The Mavericks could not keep Atlanta out of the paint and their playoff hopes were diminished
Dallas lost Atlanta Hawks Sunday night, in a game that lowered their magic number for game misses to two. They sit in 11th place at 37-42, one game behind Oklahoma City (which owns the head-to-head tiebreaker).
The bleeding started early when the Hawks hit six of their nine point attempts in the first quarter. By halftime, the Falcons had only fired one shot that was neither on the rim nor outside the three-point line. An inability to shut down or grab a defensive rebound led to Dallas falling four, 70-66, at halftime.
Dallas bounced back with the introduction of JaVale McGee in the third quarter after the team trailed by 15 points and cut the lead to three as they moved into the fourth. Kyrie Irving took over in the fourth quarter and after a series of missed free throws, Dallas got the ball with a chance to win and only 0.4 seconds on the clock. The ball entered McGee, who fouled the pass. He made one of two free throws and the game went to overtime. Dallas fell in overtime, after Luka Doncic missed three more at the buzzer.
Irving scored a game-high 41 points, along with four assists and five rebounds. DeJonte Murray led Atlanta with 25 points, while Trae Young had 24 points and 12 assists. Josh Green, Christian Wood, Javal McGee and Luka Doncic all scored in double figures but it wasn’t enough to overcome Atlanta’s strong coating presence.
The Mavericks’ great weakness was exposed
Dallas has been a poor rebounding team for several years, but especially this year. Atlanta killed Dallas on the inside, specifically on the Hawks’ offensive glass. Atlanta scored 16 offensive rebounds and 70 shooting points. Even if Dallas were to participate, that hole in their defense would prove fatal as they would have to fend off any combination of Rudy Gobert, Jonas Valencionas, and Anthony Davis. Their inability to defend the edge and limit extra possessions lost the game, as every big shot for Atlanta down the stretch came five feet.
This is why Dallas got Kyrie Irving
Irving was surgical tonight and especially special in the fourth quarter. He had a 14-point lead in the final frame including a draw jumper with just over 37 seconds remaining. He was a killer at midrange and helped the Dallas offense stay afloat with Luka Doncic making the night. He is an expert finisher and ripped off Atlanta guards. It was an insult to him that he didn’t take the last shot.
JaVale McGee was fun
Jason Kidd is known to be stubborn with his lineups, but he deserves his props for keeping the Mavericks’ best lineup on the ground in the latter part of the game. This lineup featured McGee at center, who turned the full energy of the game on when he was inserted with Dallas to 15 on third. He had the highest plus/minus on the team (+13) and made plays when Dallas needed him to. It seemed like no one on the team could solve their paint issues, but McGee at least provided an energy and presence that no other senior on the team has. Three games left and there’s no reason Dallas can’t play a big deal in the offseason. McGee’s minutes may bring some fun to a dismal end to the Dallas season.
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