The Dallas Mavericks scrapped their way to a 103-94 win over the Atlanta Hawks at the AAC in Dallas on Sunday night. The game tipped off at 5 p.m., and if you weren’t aware, there’s some universal law that games with early tips are always weird.
The teams played close all through the first half, despite Luka Doncic having to play a tentative game due to foul trouble. Doncic picked up his fourth foul late in the second quarter and was sent to the bench. He returned for the third quarter, but quickly picked up his fifth and was again benched. Not long after that, Jalen Brunson picked up his fifth foul and had to sit. Luka and Brunson wouldn’t return until midway through the fourth quarter.
Despite being down Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber, and Doncic and Brunson missing for most of the second half, the Mavericks refused to relinquish the lead they built in the first half. They ground down the Hawks defensively, chasing them off the 3-point line and walling off the rim. In the end, the Hawks, last year’s Eastern Conference runner-up, couldn’t defeat a team missing five of their top six players for most of the game.
Jalen Brunson and Reggie Bullock led the Mavericks in scoring with 22 points. Luka scored 18 points and had another triple-double, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out 11 assists. John Collins led the Hawks with 22 points.
Here are three things from the win:
Fouls played a huge part of this game
I’m not going to spend time complaining about the refs here. There’s a comment section below, have at it. I’ll just lay out some facts. The Mavericks were called for 25 fouls, the Hawks had 18. Luka, Brunson, and Trey Burke, three of the Mavericks guards, had 15 fouls. 14 of those fouls were called before the fourth quarter began.
There’s some debate to be had about Jason Kidd leaving Luka in after he picked up his third foul in the second quarter, and bringing him out to start the third. The same could be said for Brunson. It’s typical practice to bench a player when they have more fouls than the current quarter, i.e., if they have three fouls in the second quarter, they should sit. Obviously that’s more of a guideline than an actual rule. When you have a player like Luka, you play it by ear, like Kidd did tonight. Still, maybe he shouldn’t have been out there? The Mavericks were winning.
You could also argue about Kidd not challenging Luka’s fifth foul. Or say that this game would have been a good time to get a tech to stand up for your guys. I’ve already spent more time on fouls than I intended, and the Mavericks won, so let’s move on.
Dallas made the Hawks shoot hard 3-pointers
The Hawks are the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA, hitting 37% of their shots from deep. Tonight, the Mavericks held them to 20%. Atlanta shot 5-25 from behind the arc. Part of that was shot location. In their first meeting, a 113-87 blowout in Atlanta to open the season, the Hawks shot 5-10 on corner threes. Tonight, they only went 2-3. In the second half, they took only one corner three. The Mavericks forced the Hawks to shoot most of their threes from above the break, and contested most of them.
Of the Hawks’ starters, only Kevin Huerter hit a 3-pointer. He was also the only Hawk to hit more than one 3-pointer. Trae Young went 0-6. Outside of John Collins, none of the Hawks looked comfortable tonight.
The Mavericks capitalized on turnovers
Dallas is fairly average on scoring points off of turnovers. They only score 15 per game, ranking 20th in the NBA. Tonight, though, they made sure to score when the Hawks turned the ball over. The Mavericks scored 21 points off of turnovers, compared to the Hawks’ seven. This comes despite the Mavericks having only four more turnovers than the Hawks.
The Hawks are middle of the road on giving up points after turnovers, but they’re the best in the league in securing the ball, just ahead of the Mavericks, who rank third. The fact that Dallas made them pay when they did commit turnovers was huge, and when combined with Atlanta’s poor shooting, a big reason they won the game.
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