The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves in their final pre-season game, losing 129-127 in overtime. While the additional period gave some extra playing time to the rookies, it was Luka Doncic and Tim Hardaway Jr. who led in scoring with 20 and 18 points respectively. Karl Anthony Towns led his team with 20 himself, though he sat for much of the second half with foul trouble.
The starters quickly raced to an 11-3 start, thanks to a couple Hardaway Jr. three’s. Minnesota took the lead with three minutes left in the quarter, though, as the Mavericks went a little cold and Karl Anthony Towns and rookie Anthony Edwards found their rhythm. The starters came off the floor at the two minute mark, and trailed 37-33 to end the first.
The bench struggles continued in the second, as they couldn’t stop easy buckets by the Wolves and made some “it’s preseason” errors. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle eventually put his starters back in around the seven minute mark. The Mavericks took the lead with around two minutes left thanks to another Hardaway Jr. three pointer, and a late 14-2 run put them up 68-61 at the end of the half.
The second half started off pretty choppy with Minnesota racking up various fouls, putting KAT on the bench with five fouls, seemingly the only way to stop him. The Mavericks starters maintained their seven point margin with continued distance shots and perfect free throw shooting. After a great dish by Doncic to Powell for an and-one dunk, the lead was pushed to 10. The Mavericks then hit four unanswered threes to push the lead to 98-83 after three quarters.
A strange-ish lineup of Burke, Brunson, Johnson, Cauley-Stein, and Lee opened the fourth, and some careless errors and turnovers allowed the Wolves to close the Mavericks lead to seven midway through the quarter. By then, Carlisle began to unload the bench, and a more talented cast of Wolves tied the game at 112 each with two minutes left. With 4.5 seconds left and time for one last Mavericks shot to win the game, rookie Tyrell Terry had his elbow jumper blocked, giving us pre-season overtime!!
The Mavericks went with the same Boban + four rookies lineup in overtime, and they hung on to the Wolves’ lead with free throws and letting Boban work in the paint. Missed Wolves free throws gave the lineup another chance for a final shot. Boban attempted a three to win the game, but it unfortunately rimmed out.
The Luka of Old returns
For the most part, this is a pretty great thing, given what we saw during Doncic’s sophomore year. However, some of his more frustrating tendencies reappeared today, in contrast to what we saw versus the Bucks. He goose-egged from the three point line, missing six attempts. In response, he began to pass up open three point shots he would’ve taken in the Bucks games, opting for the drives to the basket that we saw with growing frequency towards the end of last season. That being said, he was great from the free-throw line, going 8-of-9.
He also continued to chirp at the refs, frustrated by no-calls on many of his shots, to the point where he received a technical in the third quarter. Reminder, that’s his second technical of the PRE-SEASON. It’s safe to say that last year the refs just didn’t know how to handle his style of play at times. We’ll have to see if that changes this season, and if it doesn’t, how Luka responds to that adversity.
The hot shooting from deep continues
One thing that did transfer over from the Bucks games was the insane 3-point shooting across the board (besides Luka). The Mavericks finished 20-of-44 from distance, exemplified by a stretch in the third quarter of four unanswered threes. What might be the most impressive thing about that run is that they were hit by four different players: Kleber, Finney-Smith, Richardson, and finally the newly appearing Courtney Lee.
It is RARE for multiple high-volume players to shoot more than 50 percent from three over multiple games, and that’s what we saw in the preseason. Hardaway Jr., Finney-Smith, Kleber, and Richardson went a wild 14-of-19 from three today, and it’s spelled great things for all four of them going forward. Richardson specifically has shown he can provide much of the shooting the Mavericks lost with Seth Curry’s departure.
Powell struggled against opposing bigs
Dwight Powell, coming back from an Achilles tear, has reassured Mavericks fans thus far in the preseason with his movement and vertical for the most part. He’s also continued to be a dangerous lob threat playing with the likes of Doncic, and even has been willing to shoot (and make one) three’s when left open.
His defense against opposing bigs, from Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brooke Lopez previously to Karl-Anthony Towns tonight, has left much to be desired. KAT simply overpowered him on several occasions in the post for easy layups or dunks. At other times, he’d leave Powell in the dust with a pump fake that Powell would always react to, opening a lane to the bucket. Powell’s biggest defensive advantage lies in his perimeter help defense and general athleticism, but when put on a single big in the post, he has neither the length or the size in most cases, and the Mavericks paid for it on many plays.
Powell’s place in the starting in the starting lineup has been and will be a topic of debate among MFFL’s, with folks like WCS, Kleber, and James Johnson in the mix, but it looks like for the time being Carlisle intends to keep him there. We shall see how these questions are answered once the season begins.
The Mavericks will open the season on Wednesday, Dec. 23 against the Suns in Phoenix.