The Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder played a pretty good one Wednesday night. With tanking a distant thought, the Mavs played hard and even forced overtime against the Thunder, thanks to a Dwight Powell putback at the buzzer.
Despite their effort, Dallas drops to 19-43, on a night where both Atlanta and Phoenix won to also notch 19 wins.
The Return of Noel
Perhaps the biggest story tonight for Dallas was the return of Nerlens Noel, who hadn’t played in a game since late November. Rick Carlisle had hinted that Nerlens would have “fresh legs” and would likely play, but when or how much was still an open question. Well, less than five minutes in we got an answer, as Nerlens checked in and got some extended burn, totaling 16 minutes. Noel was active, blocking Russell Westbrook in transition at one point, but he definitely still has that tendency to be over-aggressive on defense, taking himself out of proper position on occasion. Overall, though, it was a welcome site to see the athletic 23-year-old big man out on the floor.
With Wilt Chamberlain in his sights, Dirk Nowitzki eclipsed 31,000 points Wednesday, fittingly enough on a stepback fadeaway. The Big German finished with 12 points on 5-9 shooting, a nifty 4 assists, and a +10 in 24 minutes. You know Nowitzki’s climb up the all-time scoring list is epic when Wilt’s name is mentioned.
Career night for Dwight Powell
Yes, Dwight Powell. The bane of Mavs’ twitter for years, who was all buried and left for dead after an early season stint as a stretch-4 didn’t pan out, Dwight Powell has become one of the team’s brightest spots this season. Getting the start again against Oklahoma City, Powell notched a career best 21 points, including the buzzer-beating tying shot in regulation. When he wasn’t finishing lob dunks, Powell was doing that Dwight Powell thing where he throws his body after the ball with reckless abandon. He collected 8 boards, 3 steals, and a key charge late in the game.
Late game Dennis shows up again
Dennis Smith Jr. has developed a reputation in his young career for saving his best for last. Wednesday night was another example, as Smith went for 8 of his 17 points in the extra frame. Smith struggled early, often getting to the rim when he wanted but finding the Thunder defenders(and the refs) unfriendly once there. It’s fitting that Smith had such an up-and-down game, because that’s been the sort of season he’s had, as well. Dennis had a chance to win it at the end but couldn’t get a great look.
They may not technically move down in the standings, but for those thinking of lottery balls, a sigh of relief here. Dallas faces a major test Friday, however, on the road against the also bad Chicago Bulls.