless of the defensive set-up. This is what improvement and player growth looks like.
- Remember at the beginning of the season when the Mavs were losing and it seemed like Wes Matthews could not buy a basket? As he kept chucking up miss after miss on mostly wide open shots, many Dallas fans (myself included) began to worry if this was who Wes was now; an overpaid shell of his former self. All along, Wes insisted that he was as confident as ever in his shot, and his play in the past month and a half have shown our concerns to be premature. Tonight, Wes continued his march towards twisted and aggressive regression to the mean, going back to the beginning of the year as he shot 6-8 from distance. Milestone alert: Wes is 1 made three pointer away from sharing the distinction of most three pointers made by an undrafted player.
- Aside from the obvious trade value and fit of Andrew Bogut, the Mavs need to really ask themselves if they aren’t better off with Salah Mejri as their main center. Yes, he makes boneheaded errors with too much frequency for comfort, but the guy never lacks effort. Salah was everywhere tonight, and even as the Mavs led for 30 points or more for most of the 3rd quarter, Salah continued to crash the offensive boards and defend the rim with conviction. Mejri finished the game with 4 points, 15 rebounds and 2 blocks, and a bunch of unaccounted for tap outs. Kudos to this guy for always giving it his all.