The Dallas Mavericks won a barn burner over the Brooklyn Nets 113-111 Wednesday night in Brooklyn. The Nets aren’t in the top half of the Eastern Conference playoff race due to injuries and other absences, but with the talent they have they’re always a good test. And Luka Doncic came ready to take the exam.
The Mavericks offense was sluggish early again, much like the opening half of their game against the Boston Celtics Sunday afternoon. They only scored 23 points in the first quarter, and things didn’t look great to open the second quarter. Luka carried the offense early on, but Jalen Brunson came alive, scoring all 10 of his first half points in the second quarter. Luka finished the first half with 24 points. Luka finished with 37 points, nine assists, and nine rebounds, falling just short of a triple-double.
The Mavericks also frustrated Kevin Durant in the second quarter, holding him to only two points on two field goal attempts. Durant became visibly frustrated as the game crept toward halftime, and Dallas entered the third quarter down three points, 61-58.
Dallas lost the thread a bit in the third quarter, and got down by double digits after the Nets figured out the Mavericks’ defensive scheme on Durant. But the Mavericks pushed back in the fourth quarter, spurred on by a great run by the bench early in the fourth. Things went back and forth until the last few seconds of the game, when Durant hit an almost impossible 3-pointer to put the Nets up one. But after a timeout, Luka brought the ball up court, was doubled-teamed, and quickly passed the ball over to Spencer Dinwiddie, who hit the buzzer beater to win the game.
Here are four things from the game:
The Mavericks are just built different this year
This is the exact type of game the Mavericks have lost in the previous two years. Struggling early, then closing the gap, then getting down by double digits after a lackluster third quarter, and finally collapsing in the fourth. No more. This Mavericks team doesn’t quit, and stays in games with their defense. Even when the offense is struggling, they find a way to grind out points. It’s a truly remarkable turnaround from a team that would somehow find ways to lose to lottery teams in the past.
It’s made them really fun to watch, and while it’s really impossible to know these things for sure from the outside, the players themselves seem to be having way more fun now. Dallas was a drag up until the trade deadline. Now they’re one of the best watches in the NBA.
Somehow every time I do a recap Dinwiddie does something amazing and I’ve run out of things to say about him so here, just look at this tweet:
The Mavericks hit clutch free throws?
Speaking of being different than years past, the Mavericks went 19-for-19 from the free throw line against the Nets, including some late free throws by Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber. One of the most frustrating things about the Mavericks in the two previous years was watching them clang away games on foul shots, especially late in games. Not tonight. Despite the up and down nature of this game, they kept their fundamentals sound and hit their free throws. Again, it’s a refreshing departure from what we’ve watched for 150-plus games in recent years.
Brunson, Dinwiddie, and the Mavericks bench unit saved the game
Early in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks were down 14 points. Luka was on the bench, and the game looked like it might quickly get out of hand. But Dinwiddie and Brunson took control and cut the Nets’ lead five by the time Luka checked back in. They scored nine of 11 points on what ended up being a 11-2 Mavericks run. Dwight Powell even hit a nifty and-1 hook shot right before Luka entered the game.
If that group had let the Nets run away with the game early in the quarter, the come back would’ve never happened. It’s a testament to a team that isn’t incredibly deep still finding ways to pluck wins out of disasters somehow, some way. Again, this team has become really, really fun.
Here’s our latest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.