The Dallas Mavericks keep the good times rolling. Things started shakily, but a strong finish saw the Dallas Mavericks defeat the Washington Wizards 112-104.
Newcomer Daniel Gafford continued to impress with 16 points and 17 rebounds — seven on the offensive boards. He set the tone early, grabbing seven rebounds in the opening six minutes, and staying active on the glass all night. Defensively, he had his hands full with the Wizard’s Deni Avdija, who led Washington with 28 points, but still a very solid showing.
Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving put up 26 points apiece, both going 2-for-7 from deep on a night when Dallas was struggling with their deep ball. Still, to come away with a win on a less-than-perfect offensive night is cause for celebration and keeps the momentum going with only one game left before the break.
The Wizards, by all accounts, are not a good team. With Dallas riding a four-game winning streak en route to the All-Star break, this nine-win Washington team was not supposed to be the biggest speed bump. Dallas waited until they could notch the clutch win before putting the game away.
Everything was going wrong for Dallas tonight. They couldn’t hit their shots, they were turning the ball over (13 in the first half), and Luka’s chin was bleeding. Then, after failing to break 30 points in any quarter, Dallas came into the fourth and blew the doors off with a 34-point frame.
Don’t get me wrong, running roughshod over Washington for 48 minutes would’ve been ideal and a lot of fun to watch, but good teams find a way to win bad games. Dallas is performing more and more like a good team these days.
Dallas finally found their shot, led by two huge threes from Jaden Hardy that trimmed the Washington lead to one, and some solid team defense that held the Wizards to 16.
Nobody had it going tonight for Dallas, so their collective 9-for-36 night behind the arc is not the fault of any individual player… having said that, Tim Hardaway Jr. started the night 0-for-8 from the floor, and finished just 1-of-7 from three.
He’s an important role player for Dallas and arguably in the lead for the Sixth Man of the Year award. He’s a guy who can catch fire on any given night and win you a game. You don’t want to yank him after his first miss. You want him heaving threes; you NEED him heaving threes, but when he’s not hitting those threes, there needs to be a backup plan. And with all the new pieces Dallas has to move around the chessboard, there’s a case for making the leashes just a bit shorter.
Dallas’ big fourth quarter came with Hardaway largely on the bench. He’s not going to be a 5-of-8 from three shooter every night, and on nights like tonight, coach Jason Kidd would do well to deviate a little more quickly from his loyalty to the vets.
Clean up, aisle four
Through three quarters, it was clear this game was not going to be emblematic of the beautiful offensive ballet the modern game has become. The Wizards held a 10-point advantage, 88-77, but neither team had their offense firing on all cylinders. The Wizards were shooting 30% from deep. Bad. Dallas was worse. 18.5%.
With how poorly Dallas was shooting, 10 points seemed like quite the ask, but good things can happen when the team remembers they’re one of the best in the league behind the arc. Both teams kept the shots coming, taking nine a piece from deep. Washington missed every one of them, Dallas went 4-of-9.
Jaden Hardy hit two, Luka pitched in one, but it was Maxi Kleber’s big three with 5:32 to go that gave Dallas its first lead since the first half. His bucket put Dallas up 97-96 and they stayed in front for the rest of the game.
Add to that Dallas turning the ball over a single time, and much of what ailed them through the first three cleared up in the fourth. It’s never too late to start playing good basketball.
The eight-point win feels nice, and it could’ve been even more if Dallas had taken care of business at the free-throw line down the stretch. They shot 6-of-12 in the fourth of what, luckily, didn’t end up being close enough to matter.
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