The last time the Mavericks were this unpredictable, the team was really bad. Back in 2013, Dallas had two 25-year-olds starting in the backcourt, and the team couldn’t get them out of town fast enough.
We’re four years from Mike James replacing Darren Collison, Chris Kaman playing over Brandan Wright. This feels a little different from then. This feels fun.
Dallas stone-walled Miami in the final couple minutes to win on Monday night and the new young guys were all over the place — Seth Curry led the way with 29 points, Harrison Barnes chipped in an efficient 24, Nerlens Noel flew around for 25 minutes, Yogi Ferrell found ways to do things with his jumper abandoning him. It was a team effort.
In the past, those team effort wins were ones when the Mavs would rally behind a struggling Dirk Nowitkzi (Dirk was 2-of-9 from the floor for eight points) — and those who rallied were closer to out of the league than entering it. We’ve watched Dirk’s teammates pick him up before, but never from guys almost two decades younger than him.
It’s weird to see. The Heat since they’ve turned a corner on their season have become a dangerous, spread pick and roll team with Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic at the center of it all. They never play with two traditional bigs and push the pace at every chance they get.
Seeing a Mavericks team not only keep pace, but beat a team like that at their own game was, well -- it was something. There will be mistakes, of course, but seeing Ferrell tear down the court after a rebound, Noel fly out to three-point shooters and Barnes glide down the lane for a basket was like watching a team from an alternate universe. This is the one where the Mavs are all young and good, right? Let’s stay in this one.
Onto the notes:
- All season I’ve doubted Seth Curry’s ability to create offense as a lead guard — he did so well playing next to Deron Williams that I worried with Williams waived, he might struggle with a defense more shifted over to him when he touches the ball. While Curry shared a lot of minutes with Ferrell tonight, Curry was just outstanding creating offense out of nothing, or using screens to get a better shot. His 29 points on 17 shots felt like the entire Mavs offense and watching him take over in the fourth quarter and pull the Mavs over the finish line felt like watching him open Pandora’s Box. There’s still so much to unlock for a guy that’s played just 102 games in his NBA career and every night it feels like Curry discovers another piece.
- This was a sight for sore eyes with Barnes, who got his 24 points on eight shots and six free throws. Barnes has seen his shots go down this month without his threes or free throws going up. Being a second banana to a re-surging Dirk saw him rely even harder on his mid-range game to get him buckets, so Barnes repeatedly attacking the rim was nice. He started early too, seemingly feeling disrespected that the Heat tried to guard him off the tip 1-on-1 with Luke Babbitt. Barnes torched Babbitt early and provided consistent points from there. He got a little jumper-happy in the fourth, but his aggression for the majority of the night was much needed.
- Noel is so much fun and you can tell the Mavericks are still leaving him with the training wheels on for most of the night — Noel could be setting way more ball screens and the Mavs are keeping him in their conservative pick and roll scheme. Even then, Noel’s dynamic ability to rotate out to a three-point shooter then crash down to guard the rim is something no big on the roster could even dream of doing. It says a lot about the Mavs center situation when their best two-way center was Salah Mejri. Andrew Bogut never looked at the rim on offense despite his solid defense and Powell’s pick and roll brilliance is often overshadowed by his inability to guard the rim at all. Noel brings the best of Powell and Bogut’s games, with the added bonus that he runs like a damn gazelle. There was a sequence late where Noel sagged off Dion Waiters and let Waiters get a wide-open three to tie the game and you could see the indecision in Noel’s head as he sort of stepped back and forth between throwing himself at Waiters or sagging back. Noel will get there as he gets more comfortable with the coaches, schemes and players and hell, he’s already damn good right now. He changed the game in the fourth quarter as the Mavs charged back into the game and didn’t let the Heat score for the last 4:39 of the fourth quarter.
- Oh boy, these Noel rim-runs are going to make me cry. Here’s a spicy set that you’ll recognize from the Tyson Chandler-Brandan Wright smash brothers season of 2015:
Here we go folks. Noel back screens, down screens, ball screens and then dunks it. I am here for Rick Carlisle ATO's. pic.twitter.com/BDb7bgKmin— Nicholas Sciria (@Nick_Sciria) February 28, 2017
- Dirk’s offense was cold and the Heat just terrorized him when he was on defense, spreading the floor and running action right at him. It was tough to watch and just a devilish matchup for Dirk, who couldn’t really hide on anyone all night, even when he shared the court with Noel and Noel checked Whiteside. However, Dirk still found ways to contribute, grabbing 12 boards and making good passes out of the pick and roll — he probably should have had four or five assists if his teammates had finished plays or not gotten fouled. Dirk has to rebound a lot, sharing the frontcourt with a smaller Barnes and Wes Matthews, but the last four games he’s been really solid on the boards.
- The Heat just drill you to death. Every player seems to know what to do when they get the ball and that usually involves trying to shove said ball right down your throat. For the Mavs defense to not only do well but get stronger as the game wore on is a testament to the team, as the Heat love to wear a defense out with their unrelenting attack.
- Dorian Finney-Smith is having the season we were all hoping Justin Anderson would be having.
- Quinn Cook played 17 minutes after signing from the D-League and he looked...fine. As our own Ian Miller noted on Twitter, Cook has a good pace to the pick and roll game, hesitating when needed to get a defender on his hip and then probing deeper into the paint. He made some nice reads but had some dumb turnovers as expected. He’ll be planted to the bench when J.J. Barea returns but he could carve out some nice burn here before then. Ferrell does a lot of nice things, but his size is really starting to become a problem on offense, where he can’t always navigate through the trees. Cook’s a little bigger and seems a little steadier — he looks like he’s watched a lot of Chris Paul film.
- The AAC was rocking tonight. Mavericks fans haven’t had a lot to cheer for since that title team, so it was good to see them respond to what is such a fun and energetic Mavs team. This is probably the most excited the fan base has been since the title outside of the Chandler Parsons signing.
- Seriously, Noel is so damn good. HE’S ONLY 22.