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3 things as the Dallas Mavericks escape the Detroit Pistons, 115-105

The Luka-less Mavericks survived a scare in the motor city.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday night, the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Detroit Pistons 115-105. Tim Hardaway Jr. led the way for Dallas with a career-high 42 points, while Isaiah Stewart led the way for Detroit with 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.

Another slow start for Dallas saw them go down 10-4 before Rick Carlisle called a timeout three minutes into the game. Dallas responded well with a 12-5 run to take a lead towards the middle of the first period. The game was tied after one quarter. The Mavericks bench gave them a spark in the second quarter, including some fun Josh Green minutes, which helped the Mavericks see a six-point lead open up by halftime.

After increasing that margin to ten points only three minutes into the second half, Detroit slowly chipped away and eventually took the lead back. Dallas led by just three points at the end of the third period. The fourth quarter was exciting and headlined by Hardaway Jr. scoring 17 consecutive points for Dallas. On back-to-back possessions with just under four minutes to play, Stewart hit a three on one end for Detroit, and then Hardaway Jr. came down and got fouled shooting a three on the other. He made all six free throws and was 10-for-10 at the stripe on the game. With 1:05 remaining in the game, Hardaway Jr. hit a pull-up three from the right-wing to give Dallas a four-point lead and put the game away.

Kristaps Porzingis did not play in the fourth quarter due to right knee soreness, while Luka Doncic and Dorian Finney-Smith did not play due to their own injuries (rest).

Like father, like son

Tim Hardaway Sr. was once again in attendance, and if we have learned anything about his presence, it’s that his son feels it. The former Michigan Wolverine posted a career-best 42 points on 13-of-23 from the field, 6-of-10 from distance, and 10-of-10 shooting from the free-throw line. His 42 points are the third-most by a Maverick this year and the most by a player not named Luka Doncic. Hardaway also passed Doncic for most threes made this season.

Mavericks defense or main street?

I am three years removed from playing competitive basketball, but given the lane the Mavericks were showing Detroit, I’m fairly certain I could have rattled off four to six points tonight on straight-line drives. The Pistons scored 48 points in the paint, and even worse they attempted 34 free throws. The final play of the third quarter was a full-court pass to Jahlil Okafor who handed it off to Frank Jackson for a wide-open layup on a cut from the right-wing. By my count, there were at least three plays the Pistons scored on where Porzingis was the closest paint defender. Given the opportunity and ease at which Detroit got to the basket, the Mavericks are lucky to escape Michigan with a win.

The Mavericks’ ceiling is sky-high, but their floor is a trap door

This has been the Mavericks problem all year, and it showed its ugly head once again tonight. Dallas can hang with the best in the NBA, and has even beaten the number one seeds in both conferences. But they have also lost to the worst team in the West and almost added the worst team in the East to their resume of bad losses tonight. Even without Luka Doncic and mostly Porzingis as well, the Mavericks are a better team than the Pistons. Outside of Hardaway, Trey Burke, and for stretches, Jalen Brunson, the team did not bring the energy, specifically defensively, they needed to put Detroit away early. They let the Pistons run with them, and if Hardaway misses just one shot down the stretch, the Mavericks could be tied with Portland once again and the decision to rest Doncic could’ve been costly.

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.