On a night Dallas was shorthanded with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis both sitting, the Mavericks had a stroke of bad luck when Jalen Brunson sprained his right shoulder 10 seconds into the game and was immediately ruled out. The play wasn’t malicious, but Brunson fell hard and had to foul to stop play so he could run to the locker room.
But the Mavericks didn’t skip a beat in the first quarter shooting 50 percent from the field and splashing in five triples while the Hawks made only one of their 11 threes while shooting 25 percent from the field. Seth Curry and Tim Hardaway Jr. picked up some scoring slack contributing 11 points a piece and the Mavericks took 35-21 lead after one.
The Mavericks kept cooking in the second quarter, reaching a 51-35 lead, but the Hawks were able to claw back because of a few things. First, the Mavericks were a bit lazy in their traps on Trae Young leading to a few easy John Collins buckets. Second, the Hawks went to a zone and caused Dallas to overpass and shoot tough shots. Atlanta cut the lead to four, but Dallas hit a couple of buckets toward the end of the half to take a 66-58 lead.
The two teams almost played to a draw in the second, with neither club able to gain control of the game. The Hawks were able to trim the lead to four once again at 68-64 on a Collins dunk, but the Mavericks responded with a 6-0 run to stretch the lead again. Ultimately, the Mavericks were able to take an 86-77 lead into the fourth quarter.
Dallas had control of the game early in the fourth, up 88-77, but let the Hawks go on a 19-7 run to take their first lead of the game with 5:24 left in the quarter. The Mavericks were plagued by bad shots an errant turnovers which helped the Hawks get easy buckets in transition. The teams traded buckets, highlighted by a Hardaway Jr. triple, drive to the cup, and Maxi Kleber block on Young at the rim. But Young came to life in the fourth and pushed Atlanta over the top. There were several questionable calls including an egregious goal-tending with the score set at 109-107 which ended up being the final nail in the coffin. With the play blown dead, Collins gathered the loose ball and flushed it home. The play was reviewed, and the goal tend was reserved, but Collins was still awarded the bucket even though the play was blown dead.
Dallas was led by Hardaway’s 33 points on 11-of-22 shooting, but it wasn’t enough as Collins 35 led Atlanta to a 111-107 victory. Dallas falls to 19-9 on the road and 6-4 on the second night of back-to-backs.
The Mavericks defense on Young was mostly effective
The box score might not show it, but the Mavericks gave Young fits for most of the night. It started from the opening tip where Dallas trapped Young on ball screens no matter where it was set on the court. It was mostly Kleber leaving his man chasing Young around the perimeter, but it made Young uncomfortable up until the fourth quarter.
It was an interesting strategy since Dallas usually plays conservative defense in the pick and roll, but it was encouraging that it was effective. However, the cost of doing that meant Collins was open on several rolls when the Mavericks help defense was slow to rotate. Collins blew up for 35 points and 17 rebounds and forced Kleber to foul out.
Hats off to Young for finding his groove late. He was 0-for-4 from three until connecting on three in a row (including an and-one) late in the fourth, and scored 13 of his 25 in the final quarter. The Mavericks were determined to not let him beat them, and it almost worked, but a great player made great plays. Young finished the game with 25 points (10-of-21 from the field) and 10 assists.
The Mavericks played well, but...
I can’t ignore the fact that the Mavericks played well on the second night of a back-to-back without their two best players and the backup point guard leaving with an injury 10 seconds into the game. And make no mistake, the Mavericks had to rely on J.J. Barea entirely too much and looked out of sorts at times without Brunson leading the offense, but were still able to take the game right down to the wire. Dallas came out hot, knocking down shots and executing a good defensive game plan even with the odds stacked against them, but ultimately couldn’t keep Atlanta at bay. It’s frustrating to lose such a winnable game, and blowing a double digit lead is generally inexcusable, but I probably need to be okay with the result considering the circumstances.
But that doesn’t excuse the turnovers
And the Mavericks had a lot of them. 16 in fact. Which is uncharacteristic of a team that’s one of the best at protecting the ball. And it wasn’t just the fact that they missed out on possessions, but the Mavericks gave up 26 points off those turnovers. That can’t happen against a bad Hawks team. Give some credit to Atlanta. They played a 1-2-2 zone with Cam Reddish at the top, and it befuddled the Mavericks. It forced bad shots and miscues that helped the Hawks get back in the game.
The Mavericks will look to get back on track Monday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball”, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.