The Dallas Mavericks entered play Wednesday having lost 7 of their last 8, and facing the Washington Wizards, just a game behind them in the standings, another loss would bring them into a tie for the 7th worst record in the NBA.
This could be considered a good thing, depending on your feelings about the draft lottery, but I am sure the Mavericks themselves do not share that view, as back-to-back ugly losses to the Grizzlies and Nets must have left a bad taste in their mouths. The team came ready to play Wednesday night, and put up 123 points on the road(where, interestingly enough, they had won nine straight against Washington), but it wasn’t enough, as the hometown Wizards put up 132 of their own, to take the victory.
HUGE NIGHT FROM LUKA NOT ENOUGH
Luka started hot, scoring 10 points in the first five minutes, and while he obviously couldn’t keep that pace, he finished the game with an impressive line of 31 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists(and with all the open shots Dallas missed it seemed like it could have been twice as many), and 4 steals. Even on a night when the three-point ball wasn’t totally on point(he converted just 2 of 8), Doncic was in complete control, dominating for large stretches and filling up the stat sheet in the process. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get much help from his teammates. Well, except of course...
DWIGHT POWELL ALMOST GOES PERFECT
Dwight Powell’s career with the Mavericks has followed a strange path, from throw-in in the dreaded Rondo trade, to seemingly overpaid fourth big 16 months ago when Dwight Powell was struggling at the start of the 17-18 season, to...well, a genuinely good basketball player, that the Dallas Mavericks absolutely must keep around. Powell made 11 of 12 shots, good for 26 points to go with his 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 0 turnovers. Remember, he made 6 of 7 against Brooklyn last game, and 10 of 11 against the Clippers last week. In other words, he’s on (another) insane stretch of efficiency, and this time he’s doing as a part-time starter due to all the injuries and trade attrition Dallas has suffered. He’s not a perfect player, of course, but his energy, hustle, and ability to finish above the rim make him an absolutely bargain for that contract. You know, the one most of us idiots thought was terrible back when he signed it.
JUSTIN JACKSON SHOWS PROMISE
Another Mav who deserves some shine after his performance Wednesday is Justin Jackson, who made 5 threes and poured in 18 points in just 25 minutes of play. The second year forward acquired in the Harrison Barnes trade has had some flashes in his brief time with Dallas, even though his overall shooting line is still pretty ugly(he was at 36/29/62 in 10 games prior to Wednesday). I wouldn’t want to overreact to one nice game, but if Jackson can hit open threes, he’s instantly one of the more useful players off the Mavs’ bench, especially because he’s long and has some athleticism. Don’t pencil him in for a major role next season yet, but he will be one of a couple of interesting storylines worth watching down the stretch the next month.
REST OF BENCH M.I.A.
An already depleted roster didn’t get any favors Wednesday when Maxi Kleber became a late stratch, but outside of the aforementioned Jackson, the Dallas bench was extra trash, with the foursome of Dirk, Salah, Lee and Devin combining for 10 points on 10 shots. Carlisle leaned pretty heavily on the starters in the second half, as the team trained to hang in after having their early lead evaporate. Curiously, Trey Burke and Ryan Broekhoff did not see action.
The loss to Washington pulls Dallas into a tie for 7th place in the lottery sweepstakes, and with Memphis’ win Tuesday, the Mavs are just two games out of 6th. The losses aren’t totally unexpected, given what the team did at the trade deadline, but the sudden turnaround here is a little alarming, and like it or not the “T” word is going to get used more and more as the losses pile up. The Mavs will have a winnable game Friday in Orlando, before a tougher stretch against quality West opponents begins. Let’s see what happens.