The shorthanded Maverick’s gave a valiant effort in a scrappy game, squaring off against a good Cleveland Cavaliers team playing on a back-to-back. The Cavaliers stars showed up late and stole the game away, winning 100-99 in overtime. Even still, the Maverick’s made it a fun and hard fought game.
Here are 3 numbers that tell the story.
5: Players out
The Mavericks were without five rotation players, missing not only Luka Doncic, but Spencer Dinwiddie, Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber and Josh Green.
Given those absences, different guys stepped up. Kemba Walker, in only his third game with the Mavericks, played 42 minutes, more than was likely intended as the game went into overtime. Another strange sight in the short-handed game was Theo Pinson and Jaden Hardy making appearances in the heart of the game. Prior to this, they had only played in mop-up duty.
I would also like to shout out Christian Wood for some of the better defense of his young Maverick’s career. It’s his weakness, and it was still problematic, but against one of the better big man duos in basketball, he showed resolve with 14 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
32: Kemba Walker points
Speaking of Kemba playing a lot, he also played well, and it was oh so fun. It’s the kind of performance that might ensure regular rotation minutes going forward, and might be the biggest thing to takeaway from this strange game. Seeing a legend in the twilight of his career reach into his bag made the game more fun than it had any right to be.
Kemba made his fair share of shots, but just as important is that he can generate a paint touch. For a team who’s been low on playmaking and ball handling, I would expect that he gets more chances to make an impact. He sent the game to overtime on one such moment of penetration, gliding past Jarrett Allen on the switch for the layup.
The only issue is he’s an injury risk, and tonight’s 42 minutes must have been very hard on him. I could see the team modeling his minutes the way the Boston Celtics have used Blake Griffin; frequent nights off that allow him to play committed and lengthy minutes in specific games.
58 and 34: Each team’s points in the paint.
Although the Maverick’s made eight more three pointers than the Cavaliers, the story of how the Mavericks lost belonged in the interior. While Cleveland employs two great big men in Allen and Evan Mobley, they also have two quick guards who were able to get into the heart of the defense just enough in clutch time.
Once both teams ran out of energy, it became very hard for the Mavs to get good looks. I could have just as easily used the number 24, for the seconds in the shot clock. The Mavericks frequently had to take difficult threes as the clock ran down, unable to break the Cavaliers defense as Kemba ran out of gas, and that became the story of their final possessions.
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