One of my more favorite Rick Carlisle-isms is, “Stay ready”. It’s something that he has preached to each of his Mavericks teams over the past decade. It comes up most often on the nights when a bench player, who hasn’t been seen too much of late, is thrown into 30+ minute situations out of the blue. It was a situation like last night. Jalen Brunson has shown that he can step up when needed. He has shown that stays ready.
JB was definitely my favorite storyline during most of this game. As I would come to find out though, it wouldn’t be the best part of the game by the end.
Houston games are almost always fun games. The rivalry seems to have grown more over the past few years and is now one of those games I look forward to with a certain kind of anxiety. With great rivalries almost always come three common happenings: constant lead changes, unlikely heroes, and all-star caliber players stepping up with the game on the line. Last night, MFFLs were lucky enough to get all three.
Jalen Brunson stays ready
After the game, Skin (from the Fox Sports Southwest Broadcast) caught up with Jalen where he mentioned, “I definitely feel like I belong.” When you draft a 2x national champion and NCAA national player of the year, you know that you are getting a unique player. Jalen Brunson fell into the Mavs lap late in last year’s draft, #33 overall. He’s smart, he’s a champion, he’s experienced for a rookie point guard, but unfortunately, Dallas just doesn’t have much of a spot for him yet. There was even a stretch there from November 21st to December 4th where JB played a total of 22 minutes over 6 games. The problem is when Dallas is healthy there simply isn’t a spot in the rotation for him. Rick Carlisle’s mantra of, “Stay ready” is one that Jalen needs to continue to take to heart.
Jalen got the start tonight, however, and not only did he look like he belonged, he excelled. He was comfortable slicing through the defense both with and without the ball. In fact, one of his best plays of the night, if not his best, actually came on the offensive end without the ball.
It’s good to see that he not only had the intelligence to cut there, where Paul had stopped paying attention to him even if just for a brief moment, but that he also had the confidence to do so. That’s a tough finish in a clutch situation, it would be easy for him to just sit in the corner waiting for a catch and shoot 3. If I’m not mistaken, I think you can see the rookie eyeing down legendary point guard on his way back down the court.
In addition to the clutch backdoor cut, Brunson was efficient on the defensive end too. Ending with three steals to only two turnovers is what you want out of your starting point guard. While you might want to end with more than 3 assists in 30 minutes, the shooting efficiency makes up the difference going 7 for 9 and having the highest plus-minus on the team with +11.
Against Luka, No Lead is Safe
It was a thought that crossed my mind midway through the 3rd quarter, “boy, Luka sure is quiet tonight”. Which he had been. After 3 quarters Doncic had 10 points on 3/12 shooting (0/3 from deep) with 7 boards and 1 assist to 3 turnovers. Not too great, though the boards were nice, it was hard to imagine that the Mavs would be able to pull off a win without him. Harrison Barnes wasn’t having an especially fantastic night (he wasn’t going to get 30 again), and while Jalen Brunson was having a nice game it was obvious that some clutch points were going to have to be made in order to sneak out a win and I’m not sure that erasing 8 point deficits are in JB’s bag just yet.
With the Mavericks facing their largest deficit of the night (8 points), and just under 3 minutes left in the game, the next five scoring plays in the game are as follows:
- L.Doncic 23′ 3PT Jump Shot (W.Matthews)
- L.Doncic 26′ 3PT Step Back Shot
- L.Doncic 5′ Driving Floating Shot
- L.Doncic 26′ 3PT Step Back Shot
And in video form for even more pleasure. Feel free to hit that replay button as much as you want.
These highlights are delicious. What’s even more salivating is the fact that in this run, he eclipsed his point total for the whole night leading up to it – proving even further that Luka Doncic is a star. He knows when this team needs him. He knows when it is necessary for him to step up and make the buckets that count the most. He is still just 19 years old (this is fascinating to me every time I think about it). This is possibly the worst he will ever be and he is already able to single-handily change the outcome of a game. If that doesn’t get you excited for the future, Dallas Mavericks basketball isn’t for you.
While the rookies were definitely the stars of the show last night, the veteran leadership cannot be overlooked. Most specifically, the play of two veteran players who have received some not-so-positive feedback from Mavs fans this year: DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews.
DeAndre Jordan takes games against former teammates and coaches personally.
He plays with more energy on nights where he’s playing the Clippers and last night he showed that he has that same energy when going up against his old buddy Chris Paul. The whole night DJ was active on both ends of the floor, but not just on the glass. Ending the game with two steals and a block almost seems like it doesn’t sum up the activity that Jordan showed on the defensive end in this one. The 9 offensive rebounds, however, make that statement loud and clear. Ending the game with 20 total boards; when DeAndre plays with the kind of enthusiasm he showed last night, he keeps the energy level of the whole team high.
Wesley Matthews is another Dallas Maverick who has received some tough love from Mavs Nation. Last night, however, Wesley played the role of veteran leader perfectly. Given the task of guarding both Chris Paul and James Harden is one that Wes is familiar with, but being asked to lead the team offensively while doing so is a little less familiar. Matthews ended the game 4 for 7 from deep and always seemed to have an answer when Dallas needed it most, until the very end of the game. Unfortunately, Wes botched two late-game free throws that would have sealed a victory. In typical Wes fashion, though, he turns around and shuts James Harden down on the other end of the floor to seal the W instead.
This was a good game for a young Mavericks team. Luka Doncic is a special player and he will have many special years to come. He continues to surprise and he’s beginning to have that aura around him that makes you wonder what all he might actually be capable of. Jalen Brunson is a poised rookie that plays beyond his years and fits perfectly in the Carlisle system. Dallas sports plenty of veterans, as well. Veterans that can provide sparks that don’t always translate directly to the box score. This is an exciting time for Mavs fans, it’ll be even more important than ever for everyone to “stay ready”.
|Field Goal %||49.40%||45.30%|
|Three Point %||40%||31.90%|
|Free Throw %||81.30%||84.60%|
|Points Off Turnovers||17||19|
|Fast Break Points||20||10|
|Points in Paint||50||42|