The Mavericks went into the game missing several key players. They used hardship exceptions to bring on board Theo Pinson and Marquese Chriss, who not only played but contributed scoring, defense, and hustle for the Mavericks. What could have been a sloppy loss (see: the last game against Minnesota) actually turned out to be a well-executed defensive game plan against Karl-Anthony Towns.
Dallas got timely shooting and balanced scoring across the roster in the first half. They also turned over the Timberwolves often, and went into the half up eleven. The second half became a game of wild swings, each team going on long scoring runs. The Mavericks would open up the game with a 13-0 run, then the Timberwolves would pull back within range with an 8-0 run of their own.
Ultimately the Mavericks would hit key shots down the stretch in the fourth quarter, which was a nice surprise after the last couple of weeks. Their clutch shooting helped them pull of the win.
Here are three thoughts from the game:
The replacement players were more than just warm bodies.
In the preview for this game I asked if Pinson or Chriss would actually contribute, or would they just be guys there to burn some minutes for the Mavericks’ actual rotation players. The answer surprised me. Pinson and Chriss not only played meaningful minutes, they played well.
Pinson scored seven points and dished out four assists. He even grabbed three boards. Chriss, meanwhile, scored six points and grabbed eight rebounds. They both moved the ball well and had great energy on defense. It’s uncertain how long they’ll be with the team, but if they continue to play like this, they’ll be a welcome addition rather than an unfortunate necessity.
The Mavericks contained the Timberwolves’ points off turnovers.
Both games with Minnesota were going to be interesting in this regard, as the Timberwolves lead the league in forcing turnovers and the Mavericks are the team with the least amount of turnovers on the season. Yes, the Timberwolves were missing two of their best players who force a ton of steals per game, Anthony Edwards and Patrick Beverly. But for the second game in a row, Dallas made sure to take care of the ball and not fall into Minnesota’s preferred way of playing.
The Mavericks finished with only 11 turnovers, holding the Timberwolves to 19 points off turnovers. Meanwhile, Minnesota was a little careless with the ball, giving it up 17 times. The Mavericks were only able to turn that into 17 points, however.
Dorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson sealed the game.
The Mavericks poor shooting in the fourth quarter continued (2-of-7 from deep), but the two makes came from Finney-Smith. He’s been struggling all year, but lately it looks like he’s rounding into the form we’ve seen the last couple of years. It would help the Mavericks tremendously if he starts hitting clutch 3-pointers from the corner consistently.
Brunson also came up big in the fourth. He scored eight points and went 4-of-4 at the free throw line. First of all, anytime someone on the Mavericks is clutch at the charity stripe they should be celebrated. Secondly, with Luka Doncic out, someone needed to take over the point of attack for the Mavericks. Brunson did just that. He dished out three assists and scored when necessary in the last quarter, ultimately ending up with 28 points. It’s the exact type of game Dallas needed from their young point guard.
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