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3 observation from a suffocating Mavericks win over the Wizards, 109-87

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The Mavericks hammered out a win to close out their road trip.

Dallas Mavericks v Washington Wizards Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Mavericks left Washington with a 109-87 win over the Wizards Saturday night. Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Russell Westbrook led the way for the Wizards with 26 points and 14 rebounds. The game had demur feeling to it, as several starters were out for both teams. The Wizards were without Bradley Beal and Rui Hachimura, while the Mavericks were missing Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber.

Both teams scuffled to start the game, though the Mavericks were able to grind out a five point lead by the end of the first quarter. Nothing much changed in the second quarter, though Nicolo Melli took over with a surge of energy, scoring eight points. The energy was welcome, as the Mavericks have typically performed poorly on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Mavericks slowly pulled away in the third quarter, though, stretching the lead to eight. Doncic struggled from behind the arc all game, but he dominated in the paint and midrange. The Mavericks finally put the Wizards away in the fourth, stretching the lead to twenty at one point with two minutes left. Both teams shot poorly throughout the game, but the Mavericks finally came alive at the end, shooting 56% in the fourth quarter. This came despite Luka playing only a little more than five minutes in the last quarter.

The Mavericks basically suffocated the Wizards throughout the game, and finally overcame their own poor shooting to clench the game. Here are three observations from a rare win on the second night of a back-to-back.

Melli started and made the most of it.

With Kleber out, Melli got the start and impressed. His box score won’t jump off the page, with just 10 points and eight rebounds, as well as chipping in three assists. But he brought an energy the Mavericks have needed at times this season, especially when playing struggling teams like the Wizards. In a game where the Mavericks’ front court depth was almost nonexistent, Melli getting positive minutes was huge. He ended up +22 for the game, though he only scored two points in the second half.

The decimated Dallas big man rotation let the Wizards keep the game close.

With Porzingis (injury recovery), Kleber (left leg contusion), and Willie Cauley-Stein (health and safety protocols) all out, the Mavericks had only Dwight Powell and Boban Marjanovic to throw at the Wizards. Powelll and Marjanovic aren’t exactly defensive stoppers, so it’s no suprise that Washington feasted in the paint.

Robin Lopez finished with 18 points in 32 minutes off the bench, easily scoring over whoever the Mavericks put in front of him. The lack of rim protection led to the Wizards outscoring the Mavericks in the paint 48 to 36. This helped them keep the game close despite not having much firepower with the absence of Beal and Hachimura. The Mavericks front court rotation has been a wild ride all year, and as the playoffs approach, the only thing the Dallas front office can do is hope injuries and matchups work out in their favor.

A balanced attack buried the Wizards.

Doncic played brilliantly, as usual. But what really helped the Mavericks win the game was the rest of the roster chipping in as well. Six players scored in double figures—all five starters and Jalen Brunson off the bench. Powell and rookie Josh Green combined for nine points. There were no insane performances or scorching hot shooting from one player. Doncic just created opportunities and his teammates converted. The Mavericks are a different team when the role players are hitting shots, and that’s what happened tonight.

The Mavericks will hope to bring this momentum home to Dallas, as they face the Utah Jazz on Monday night.

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.