The Mavs hit the road to Atlanta after back-to-back wins at home against the Timberwolves and Bulls. In the first matchup between Luka Doncic and Trae Young, who were of course traded for each other in this year’s draft, it began as a one-sided affair in Doncic’s favor as the Mavericks broke out to an early 26-point lead in the first half. And yet, it was Trae Young who got the last laugh as the Hawks continued to chip away at the lead as Dallas began to miss shots, giving the Mavericks a disheartening 111-10 loss. Young sank clutch free throws down the stretch to clinch the comeback victory.
Aggressive start for Dennis
It’s been an inconsistent start to the season for Dennis but that’s not to come as a surprise. When you add another playmaker who needs the ball to the lineup like Luka, things will take some time getting used to. Tonight, Dennis came out aggressive to start the game against a smaller Trae Young. Though he only had five points at the end of the first quarter, Dennis was attacking the defense and opening up shots for Luka and Wes, ending the first 12 minutes with five assists. With DSJ coming out of the gates firing and attacking the rim, that will open up perimeter shots for Dallas and open up the offense for Dennis as the game moves forward.
Kleber and Powell’s continued production
The Dallas bench has played very well over the first four games, especially the likes of J.J. Barea, Max Kleber, and Dwight Powell. With HB and Dirk sidelined, Kleber and Powell have been the benefit, along with Dorian Finney-Smith, of the extra minutes. The two reserve big men have combined for 24 points and just under nine rebounds per game. The question looms; when Dirk returns, whenever that may be, where will those minutes come from? Clearly, Dirk has slowed down and it’s unknown when he will be ready to return to the floor. Carlisle will have a decision to make in regards to how to allocate the minutes the three big men off the bench.
Harrison Barnes’ absence is felt
When a close game is coming down to the wire, you look to your best players to make a play and clinch the game, right? Over the past two seasons, Harrison Barnes has been that guy for the Mavericks. In his absence, those crunch time shots have gone to the likes of Dennis Smith Jr. (who sank the game-winner against Minnesota), Luka Doncic, and Wes Matthews. Not only is HB a viable scorer on offense but he is a smart defender, which is always something Dallas could use more of. As Atlanta continued to make their push back into the game and eventually taking the lead, a calm, veteran presence like Barnes would’ve been a huge benefit for Dallas. As we turn the page on to Toronto and their 4-0 record on Friday, Barnes’ availability will surely be a vital part to the Mavs game plan against Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors.
Never get complacent
The Mavs started off the game with a 42-point first quarter, helping them extend the lead to up to 26 points in the second quarter. For some, it may have seemed the game may be over (I’m definitely guilty of this) but the Hawks kept fighting and cut the 26-point lead to 10 at halftime and eventually within one in the third quarter. As I can imagine Carlisle voiced, when you have a team’s back pushed up against the wall, you cannot let up. Anything can happen in this league. And boy, did it happen tonight as the Hawks fought back to beat the Mavs. Blowing a 26-point lead and losing to a Hawks team who will likely find themselves back in the upper part of the lottery is a terrible loss, especially being that every game in the Western conference matters towards playoff contention. Letting their foot off the gas when having a lead like that won’t mean well for them against playoff caliber teams (sorry Atlanta).
The Mavericks head north to Toronto in a Friday matchup against Kawhi and the Raptors.
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