Changes! Different starting lineup tonight, as Rick Carlisle turned to a lineup many predicted the minute the Nerlens Noel trade was completed. A lineup of Seth Curry, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki, and Nerlens Noel started the game to mixed results.
Overall, Mavericks really impressed in the first quarter. Punctuated by a few back and for runs by both teams, the whole quarter was really back and forth. Rick Carlisle also seemed to be rotating players in and out more often than usual. Highlights included a Seth eurostep drive around Chris Paul that ended with a floater over a waiting DeAndre Jordan, a Nerlens block of Blake Griffin to cap off some excellent post defense by Harrison Barnes, and Dirk strip that led to a long, gutsy transition three that banked in for Devin Harris shortly before the quarter ended. The Mavs led 29-24, and they came out in the second quarter jut as fiery as they left the first.
Yogi made his first appearance in the game a couple of minutes into second quarter, and he was basically a running, dribbling ball of fire. He made himself felt on defense, where he was a part of at least three Clippers turnovers. He also went 2-3 for 5 points, including a jump out of your seat three-pointer. Things were fun. The Mavs were up by 12 at one point, and felt in control right up until the point that they didn’t. The Clippers answered back by finishing the quarter on an 18-2 run, and led 54-48 at half time.
The Mavs opened the third quarter strong, taking a five-point lead early in the frame behind more great shooting from Curry and more great defense from Noel. It was then J.J. Barea and Blake Griffin got into a scuffle, with Barea shoving Griffin after getting pushed out of the way during a screen. For some reason, the refs decided this was a flagrant-2 on Barea and he was ejected. The game definitely changed here, energy wise — everything was a bit more chippy and the crowd was a little more into it.
LA late in the third and early in the fourth kept raining threes and grabbed the lead back on a Jamal Crawford pull-up three. The Mavs bench simply couldn’t slow down the Clippers at all. In the fourth, the game was back-and-forth. Devin Harris kept giving the Mavs good minutes, setting up Powell and Noel for jams.
Neither team could grab more than a one-possession lead and Barnes jumper with a minute left gave the Mavs the lead. From there, Dallas couldn’t shut the door completely, with Barnes missing a bucket and turning it over with chances to ice the game.
Barnes decided to redeem himself and shut the door on the other end — with less than 10 seconds left, Barnes stripped the ball from Blake Griffin who was posting him up to shoot for the game-winner. The Clippers got one more desperation chance with 0.9 seconds left and but J.J. Redick missed a good look to give the Mavs the win.
Dirk is having some March
Dirk is shooting 50.7 percent from the floor and 38 percent from three in March and he kept it going against the Clippers, shooting 7-of-12 for 14 points. Dirk is averaging almost 17 points and eight rebounds per game in the month and looks way better than earlier in the year while he was coming back from his Achilles injury.
It’s still tough for the Mavs to force-feed him shots and the Mavs couldn’t get him enough looks in the second-half while the Clippers made their run, but it’s nice to see him looking like himself and you can only wonder what the Mavs season would look like if he started the year completely healthy.
Noel is such a unique player
Rick Carlisle finally put Noel into the starting lineup without needing to due to injury and it was an interesting night for Noel who showed his high ceiling and things to work on.
He just fills up the stat-sheet in a way bigs don’t always do — the 12 rebounds and the two blocks aren’t surprising, but then you see the steal and the three assists and realize Noel is a deeply-talented guy, who can do a lot of different things. He’s got good vision when catching the ball in a pick and roll and he loves to get up on guards on switches and shoot passing lanes.
Unfortunately, Noel is still a string-bean compared to most of the dudes he guards. DeAndre Jordan didn’t miss a shot while scoring 14 points and grabbed 18 rebounds. Noel is fantastic, but he isn’t the type of guy to neutralize physically-imposing bigs like Jordan. I’m looking forward to Noel getting an entire summer with the Mavs training staff and getting stronger.
Harrison Barnes is incredible
I don’t really care that much about Barnes offensive game tonight. His 21 points on 18 shots were much needed, even though he once again failed to get to the free throw line. He gave the Mavs their last lead of the game on a Dirk-like iso-fade but also failed to ice the game with a missed jumper and a turnover on the next two possessions.
Whatever, I don’t care about that. What I care about is Barnes bodying Griffin with less than 10 seconds remaining and stripping him for the steal that helped seal the game. That was amazing.
All year Barnes has had to guard fours much bigger than him, but the key is none of them are much stronger than him. Barnes is a bull and he refuses to get moved off his spot when he’s guarding in the post. His ability to stonewall post scorers is an incredible skill and while I desperately want the Mavs to get him some wing help so he doesn’t always have to guard fours, it’s a great trick to have as the Mavs try to build a younger and more flexible roster.