The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 110-108 Monday night in Dallas. A roof leak at the AAC delayed the game by about twenty minutes, and the result was both teams came out flat to start the game.
Neither team seemed able to shoot the ball in the first quarter, but the Timberwolves were able to race to a six point lead by getting the ball up the court in transition. The Mavericks got back on track in the second quarter, though, scoring 37 points in the period and going into halftime with a 60-54 lead.
The Mavericks seemed to be on the verge of breaking the game open in the third quarter, jumping out to a 16 point lead within just a few minutes. But they slowly let Minnesota work their way back into the game, and headed into the fourth with just a five point lead. By the end of the fourth quarter the game had devolved into a rock fight. The Mavericks pulled it out by hitting some clutch 3-pointers and executing well on the defensive end when the Timberwolves had a chance to tie the game a couple times with less than 10 seconds left.
Dwight Powell had one of his best games of the season and led the Mavericks in scoring with 22 points and eight rebounds. Luka Doncic had a double-double, scoring 15 points and dishing out 10 assists. Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 22 points and eight rebounds.
Here are three thoughts about the game:
Dallas dominated the paint
Despite the Mavericks facing a versatile, 6’11 big man in Karl-Anthony Towns with undersized players like Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell, Dallas still dominated inside. They outscored Minnesota 48-38 in the paint. The Mavericks shot 17-of-19 in the restricted area, while the Timberwolves went 14-of-23. Overall Dallas went 24-of-32 in the paint. Minnesota only shot 19-of-40.
Towns just didn’t affect the Mavericks in the paint. Jalen Brunson specifically feasted, shooting 66 percent on shots in the lane. Luka didn’t do as well, probably due to the Timberwolves determination to wall off the paint and keep him on the perimeter. But that didn’t matter, because Powell went 8-of-8 in the restricted area, putting up one of his best games of the year. That helped him lead the team in scoring.
The Mavericks are big and tough and scrappy
Dallas is probably miserable to play against when they’re on their game defensively. They’re big and long and stay active on defense. They lack a traditional big man, but guys like Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell make up for their lack of size with quickness and smarts. Luka isn’t particularly athletic but he’s big and knows where he should be on defense.
Wings like Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith aren’t lock down defenders, but again, they have long wingspans and are aggressive. Brunson isn’t very big, but he’s built like a fire hydrant and like a lot of guys on the team, has an incredible basketball IQ.
The Mavericks deflected passes by the Timberwolves all night. They dove for loose balls and fought for every rebound. Jason Kidd has turned the Mavericks into a team of fighters, and it’s helped them win games this year.
The role players hit clutch 3-pointers when it mattered
The last two seasons were a tale of Luka putting up monster numbers in losses because the role players around him couldn’t hit 3-pointers when it mattered. That’s happened less this season, but still has a tendency to plague the Mavericks in close games. Not tonight. Bullock and Finney-Smith shot well all game, but especially in the fourth quarter. The pair combined to go 3-of-6 from deep in the fourth quarter. Both hit key shots late in the game.
When asked why the Mavericks have been so good in clutch situations lately, Kidd said, “I don’t think anyone panics.” That’s so true. The Mavericks seem to understand what it takes to win close games this year, something they struggled with in the past. “Everybody understands what they have to do,” Kidd said. “Their assignments are clear, their role is clear, and they execute, and that’s fun to see on both ends, offensively and defensively.”
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