The Dallas Mavericks (0-1) fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves (1-0), losing 111-99 Thursday evening in Abu Dhabi. Karl-Anthony Towns led the Wolves, pouring in 20 points in just 17 minutes. Luka Doncic put on a show for Dallas, scoring 25 in defeat for the Mavericks.
Dallas opened the 2023-24 preseason unable to hit a shot and seemed uninterested in playing much defense. The Mavericks found themselves down 22-5 after just six or so minutes of action, with Doncic scoring the only field goal for the team. Karl Towns and Rudy Gobert came ready to play and pushed the Mavericks around in the paint and on the boards. Dallas finally found a bit of an offensive rhythm in the second part of the frame, but the defense didn’t pick up. The Mavericks trailed Minnesota 37-19 after one period.
It did not get better in the second, though Dallas finally broke the seal on three-point makes after missing their first 14 tries. Grant Williams connected on back-to-back attempts to force a Timberwolves timeout at the midway point in the quarter. Dallas spent much of the frame down 20 points or more before a late rally led by Luka Doncic finally cut the lead. the Timberwolves led at the half 66-49.
With the starters out for the second half, Dallas fans for a deeper look a the Maverick roster. Jaden Hardy and Josh Green spearheaded a run which pulled the Mavericks back within 12. A Richaun Holmes sighting helped pull Dallas even closer, with a great mid-range hook shot and a strip on defense. Despite the strong push and getting the lead down to single digits, Naz Reid helped the Timberwolves retake control. Dallas trailed 87-74 heading into the fourth.
The last quarter was primarily played by end-of-bench and training camp guys. Jelly Walker made a couple of shots for the Mavericks, but Luka Garza absolutely ate Dallas alive and helped the Wolves pull ahead in an attempt to close out the game. Walker, A.J. Lawson, and Joe Wieskamp would try to make one last run, but following a Minnesota timeout, the Wolves maintained their lead and walked away with a 111-99 victory.
Dereck Lively belongs, but it’s going to be a learning process
Going up against Rudy Gobert and Karl Anthony-Towns in your first game in a true Dallas uniform makes for a rather intense first day. On the one hand, Lively is so big and looks like he physically belongs. One MMB staffer noted that Lively looks “a little light in the ass”, his wingspan, build, and height stand out. On the other hand, he picked up four fouls in 12 minutes, and that’s going to be a recurring issue as he figures out how to play NBA defense against NBA players.
We’re also going to get plays like this, which is incredibly exciting:
Once Lively figures out screening, he has a real chance to be special. I can’t believe I’m this bullish on a rookie center, but preseason is the time to be excited.
Where does Tim Hardaway fit?
This is an overreaction to be sure, but as I watched Jaden Hardy and Josh Green look good in limited minutes, I can’t help but wonder about Hardaway. The correct reaction was from Josh Bowe, who asked what I meant when Dallas missed their first 14 three-pointers. All this will get worked out in the wash of playing a lot of NBA basketball, but the Mavericks need to find effective minutes for all these players. The coaching staff has a lot of work ahead to figure all that out.
The Mavericks have cool players
I am biased. Extremely biased, really. But the thing is, watching Josh Green, Olivier-Maxence Prosper, Richaun Holmes, Jaden Hardy, Dante Exum, and other Mavericks sharing the floor at different times... I couldn’t help but think how cool they all looked. It’s probably the newness more than anything that provokes this experience but elements of the team look so different and despite how it was a bit rough at times against the Wolves, it was fun. I had a GREAT time watching these guys play basketball.
We’ll have a podcast later tonight and more content as the day goes on. Thanks for coming to Mavs Moneyball.