Forcing the Mavs to face the Houston Rockets on the second night of a back-to-back was a cruel punishment from the scheduling gods. And to top it off, the Rockets were looking for vengeance after having their 17 game win streak snapped by the Toronto Raptors Friday night.
The game started about how everyone would expect. The Rockets were crisp from the onset, and the Mavericks were not. Houston jumped out to a 17-3 lead after an Eric Gordon three pointer forcing Rick Carlisle to call a timeout. After the timeout, J.J. Barea checked in and the offense started to click. He set up Dwight Powell for a a few easy attempts at the rim, and on the other end, the Mavs were fortunate enough the Rockets cooled off. Houston took a 25-14 lead after one.
The Mavs took advantage of the momentum created at the end of the first to catapult them into the second quarter. Barea led the charge dishing an absurd nine assists through about 16 minutes of play. Nerlens Noel also played a large role in the Mavs comeback. After the Mavs took their first lead at 38-37, Noel displayed his tantalizing skill set poking the ball free playing perimeter defense and running the floor on the break finishing the play on a thunderous alley-oop. He was active and engaged during the first half scoring eight points and grabbing six rebounds. The Mavs stretched the lead to as many as six points, but the Rockets went on an 8-1 in the final two minutes to take a 48-47 lead into the half.
Whatever Mike D’Antoni told his club in the locker room worked because the Rockets came out of the break scorching hot. Led by Chris Paul, Houston scored 20 points in the first 4:14 of the quarter including 6-of-6 from deep. The Rockets went on to shoot 8-of-15 from three in the quarter, and the Mavs shot only 1-of-6. There really wasn’t much to this quarter other than the Rockets knocking down shots and the Mavs missing. Houston shot 50 percent in the quarter compared to the Mavs 26 percent. The Rockets lead 80-63, after pouring in 32 points in the third quarter compared to the Mavs 16.
Things didn’t get any better for Dallas in the fourth. The Rockets maintained control of the game throughout the second half and outscored the Mavs 25-19 in the final frame. The Rockets were led by Chris Paul’s 24 points and 12 assists. He was a plus-31 for the game. The Mavs were led by Dwight Powell’s 20 points on 9-11 shooting and five rebounds. Dallas falls to 21-46 and will face the New York Knicks Tuesday night.
Battle of the backourts
With Wesley Matthews and James Harden both sitting out, Yogi Ferrell and Eric Gordon received the starting nods for their respective teams. Look, it’s unfair to expect Dennis Smith Jr. and Ferrell to outplay Paul and Gordon, but the Mavericks starting backcourt was absolutely pitiful. They combined to score six points and hand out six assists. Meanwhile, Paul and Gordon combined to score 50 points, 14 assists and shot 10-18 from three. Paul is on his way to the hall of fame and Gordon is a human flamethrower, but the Mavs starting backcourt was embarrassed tonight and a big reason why the Mavs got blown out.
Dallas gets blitzed from deep
We covered in our game preview that the three-point line could be a key to the game. The Rockets must have received the memo because the Mavs certainly did not. The Rockets converted 17-45 threes, good for 38 percent. The Mavericks made only 5-31 from deep, good for 16 percent. Houston was a plus-36 from three. The Mavs have shot themselves into games from deep, but they’ve also chucked their way out of games. Shooting 16 percent from deep just can’t happen against the Rockets.
Nerlens Noel is...back?
The Noel saga continues to unfold after he posts his second solid game since returning from injury. Presumably, he used the first three games to get his feet under him and get back into playing shape because the past two games he’s been playing well. Against the Nuggets Noel played 25 minutes, scored eight points and grabbed 14 rebounds. He sat last night against the Memphis Grizzlies but returned tonight scoring 10 points and grabbing eight rebounds in only 15 minutes of play. His energy and activity played a critical role in the Mavs erasing a 15 points lead and pushing ahead early in the second quarter. It’s fair to wonder why Noel only played 15 minutes in a blowout loss, but Carlisle expressed some displeasure post game:
Rick Carlisle was asked about Nerlens Noel’s game: “I thought he blew a couple of plays out of timeouts that he shouldn’t have.”— Bryan Gutierrez (@BallinWithBryan) March 12, 2018
This is the crux with Noel. He flashes his potential making plays only few people can make, but also commits simple mistakes putting his team in tough situations. I don’t know what to make of Noel at this point but it’s safe to say he’s not on Carlisle’s good side.