The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers by a score of 100-99 tonight. Kemba Walker and Christian Wood paced Dallas with 32 and 26 respective points. Donovan Mitchell led the Cavs with 25 of his own.
Kemba Walker came out of the gates with something to prove, scoring the Mavericks’ first nine points. The shorthanded Mavs played extremely hard and things got really weird early, as Theo Pinson even made an ultra-rare first quarter appearance. But somehow, some way, Dallas was able to take a 29-27 lead into the second period.
The second quarter got even wonkier, as the Mavericks deployed a nightmarish five-man group of Frank Ntilikina/Jaden Hardy/Pinson/Dorian Finney-Smith/JaVale McGee to start things out. For some reason, Cleveland was never able to build a lead and Dallas kept playing hard and turned the game into a bit of a slog. Walker returned and helped guide the Mavericks to a 49-47 lead at the half.
Our scrappy B-team continued their valiant fight in the third quarter, and even built a ten-point lead by playing through Walker on offense and supplementing that with tenacious, swarming defense. Their effort and energy allowed them to enter the fourth quarter up 75-67.
The Cavaliers opened the quarter on a huge run, and a Kevin Love three pointer briefly gave them a one-point lead with 9:31 to play. The Mavericks, however, turned to Walker and Wood to answer with a run of their own to restore the Mavs lead heading into clutch time. It looked like the talent disparity on the floor was finally going to catch up to Dallas, as Cleveland was poised to sneak away with a regulation win. But the Mavericks kept fighting, and Walker tied the game on a layup with 3.5 seconds left, sending the game into overtime.
Overtime did not go well for the Mavericks, as their only points came on a nasty three off a crossover from Walker to briefly give the Mavs a three-point lead. The Mavericks did not score again and lost the game. It was a heartbreaking defeat, mainly because Walker deserved the win. Dallas drops back to .500 on the year. Here are some observations:
Kemba Walker turned back the clock
I have to say, I didn’t anticipate Walker ever having this much of an impact. His play tonight was the only reason Dallas had even a sliver of a chance to win. He was scoring at all three levels, setting up teammates, and showing burst that I frankly did not think he was capable of en route to a masterful 32/5/7 line.
It remains to be seen if this was a one-off or if Walker can become a regular contributor; the Mavericks have basically said that he won’t be able to play every night. Still, it’s nice to see that he clearly has more left in the tank.
Final possession woes continue
This Mavericks team has absolutely no idea what to do on the final possession of a game when they have an opportunity to tie or win. After Wood beat Jarrett Allen for a jump ball at center court, coach Jason Kidd decided not to call a timeout and draw up a play, presumably because he has no such play. The result was the most horrendous game winning three-point attempt I’ve ever witnessed.
Dallas has got to figure this out and manufacture something resembling a good look. It’s happened over and over and over again this season.
Luka Doncic resting was a bummer
It was a bit surprising to see the Mavericks opt to rest Luka Doncic on the second night of a back-to-back when he only played 29 minutes and sat the whole fourth quarter on Friday. I understand that it’s a long season, and injuries are starting to pile up, but it just felt like tonight was a big opportunity to build on the great vibes of last night’s win. Couple that with the fact that Cleveland has the largest Slovenian contingency in the United States and tons of fans were there just for him, and you get a really unfortunate situation.
The Mavericks obviously missed Doncic in all facets of the offense, but his absence did allow for Walker’s breakout tonight. Hopefully Kemba can stay in the rotation and become a complementary piece beside Doncic when he returns to the lineup.
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