Down two starters with both Luka Doncic and Maxi Kleber out with injury, the Mavericks had no business staying in a game on the road on the second night of the back to back against a really good Jazz team. Despite that, the Mavericks hung around for a good bit before fading in the fourth quarter.
There isn’t much to say about the Mavericks right now, especially so when Luka isn’t playing but here’s what we noticed.
With the Mavericks out of the playoff hunt and not bad enough to truly tank their way into good odds to keep their draft pick this June, about the only two things to keep watching the Mavericks are Dirk and Luka. Tonight, it was just Dirk.
With no Luka, Dirk started his first game of the season. Getting actual minutes for what felt like the first time all season, Dirk scored a season-high 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting, including canning three 3-pointers.
It was beautiful to see Dirk look like Dirk in a game that actually counts. He was stretching Utah’s elite defense and at times making it bust at the seams. As good as the Jazz are on that end with Rudy Gobert, a stretch big like Dirk can still cause them issues as Gobert would rather hang near the rim. Dirk just picked and popped the Jazz all night and even his misses felt like good looks.
Dirk needs about 92 points to pass Wilt Chamberlin on the all-time scoring list. Keep shooting, Dirk. Shoot your shot.
This game was more fun than it had any right to be
With both teams playing the night before and no Luka, you wouldn’t be scolded for skipping this Saturday night game. It lacked considerable juice.
So it was really nice to see a fun, well-played game. Both teams shot well in the first half and while the third quarter was pretty bad for Dallas, they still kept it competitive almost all the way through till a late Jazz spurt pushed their lead to 16 points in the fourth quarter.
The Mavs were able to stay in it thanks to contributions from some of the new guys. Tim Hardaway Jr. had a nice first half and finished with 21 points on 13 shots. Trey Burke can still be a little unsteady, but came off the bench for 20 points and a surprising seven rebounds. Justin Jackson had a nice night with 13 points in 24 minutes and being on the floor for some of the Mavs best runs in the game. Again, the Mavs-era Jae Crowder comps are looking realer every night.
Dwight Powell is good!
Powell gets a lot of hate around Mavs followers, but I’ve always maintained he’s turned it around and developed into a really nice pick and roll big off the bench. He might not be a starter, but you can certainly do worse with a backup.
With Powell getting more burn without DeAndre Jordan in the way, it’s been incredibly obvious to see how much better the Mavs offense can look with a rim-runner that can really move. Jordan was good, but his slow and plodding pick and roll plays were killer — with Powell, the Mavs seem so much more bouncy as he sprints to the bucket after setting a screen.
He finished with 12 points, six rebounds and five assists against the Jazz, bricking three 3-pointers and doing most of his damage as always near the basket. The Powell three-point shooter experiment will seemingly never end, but he’s averaging 11.7 points per game in Febuary, by far his highest scoring month of the season. Even if the Mavericks aren’t winning more games, they’re more fun to watch and it’ll be nice when Powell can come off the bench for a good team as opposed to the rebuilding ones the Mavericks have been the last couple of years.