Playing without the services of Harrison Barnes, J.J. Barea, and Seth Curry, the Dallas Mavericks lost 124 - 111 on the road against the Phoenix Suns.
It was apparent from early on that this would be a game of very little defense. Unsurprisingly, the game was played a very uptempo pace, playing to the advantage of the Suns who play at the second fastest pace in the league. Nerlens Noel opened the game with a nice lefty and-1 to get Dallas on the board off of a corner drive by Dorian Finney-Smith. Dallas got off to a quick 7 point lead, before a 21-1 run led by TJ Warren, Devin Booker, and Marquese Chriss put Phoenix up for good. However, Dallas had some pretty plays in the quarter, including a Yogi Ferrell and Nicolas Brussino give and go. What was particularly impressive was how quickly Yogi adjusted after his initial plan of entering the ball to Dirk was denied. Without missing a beat, Yogi turned, passed, and cut, leading to the basket. Leading his own mini-charge, Yogi then grabbed the offensive rebound off of a missed alley-oop attempt from Noel, and nailed a corner 3 cutting the Phoenix lead to the same amount. However, shooting 65% from the field, the Suns finished the quarter up 40-29.
By the second quarter, it became readily apparent that the game was going to be one of experimentation, and playing time for the younger guys with winning the game bumped lower on the list of priorities. Dallas played zone for most of the quarter, and had a few highlight reel plays while closing the gap to 68-65 by half. Devin Harris led the charge with 9 points in 9 minutes, knocking down some key 3s, and facilitating the offense. Other noteworthy plays included an acrobatic reverse put back dunk by Salah Mejri off of a Dirk miss, and two 3s, and a dribble drive from Dwight Powell who is making a conscious effort to expand his game.
The second half was a further showcase for the younger guys, as Dirk, Wes Matthews, Noel and Harris stayed on the bench. The Mavericks started the half with Yogi, Doe-Doe, Jarrod Uthoff, Dwight Powell and A.J. Hammons. While Powell continued to impress with his usual aggression, and surprising body control on an open floor hoop and harm basket, Carlisle continued to tinker. At one point, Dallas had Brussino running the point, while sharing the floor with Finney-Smith, Uthoff, Powell and Hammons. Despite having a lineup with no one shorter than 6”8, to the surprise of no one, Phoenix went on a 9-0 run, and finished the quarter up 104-85.
The fourth quarter was a continuation of what seemed like the position-less basketball experiment. Playing most minutes without a point guard, Dallas largely played smart basketball, making the extra pass, and getting decent looks but was ultimately unable to cut into the Suns’ lead. Powell, Uthoff and Brussino all continued to shoot (and make) from distance, and despite losing 124-111, it was fun to watch the young gets make plays.
- I know this is a stretch, but I wonder if Dallas is hoping that prime Dwight Powell (21 points with 8-14 from the field, including a career high 4 made 3 pointers, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists, 1 block) will play small forward? Obviously he needs to gain some consistency on his shot, but his agility and athleticism could make him a great defender in terms of being active on switches. Also, in limited minutes today, he looked more comfortable handling the ball at the top of the key. If he can get there, then Dwight could potentially range from a small ball center to a small forward with a big line-up.
- None of us are sure what to make of Jarrod Uthoff at this point. That said, if I were scouting him solely from this game, he may be worth taking a flyer on. I’m not suggesting that he has star potential, but he has good size, solid shooting mechanics, and hustles on every play. One play in particular that impressed me was when he switched on to guard Booker in his first play of the game. Despite being called for a questionable foul, Uthoff nearly perfectly spaced Booker to contest both shot and drive, and moved his feet without falling for any fakes.
- A.J. Hammons is an extremely fluid player. I’ve said this every time that I’ve seen him play. While no where near the player (I repeat, I am not equating him to Boogie Cousins), similar to Demarcus, Hammons movements do not look like those of a 7 footer. I really think this guy has a lot of potential, but a bit step in his development will be finding a way to be provide value outside of scoring. Currently, he is a bit of a black hole on offense, looking to shoot upon every catch. Learning to pass, and being a more active screener should be improvements that he looks to make for next year.