As I mentioned in my last post, when this game was on I had a headache that made just looking at any light feel like I was opening the ark in an Indiana Jones movie. But as a MFFL, life finds a way. I was glad I powered through, as this may have been the best played game yet for Dallas (it certainly looked better than the victory over Memphis). There’s a few things I was able to take away from the second win of the season.
It was a great game for Barnes. It might just be matchup-specific, but Carlisle seems to be trying to match him up on guards offensively. I’m not sure if that’s because he’s actually better at going against smaller players rather than bigs, or if getting him on a guard makes him more aggressive (instead of just trying to shoot over his man), but either way he’s finding more success.
Something that stood out to me specifically in this regard: near the end of the game, Barnes would be guarded by Kelly Oubre, and Dallas would run the lazy screen that forces a switch so Barnes is guarded by the Wizards’ point guard, also known as John Wall. Now I get that he’s a point guard, but I don’t really see the logic in trying to shed Oubre in order to get the Wall matchup. Wall is big for his position, and is a tenacious competitor; I feel like going at Oubre would have been the better look (not that it mattered this night).
Speaking of Wall, I would say that he is one of three players that are god-tier terrifying in transition, with Westbrook and LeBron. On Washington’s defensive rebounds, the priority for good transition defense isn’t getting back, but aggressive ball denial on Wall so that you can delay the cannon he gets shot out of from firing for a second or two.
I’m not sure how Jason Smith was able to take over the game for a few minutes, but he did.
Dennis Smith Jr showed up to play. It wasn’t the most efficient game, but he is looking more confident in his decision making. He definitely isn’t second guessing when to pull the trigger either. Wall should be a good role model for what he could look like, especially when he gets chances to run the floor (except DSJ will make you defend the three point line). He could show some of the defensive effort that I saw out of Donovan Mitchell in Utah, but Mitchell isn’t running the show like DSJ, and DSJ already has NBA-ready vision and touch that a lot of other teams are still hoping their rookies will develop.
Mejri is making it hard for Carlisle to keep him off the starting roster, much less the floor. Another monster five block game, and the team looks so much more consistent defensively when they have somebody in the paint to plug the perimeter’s leaky holes. Outside of the occasional awkward matchup (like Draymond or Jokic; guys that will pull him away from the rim and abuse him) he can play the position as effectively as anybody else currently on the roster. Yet Dallas is obliged to keep scouting Noel, a player with actual upside (though they seem to be losing patience on waiting for that potential to reveal itself).
Dallas has the Cleveland LeBrons coming to town tonight. As much as the Cavs have been quote unquote struggling, and Dallas’ ability to capitalize on bad defense, I don’t see how the Mavs keep pace for 48 minutes. Leads have been tenuous (when present, which is rare) all season, and a lead is never more tenuous than when King James is controlling the action. Barnes will most likely be the player assigned to defend him (he usually defends the other team’s best player, his payment for getting to indulge in Kobe-ball on the other end); that may have been a not-terrible matchup if LeBron was still on the wing running pick and rolls like he has the last few seasons, but his new preoccupation with applying pressure from the post doesn’t bode well. The best chance for Dallas tonight is if cosmic karma actually exists, and still hasn’t exacted its toll against Wade and LeBron for their coughing bit in the 2011 Finals. Go Mavs.