Dallas lost to the Atlanta Hawks Sunday night, in a game that lowered their magic number to miss the play-in to two. They sit in 11th place at 37-42, one game behind Oklahoma City (who owns the head-to-head tiebreaker).
The bleeding started early when the Hawks hit six of their nine three-point attempts in the first quarter. By halftime, the Hawks had only made one shot that was not at the rim or outside the three-point line. Not being able to close out or grab a defensive rebound found Dallas down four, 70-66, at halftime.
Dallas bounced back by inserting JaVale McGee in the third quarter after the team trailed by 15 points and cut the lead to three going into the fourth. Kyrie Irving took over in the fourth quarter and after a series of missed free throws, Dallas had the ball with a chance to win and only 0.4 seconds on the clock. The ball was inbounded to McGee, who was fouled on the pass. He made one of two free throws and the game went to overtime. Dallas fell in overtime, after another Luka Doncic three missed at the buzzer.
Irving had a game-high 41 points to go along with four assists and five rebounds. Dejounte Murray led Atlanta with 25 points, while Trae Young pitched in 24 points and 12 assists. Josh Green, Christian Wood, Javale McGee, and Luka Doncic all scored in double figures but were not enough to overcome Atlanta’s strong paint presence.
Mavericks’ big weakness exposed
Dallas has been a poor rebounding team for several years, but this year especially. Atlanta killed Dallas inside, specifically on the Hawks’ offensive glass. Atlanta had 16 offensive rebounds and 70 points in the paint. Even if Dallas were to make the play-in, this hole in their defense would be fatal as they would have to ward off any combination of Rudy Gobert, Jonas Valenciunas, and Anthony Davis. Their inability to defend the rim and limit extra possessions lost them the game, as every big shot for Atlanta down the stretch came within five feet.
This is why Dallas got Kyrie Irving
Irving was surgical tonight and particularly special in the fourth quarter. He had 14 points in the final frame including the game-tying pull-up jumper with just over 37 seconds remaining. He was a killer in the midrange and helped Dallas’ offense stay afloat with Luka Doncic having an off-night. He is a master finisher and tore apart Atlanta’s guards. It was a disservice to him that he did not take the final shot.
JaVale McGee was fun
Jason Kidd is notoriously stubborn with his lineups, but he deserves his props for keeping the Mavericks’ best lineup on the floor for the latter portion of the game. This lineup featured McGee at center, who shifted the entire energy of the game when he was inserted with Dallas down 15 in the third. He had the highest plus/minus on the team (+13) and made plays when Dallas needed him to. It seems no one on the team can solve their paint issues, but McGee at least provided an energy and presence that no other big on the team has. There are three games left and no reason for Dallas to not play their big off-season signing. McGee minutes could bring some fun to a dreary end to Dallas’ season.
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