Toss this one in the garbage immediately and never speak of it again.
The Mavericks’ (26-22) Junior Varsity squad hung with the Minnesota Timberwolves (34-14) for three quarters before going gently into that good night, 121-87, at the Target Center.
Luka Dončić, Kyrie Irving, Dereck Lively II, Dante Exum and Derrick Jones Jr. were all on the shelf with injuries for the last of four meetings with the Timberwolves, and with the win, Minnesota takes the season series from Dallas, 3-1.
Through all the confusion and lineup shuffling, Josh Green led the Mavs with 18 points on 2-of-3 from 3-point range and only turned the ball over once in 30 minutes while taking on a larger load of ball-handling and playmaking duties against one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. He and the rest of the starters (if you can call them that) sat the last six minutes of the fourth as both benches emptied in the blowout.
In the end, Dallas just didn’t have an answer for the twin towers of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. The dynamic duo down low feasted on the porous and ill-equipped Mavs defense for a combined 46 points and 15 rebounds. Towns led all scorers with 29 points and nine boards in just 31 minutes against the Mavs.
Here are two stats that loomed large over yet another tough Mavs’ loss to an upper-echelon NBA team. If you really want a third one, the Mavs were also utterly dominated by the Wolves on the boards, 58-41, but that was largely expected, wasn’t it? We really don’t need to worry over this one too much — it’s just becoming a shame this season how few games the best players on this roster have been able to play together. It’s a shame that a good team is so often relegated to turning in this kind of throw-away stinker as it battles for position in the Western Conference race.
6-of-29: A season-low in 3-point shooting
Believe it or not, all it would have taken for this rag-tag version of the Mavs to make things really interesting against Minnesota was a pretty average shooting night. Instead, Dallas shot a collective 6-of-29 from 3-point territory in the loss. That’s a downright awful 20.7%.
The six 3-pointers made is a new season low for Dallas. That inefficiency beyond the arc was the primary culprit in another season low — Dallas’ 87 points was the worst offensive output so far this year as well. The Mavs hit just seven 3-pointers in their losses at Houston on Dec. 22 and at home to Minnesota on Dec. 14. The Mavericks have now lost those three games on their no-good very bad shooting nights by a combined score of 362-287. That’s a laughable minus-75.
True, some of the Mavericks’ best shooters were on the shelf Wednesday, but none of the shooters in waiting took advantage of the additional opportunities. As a result, the Mavericks never really threatened the outcome of this game, despite keeping the score close for the better part of three quarters.
Here’s a moment from late in the third quarter that kind of encapsulated the evening. With 2:10 left in the frame and Dallas down 81-67, Green raised up for a 3-pointer on the wing that clanged off back rim. Miraculously, the Mavericks came away with the offensive board, giving them new life in what could have been a pivotal moment if the Mavericks were going to stay in this thing down the stretch.
Instead, Jaden Hardy air-balled his 3-point attempt from the other wing, and Dallas fell behind 83-70 going into the fourth. It was a plus-9 third quarter for the T-Wolves, and this version of the Mavericks just wasn’t built for double-digit fourth-quarter comebacks. It all fell apart, as things do, down the stretch.
3-of-18: The shooters didn’t shoot
If any one of Tim Hardaway Jr., Jaden Hardy or Seth Curry could have gotten hot, or even mild, the Mavs would have had a shot down the stretch against the Timberwolves. But those three combined to shoot 3-of-18 from 3-point range, making this loss even uglier than it needed to be.
Hardaway finished with 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting and an appalling 2-of-10 from deep. Curry somehow only played 17 minutes and was 0-of-3 from 3-point territory, finishing with nine points. Hardy had a middling 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting and hit just one of his five 3-point attempts.
Yikes on this one, but we move. Hopefully the Mavs can field a more competitive squad with two full days’ rest before Saturday’s home game against the Bucks.