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3 things as the Dallas Mavericks lose to the Minnesota Timberwolves 121-87

A heavily depleted Mavericks team puts up the best fight it could against the West’s best

Dallas Mavericks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The severely undermanned Mavericks lost for the seventh time in their last eleven games, falling to the Timberwolves, 121-87. Karl-Anthony Towns led the way for Minnesota, scoring 29 points while only needing to play three quarters, and what initially looked like a gritty effort from the Mavericks ultimately turned into an absolute drubbing at the hands of the team currently in first place in the Western Conference.

The Mavericks hung around in the first half by demonstrating a willingness to play physical against the much larger, drastically more talented Timberwolves. Without their top three playmakers, the Mavericks started out sloppy, turning it over nine times in the first half. Josh Green stepped up early, scoring 14 points on 6-of-7 from the field before halftime. The Mavericks managed to take their first lead of the night when Jaden Hardy made an incredibly tough, end-of-the-shot-clock, step-back three with eight minutes left in the second quarter to make the score 33-30. However, the Timberwolves locked-in defensively towards the end of the second, and Karl-Anthony Towns drilled back-to-back threes on Minnesota’s last two possessions of the half to give the Timberwolves a 52-48 lead going into halftime.

Things quickly fell apart in the second half, as the Timberwolves finally woke up and started to assert their dominance on both ends of the floor. The Mavericks’ offense ground to a halt while Towns continued to pour it in from outside and repeatedly attack the paint, helping the Timberwolves take a 15-point lead, 83-68, with 55 seconds left in the third quarter, at which point the game felt firmly out of reach. The game unraveled even further from there, as the Timberwolves outscored the Mavericks 38-17 in the fourth quarter.

Health remains the dominant story of the Mavericks’ season

All five members of Dallas’ best lineup — Luka Dončić, Kyrie Irving, Dante Exum, Derrick Jones Jr., and Dereck Lively II — missed this game and have rarely played together this season. Without any ability to build continuity, the Mavericks continue to slide down the Western Conference standings and are now just 18-20 since starting the season 8-2. Until those five are able to be on the court together for any meaningful stretch of time, it will be practically impossible to determine this team’s floor and ceiling, but if they are unable to get healthy relatively soon, the Mavericks are in danger of falling below .500 and out of the race for the sixth seed to avoid the play-in tournament.

A tale of two halves for Josh Green

This game served as a microcosm of the Josh Green experience. In the first half, he was the Mavericks’ most impactful player, confidently knocking down his threes and playing with the assertiveness and self-control that he often lacks. In the second half, he was practically non-existent, scoring just four points while shooting 2-of-6 from the floor. Green is in his fourth season but is still infuriatingly inconsistent, particularly when sharing the floor with Luka and Kyrie. At this point in his career, it feels safe to say that he will never be the reliable rotation player the Mavericks hoped he would become when they selected him 18th overall in 2020.

Grant Williams and Maxi Kleber are becoming borderline unplayable

Just two games ago Grant had a regular season career-high 27 points while shooting 7-of-10 from three against Sacramento, but coming into tonight he is averaging just 6.9 points per game on 42.6% from the field (while playing very poor defensively) over his last 20 games. Tonight, he scored two points in 25 minutes and was just 1-of-7 from the floor. Even when playing with Luka and Kyrie, he has not shown any ability to provide reliable outside shooting or play solid defense on the perimeter or inside, and the Mavericks would be wise to move on from him (if he had any trade value whatsoever).

Maxi was once again extremely timid on the offensive end of the floor, scoring three points and attempting only two field goals in 18 minutes. With his level of defensive impact now greatly diminished, it does not look like he deserves to remain a member of the rotation if the Mavericks ever return to full strength.