The Dallas Mavericks won their ninth road game of the year in wild fashion, using a fourth quarter run to shock the Washington Wizards 112-107. Harrison Barnes led the way for Dallas, pouring in 22 and grabbing a team high nine rebounds. John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 50 points in defeat for the Wizards.
The Wizards opened the game hot, putting up 10 in a hurry as Harrison Barnes was the only Maverick able to hit in the opening minutes. Slowly and surely, the Mavericks worked themselves back in the game. Every time it seemed like the Wizards would run away with the score, Dallas would hit a key basket and start a run of their own. Dallas trailed 27-30 with under two minutes left when the Wizards heated up right as the Mavericks went very cold. Bojan Bogdanovic, John Wall, and Ian Mahinmi put the Wizards up 10 before a rainbow corner Dirk Nowitzki three pulled the Mavericks within seven. Washington led 39-32 to end the period.
The second quarter had a similar feel to the first, though with both teams cooling considerably from the field. Washington would inch ahead, then Dallas would close the gap. The Mavericks eventually closed within two before the Wizards opened up the score leading by nine at one point, mainly on the strong shooting of Bradley Beal who had 17 in the half. A Harrison Barnes driving lay up and a Seth Curry three brought the Washington lead down to four. From there, scoring nearly halted. John Wall injured his foot on a drive (he would return). Dirk missed a pair of free throws. It was generally an ugly few minutes of basketball. Harrison Barnes hit an isolated elbow jumper to end the half and the Mavericks trailed 53-57.
Though the Mavericks opened the quarter with a Barnes bucket, the Wizards took control for most of the quarter, pushing the pace off makes and misses and generally making Dallas look slow. After getting up by 12 with four minutes left in the quarter, Dallas finally stopped the bleeding and inched back into the game through Harrison Barnes baskets. The Mavericks ended the quarter only down seven, following a crazy Nerlens Noel jump pass from the block to the opposite corner to Barnes, who nailed a three. Washington led 80-73, entering the fourth.
The final period was beyond wild. Seth Curry scored five quick points to bring the Mavericks within four. A Nicolas Brussino steal led to a Yogi Ferrell three which tied the game at 84 a piece. Bradley Beal recovered the Wizards lead with a three of his own but Seth Curry answered immediately with a steal and corner three as Washington left him wide open. Dirk Nowitzki hit a 15 footer from the left wing with 7:24 remaining to give the Mavericks the lead which they would not relinquish. Brussino led the way with another steal, a pair of threes, and an offensive rebound and putback. The Maverick lead ballooned to nine before the Wizards woke up and attempted to mount a comeback. Washington fought all the way back within two (aided by three missed free throws from Seth Curry), but simply ran out of time and lost 112-107.
The league got introduced to Nicolas Brussino
There’s a lot of things I could’ve led with here. I could’ve written another mea culpa regarding Harrison Barnes or praised the timelessness of Dirk Nowitzki or the joy of watching Seth Curry.
Instead, I’ll quote my wife in the second quarter: “Who is that skinny guy? He look’s like a high schooler!” Tonight was her and the NBA’s introduction to undrafted 24 year old Argentinian Nicolas Brussino. He’s not played much this season, just over six minutes per game, so with Wesley Matthews out with a calf injury Brussino had a chance to fill the minutes at small forward. At first, it was nice to see him simply not making mistakes. At 6’8” and all limbs he had value just by being in the passing lane and being tall enough to grab rebounds.
Then the fourth quarter rolled around. He grabbed a key offensive rebound which resulted in the game tying Yogi three. Then he hit a pair of threes to blow the lead wide open. He topped it off with an awesome offensive rebound and put back. Let’s all ignore the fact that he shoved the guy in the back to get the rebound (which I’m sure the ref believed was impossible given how skinny Brussino is). Let’s hope he gets chances at more minutes to finish out the year.
The geometry of Nerlens Noel
Barea’s had a weird return from injury. To be honest, I went to look at his box score midway through the third because I wanted to complain about his shooting. Then I saw he had thirteen assists. HOW? Well, one key reason is Nerlens Noel, who brings a vertical element the Mavericks just don’t have without him.
During the first quarter alone, Barea and Noel ran three different pick and rolls which resulted in either dunks or fouls. The Mavericks normally have pretty awesome spacing, even without a rim runner. They force teams to defend and rotate really quickly. When Nerlens is added into the mix teams also have to defend the airspace within eight feet or so of the rim. An alley-oop can happen at any time. It’s delightful.
Harrison Barnes and Dirk are fun
There’s nothing revelatory to say here. Dirk Nowitzki can hit shots. Harrison Barnes can hit shots. Tonight was a game when one was hitting, the other wasn’t. Then in the fourth they both found their shots at the same time and, in concert with Seth Curry and Young Pope Brussino, the Mavericks took and held a lead against a very good team. One more year (or five, come on Dirk) with these two together is going to be so awesome.
As Seth Curry goes, so go the Mavericks
Brussino was a key x-factor tonight. Seth Curry is the x-factor nearly every game. His rise in 2017 has coincided with the Mavericks figuring out how to win. His ball handling and decision making are so much better than I was aware of and he works so well within the Maverick system. I’m still skeptical the Mavericks make the playoffs, but if they do, it will be in large part because Seth Curry figured out who he is in the NBA.