Only one game separated these two teams in the loss column, so the draft positioning stakes were high coming into tonight. With these two teams figuring to jockey all season for higher lottery odds, it was a true battle of the tanks in late Saturday night basketball.
It was a hot shooting start for both teams as the Kings shot 60 percent and the Mavs shot about 53 percent. Thanks to five made three pointers, the Mavs were able to control much of the first quarter until the Kings made a late run to take a 28-27 lead after one. Harrison Barnes and Dirk Nowitzki combined for 17 points in the quarter while the Kings were led by Willey Cauley-Stein with six points.
The sharp shooting continued into the second quarter for both teams as they traded blows going back and forth. The Mavs got a boost from Dwight Powell to start the quarter. He connected multiple times with J.J. Barea (welcome back J.J.!) and Devin Harris on his way to eight second quarter points. Powell was joined by fellow big man Salah Mejri help propel the Mavericks to a halftime lead as the two combined for 17 points through one half. Unfortunately for Dallas, Sacramento still shot 57 percent to prevent the Mavs from ever stretching their lead by more than six. Led by Barnes’ 12 first half points, the Mavs were able to take a 56-54 lead into the half.
The third quarter opened with a Sacramento 10-2 run. The Mavs came out of the gates lifeless and sloppy, while the Kings picked up where they left off in the first half. Fortunately for the Mavericks, Dennis Smith Jr. finally came to life scoring seven points in the quarter, and Powell continued to be the beneficiary of Barea’s dimes adding six points in the third. It’s almost a miracle the Mavs were only down four points going into the fourth because the Kings shot a blistering 78 percent in the third frame.
The fourth quarter opened with back-to-back Yogi Ferrell three pointers to push the Mavs ahead of the Kings. Dallas continued to hit shots going on a 15-0 run, while the Kings missed their first 10 shots of the quarter. The Kings finally started to look every bit like a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back after three quarters of sweet shooting. The Mavs were able to stretch their lead to as many as 12, but the Kings would not go quietly as they cut the lead to single digits late into the fourth. Dallas eventually kept Sacramento at bay to steal one on the road, 106-99. All five starters scored in double digits with Barnes leading the way with 18. The Mavs move to 17-36 on the season while the Kings fall to 16-36.
Welcome back J.J.
After sitting out the past three games due to a left oblique strain, the Mavs welcomed back their best point guard with open arms. Barea has such good command on the Mavericks’ offense, and continuously found Powell on lobs at the rim. The second unit went on an 15-0 run from the end of the third quarter to the start of the fourth, and Barea was instrumental in that stretch. It’s also no coincidence that the Mavs shot 38 percent as a team in the last three games that Barea sat out, and tonight, they shot north of 50 percent. Barea finished the night with five points and 11 assists. Say what you want about Barea’s long-term outlook on this team, but he delivers night in and out.
Dennis’ shot is missing
In the five games prior to tonight, Smith Jr. has shot 33 percent from the field, including a miserable 28 percent from deep. Tonight was much of the same. Save for a strong third quarter, Smith Jr. could not throw a rock in the ocean. He was 4-of-15 and missed all six of his three point attempts. To his credit, he attacked the rim relentlessly, creating pressure on the defense and continuously putting his teammates in advantageous positions. Ignoring his shooting numbers, he played fine. He finished with 12 points, five rebounds and five assists. But his shot has disappeared as of late. Maybe the all-star break will do his legs some good.
TeamTank took one to the gut tonight
Coming into tonight, the Mavericks were alone at the bottom of the Western Conference. At 16-36 they had one more loss than the Kings. Obviously, that flips after tonight. Orlando and Chicago also lost tonight, meaning the Magic further “separated” themselves from the Mavericks while the Bulls inched closer to the bottom of the league standings now that Nikola Mirotic has been traded.
Jonathan Motley was called up from the Texas Legends, and it seemed he would get some run. He did not. It was a close game, and Carlisle likely wanted to finish it out with the normal cast, but it’s strange seeing the Mavs waste Motley’s two-way days in Dallas. Maybe he’ll get some burn next game.
Speaking of that, the Mavs take on the Clippers Monday night. We’ll see you then.