The Dallas Mavericks are very good at playing close games and losing them. They are master artists of this particular craft. The Mavericks, once again, fought like hell. And once again, they lost. This time it was to the Minnesota Timberwolves, 93-92 in Dallas.
Fans were treated to a fine display of how not to shoot early on, with the teams combining to hit 4 of their first 22 attempts. Dennis Smith Jr. looked good early, pushing into the lane for a lay up and foul shots. After the six minute mark the Mavericks held on to a four point lead for much of the period and after one quarter they led 20-16. The Wolves managed to hit just 26 percent of their shot attempts.
The second period went much the way of the first only with more bench players. Doug McDermott came out gunning and scored 8 quick points for the Mavericks, including a very long three pointer. Dallas built out a nine point lead which Minnesota would trim some before letting the Mavericks score again. Dirk Nowitzi connected on a three with 27 seconds left and it appeared Dallas would take a seven point lead into the break. But Jamaal Crawford hit a three following a Karl Anthony-Towns offensive board to cut the lead to four. Towns then stole the in bounds pass and laid the ball in with 0.4 seconds remaining and Dallas left the half up two points, 46-44. Dallas committed an uncharacteristic 10 turnovers in the quarter, while the Wolves shot 13 free throws to the Mavs’ three to keep the game tight.
Dallas looked strong early in the third, going to Harrison Barnes in isolation twice in a row to give the Mavericks a six point lead. The Timberwolves would respond with four straight Towns points. The Mavericks responded with a Dorian Finney-Smith three to extend the lead back to five. Dallas regained the lead once, but could not hold on. Minnesota spend the remainder of the period holding off Dallas and took a 67-64 lead into the final frame.
Harrison Barnes started the fourth strong, once again scoring four straight, but Minnesota seemed to find their sea legs finally, as Jamaal Crawford scored seven straight points and gave the Wolves a 74-68 lead. A pair of back to back threes from Minnesota pushed their lead out to 10 before Maxi Kleber hit a corner three to stop the bleeding. But when a player like Nemanja Bjelica, who had been scoreless all game, buries a pair of threes midway in the quarter, it wasn’t going to be the Mavericks’ night.
The Mavericks did what they always do, of course, and made it a close game with under two minutes remaining, largely on the backs of Dennis Smith Jr. and Yogi Ferrell. But there just wasn’t enough time. The Mavericks trimmed it to four repeatedly, then got the lead down to two following a great defensive play from Ferrell. A crazy Jamaal Crawford basket gave Minnesota a four point cushion which was just enough. Yogi Ferrell buried a three with two seconds remaining but Dallas did not have enough time and fell to the Wolves, 93-92.
And now, some things!
Dennis Smith, post up machine
Since we’re in the dark side of the moon part of the season, why not post up Dennis more? I didn’t take good enough notes on the outcomes of those post ups, but it felt very “Jason Kidd in 2011” to me. The vision and passing sense of Smith has been the biggest revelation this season, and watching him work against the Wolves was a delight. Despite his shorter stature, he found the open man in the situation repeatedly. Hopefully that offensive wrinkle gets looped in more next season.
At least we’re not paying Andrew Wiggins
If you’re a longtime site reader, you know my Harrison Barnes feelings are mixed at best. He’s really won me over this year and after watching him against a reasonable contemporary in Andrew Wiggins, I should probably never complain about Barnes again. Sure Barnes had a pedestrian 19 points on 18 shots, but Wiggins had a grotesque 8 points on 17 shots with a side of awful defense. That dude is on the hook for $154,000,000 over five years starting next year. I know it’s not good to judge a guy on one game but his season long numbers bear out the premise: that he isn’t a star.
Doug McDermott is who I wanted Chandler Parsons to be
It’s hard to tell how McDermott fits on a good team, but his offensive game is so much fun. Between the shooting, passing, and moving without the ball, he might be the perfect bench guy for Rick Carlisle’s system. I hope the Mavericks find a way to keep him this off season.