The Mavericks controlled this game from the opening tip even with Luka Doncic sitting with a right knee contusion. The Cavaliers seized momentum in the third quarter, but the Mavericks were able to close the quarter strong and would have put the game away early if not for a late game development.
Here’s what we observed in tonight’s game:
Jalen Brunson and Dwight Powell shined
Both players have stood out since the all-star break, and tonight was no different as Brunson and Powell’s performances propelled the Mavericks to victory. Like what we’re growing accustomed to, Brunson controlled the game with his steadying presence, contributing 16 points and 7 assists while shooting 60 percent from the field and splashing in both of his triples. The second round pick put his mark on the game in the third quarter when he scored or assisted on 16 of the Mavericks 34 points of the quarter. He’s been a revelation post all-star break, and it doesn’t appear he’ll be slowing down any time soon.
Powell’s one elite skill was on full display tonight as he vertically sliced the Cavaliers’ defense rolling hard to the rim on seemingly every Maverick possession. He finished the night with 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting which overshadowed his lack of contributions elsewhere (like only three rebounds). Powell did make the play of the night on a ridiculously athletic one-hand alley oop:
Maxi Kleber double-doubles again
For the second consecutive game Kleber posted a double double with 18 points and 12 rebounds and even received some “MVP” chants in the third quarter. Maybe the most encouraging development is Kleber’s accuracy from deep as of late. In the last two games he’s connected on 4-of-8 from deep. It’s an extremely small sample size but still nice to see. Kleber’s cemented himself as a rim protector and an overall plus-defender, but his shooting stroke has always been streaky. How he finishes the season shooting the ball will be something to monitor as he approaches restricted free agency.
Dirk comes up just short
Dirk Nowitzki started slow in his pursuit of Wilt Chamberlain’s scoring mark, but the living legend heated up late in the fourth to put him four points shy of Chamberlain for sixth all time on the NBA scoring list. It was almost the exact opposite of the game he eclipsed 30,000 points. In that game he game out firing, scoring 18 points in the first quarter taking care of his business early. Tonight, Dirk had only four points going into the fourth quarter and almost made history by scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter alone.
The Mavericks had the game in hand early in the fourth, but the basketball competition became an afterthought when Dirk was two jumpers away from passing Chamberlain. The Cavaliers even closed the lead to three as the Mavericks force fed Dirk on almost every possession late in the quarter. Nowitzki finished the night with 14 points and six rebounds.
- On his 27th birthday, Tim Hardaway Jr. took a step in the right direction with 22 points and four rebounds while shooting 8-of-18 from the field and 4-of-9 from three. With Doncic out, Hardaway had to shoulder a lot of the shooting load. He wasn’t super efficient, but connecting on four of his nine triples was a welcomed sight.
- Dorian Finney-Smith played an efficient game. He pumped in 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting while hitting four of his six three point attempts. Last game he missed all of his triples, and the game before he hit 2-of-4.
- The Mavericks coughed the ball up only five times. While the Cavaliers don’t offer much resistance, it was still nice to see considering the Mavericks have been plagued with turnover issues.
Join us Monday as Dirk (hopefully) pushes his way up the all-time scoring list when the Mavericks host the Pelicans.