The Dallas Mavericks won a wild game in Denver Tuesday night, 109-106. Nine different players scored double digits for Dallas, a feat which hasn’t happened for the franchise since 1986 against the Seattle Supersonics. Maxi Kleber and Tim Hardaway Jr. lead Dallas off the bench with 14 points each. Paul Milsap scored 23 for the Nuggets in defeat.
The Mavericks started their fourth different starting line up in as many games and wouldn’t you know it, Dallas fell behind early in Denver despite the Nuggets playing the second game of a back to back. Paul Milsap abused Kristaps Porzingis early, going on a 9-0 personal run which put the Nuggets ahead 16-5. But the threes started falling for Dallas in the frame and an effort from the bench kept the Mavericks within striking distance. Dallas trailed after one, 27-31.
An all-bench unit for Dallas appeared ready to collapse early as the Nuggets built up a nine point lead, but coach Rick Carlisle allowed the group, led by Justin Jackson and Jalen Brunson, to steady their play and the end result was a furious scoring run to take the lead forcing a Denver timeout. The starters from both teams re-entered the fray and the Mavericks lost ground as the Nuggets kept the collective pressure on. Each team gave numerous second shots which resulted in the game staying close. Luka Doncic ended the half with a pair of free throws and the Mavericks trailed 60-61.
The third opened with a revision to the line up which started the game, with Justin Jackson and Maxi Kleber replacing Powell and Finney-Smith. The Maverick offense looked stuck in the mud and Denver clawed ahead slowly. Both Luka Doncic and Kristaps looked hesitant or winded and the Mavericks simply couldn’t get on the board. Halfway through the frame shots started falling for Dallas but they could not get stops to chip into the lead. As in the second quarter, the bench unit gave Dallas a spark. After the lead expanded to 11, Tim Hardaway connected on a three. Dorian Finney-Smith connected on back to back threes as well to keep the Mavericks close. Jalen Brunson drew a foul with a few seconds left and hit one of two. Denver led 88-83 heading into the fourth.
Dallas opened the fourth with a mixed bench unit and proceeded to light the Nuggets on fire with a 12-4 run to take a shocking lead. Brunson, Wright, and Porzingis absolutely cooked Denver for half the quarter. A gassed Brunson missed two free throws before subbing out and the Mavericks went ice cold all of a sudden and the Nuggets worked themselves all the way back into the game. Dallas had multiple chances to close the door on Denver, but could not find a way to finish them. Maxi Kleber saved the last chance Denver had at taking the lead with a block at the rim that needed a review to confirm. Then Luka Doncic put the Mavericks up three points with 47 seconds left on his only good play of the half via a drive all the way to the rim. Neither team scored again (including some missed free throws from Luka), and the Dallas Mavericks escaped Denver with a 109-106 victory.
This recap did not do justice how wild this game was. Seek it out. Now, some thoughts:
Bench mob burns it down
The Dallas Maverick bench is a strength thus far this season, since through four games the members of the bench have been different in each contest. With the starters struggling mightily, the bench led Dallas to a remarkably unlikely victory.
61 points on 59% shooting including a ridiculous 7 of 15 from deep is simply outstanding. Both Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dorian Finney Smith hadn’t hit very often heading into the contest, so seeing both connect on huge threes during a key sequence warmed my cold heart. And that Hardaway charge he took? WHEW.
This doesn’t do justice to the phenomenal tandem of Delon Wright (12 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists) and Jalen Brunson (11 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists), the duo Dallas needed in a way that should leave a lasting impression on returning Maverick fans.
I could write another 1,000 words about these guys, but I’ll leave that for the other guys on the site, perhaps later this week.
Luka Doncic and the performance to forget
With a few exceptions (the game winning drive, some sweet pick and roll passing), Doncic may have just played his worst game as a Maverick. His -17 on plus/minus is a shock to see in the box score. He took poor shots, missed a fair number of looks to Porzingis, and looked unconfident for the first time in his entire Dallas career.
Is it a cause for concern? Absolutely not. Can the Mavericks win another game with their best player performing this poorly? That’s one bet I’d avoid.
The return of Dwight Powell
In his 14 minute return, Powell had 4 points and 4 rebounds and generally looked out of sorts, which is to be expected after such a long lay off. The decision to bring him back against Denver was questionable at best, as the Nuggets have the kind of wide bodied bigs that render Powell useless on defense much of the time. Still, it’ll be interesting to see how the roll out of Powell goes as the next match up against the Los Angeles Lakers should prove more suitable to his talents. He provides important vertical spacing on pick and rolls that no other Maverick can easily replicate.
Hit your free throws guys
Not much to add here past the fact that shooting 58% from the line as a team is terrible and Dallas was extremely lucky to escape with a win. Leaving 10 points on the floor hurts and thank goodness it didn’t hurt them.
Porzingis with 14 (!) rebounds. Needs to be noted,
As many of our recurring readers know by now, we’re going to do a post-game podcast as often as time allows. Here’s this evening’s link if you can’t see the embed below. As always, seek us out on podcasts by searching “Mavs Moneyball Podcast” and then give us five stars! Again here’s the link.