The Mavericks used the same starting lineup that Carlisle has deployed a fair amount recently, including Dirk Nowitzki, who left Friday night’s game early with some back tightness. Whether it’s locally or nationally, I’m not sure enough has been made of Dirk only missing one game in his 20th year in the league - and that single game absence was essentially for tanking purposes.
The Utah Jazz entered the all-star break as the hottest team in basketball, winners of 11 straight. But Utah, playing a back-to-back of their own, snapped that streak Friday night, getting blown out at home by the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Mavericks decided to play very bad basketball to start the game, going 1-of-10 from three, and shooting 39 percent from the field. And though they ended the quarter in a hole, we still got this highlight to start the game:
The bench crew continued to keep Dallas competitive throughout the game (more on this later), all the way to crunch time. Aided by Dirk’s 12 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, and JJ Barea’s 17 points and 12 assists, they gave the team a shot late. Additionally Dirk’s three blocks put him past Shawn Bradley as the all time Mavericks block leader (1,251 on his career).
In the end, all that effort wasn’t enough, and the Mavericks fell to the Jazz 97-90.
Jae Crowder is a Jazz(?)
What do you call a player for the Jazz: a Jazzer? a Jazzy? a Jazzman? Whatever that is, former Maverick Jae Crowder is that now. I had nearly forgotten all about his move from Cleveland to Salt Lake City in the middle of the Cavaliers’ complete demolition of their roster, when he checked in to the game tonight.
Crowder’s half-season in Cleveland was...bad. At best. But since playing for Utah he looks to have found a lot of the same game he had in Boston - averaging nearly 14 points and four rebounds in four games. Tonight was not so great, statistically speaking. But we hope nothing but the best for him. I’ve been a fan of his since his Marquette days.
The Bench Mob
It should surprise no one that the Mavericks best lineup could plug in a new wing and get similar results. Here’s proof from early in the game:
McDermott's free throw closes the books on the Mavs' second unit. The group of Barea-Ferrell-McDermott-Dirk-Powell outscored the Jazz 30-10 during that run.— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) February 25, 2018
This really is a testament to everyone involved: to Carlisle for knowing how to squeeze out every bit of potential from a unit that should be begging for life every time it steps on the floor, to the four guys who have been playing together all season, and to Doug McDermott for coming in ready to be a contributor. Even on a very a bad team it’s easy to mess up chemistry by throwing in a new piece of the puzzle. But this group isn’t skipping a beat. McDermott finished the game with 12 points (4/6 from the field, 3/4 from deep).
If not for that group...
It shouldn’t be the case this deep in to the season, but every once in a while it’s startling to see how bad the Mavs can be. The bench mob (which actually consists of two current starters in Dirk and JJ Barea) aside, there is just a lot of disconnect on the floor. The other three starters (Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr.) were a combined -67 in the box score tonight. And the Mavs lost a close game. That’s unacceptable.
In a season where Ws and Ls can be a bit polarizing, things like matchup battles are something fans like to hang their hats on. Tonight, DSJ was pretty severely outplayed by fellow rookie Donovan Mitchell, who posted 25 points, six rebounds and five assists. While Smith Jr. had a tough time most of the night with seven points, seven rebounds and zero assists. This also snapped a 23-game streak where DSJ had double-digit points. He’ll be due for a bounce back next time out.
In case anyone was concerned with Haircut Collinsworth’s development:
Coming home brought a hair question for Kyle Collinsworth. “I’m growing it out a little, maybe do something special in the offseason. It’s in the growing out process. It’s a phase. But I make any phase look good."— Eddie Sefko (@ESefko) February 25, 2018