After a 130-121 overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night to kick off the 2016-17 season, the Dallas Mavericks are 0-1 heading into their Friday night home opener against the division rival Houston Rockets.
And like any opener, there was some good and some bad to come out of the Mavs’ loss in the Hoosier State on Wednesday, so here are several observations from that defeat.
What Shooting Slump?
Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not Harrison Barnes will even come close to meeting the enormous expectations attached to the $94 million contract the Iowa native inked this summer, but HB did shoot the ball pretty well in his Mavs debut, which was a good sign.
Barnes wasn’t shooting great during the preseason, a fact which made some Mavs fans and media a bit nervous. But he responded to go 8-for-14 from the field last night, including draining a huge three late to force overtime.
His overall line was pretty solid: 19 points, nine rebounds and only two turnovers in 34 minutes. For someone who much is expected of and a player many Mavs fans are still skeptical of, it was a rock-solid debut and enough to silence the critics, at least for now.
Another Slow Start
No matter the personnel, slow starts have been a big issue for this team over the past few seasons, and that disconcerting trend unfortunately reared its head again in Indy.
The Mavs were slow out of the gate as Indy raced to a 10-3 lead, forcing Dallas to play catch up for most of the next three quarters.
To their credit, the resilient, veteran Mavs hung tough and took their first lead early in the fourth quarter thanks to strong defense and accurate long-range shooting. But this team seems to make it harder on themselves than they have to, whether that’s in the form of slow starts, blowing huge leads or whatever.
Dallas also had a rather slow start in a preseason game last week at AAC against the Rockets, a first-quarter performance so dreadful that it led Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle to compare that showing to Donald Trump’s in the latest presidential debate.
The Mavs are a solid, veteran-laden team who can score in bunches and can come back at a moment’s notice, but if slow starts are a trend again this season, fighting uphill could definitely take its toll.
This Second Unit Appears Solid As Well
Dallas already has an injury to contend with, as backup point guard Devin Harris is sidelined for a while as he continues to recover from offseason foot surgery. But even with Devin, a key member of the Mavs’ second unit, out of action, the bench more than held its own on Wednesday.
Of course, fellow floor general J.J. Barea did more than his part, leading the second unit with 22 points. But the Mavs also got nice contributions from fellow bench guys like Justin Anderson, who delivered some great energy off the pine, Seth Curry, who had seven points prior to fouling out, and Dwight Powell, who chipped in seven boards despite not scoring.
Veteran grinder Quincy Acy, who is still getting over a preseason injury, even got into the game for a short stint, as did rookies Nicolas Brussino and Dorian Finney-Smith, both of whom made their NBA debuts during garbage time.
But once this group gets Harris back, the Mavs’ bench should make some nice contributions, another hallmark of Carlisle-coached teams in Dallas.
Still The Ageless Wonder
Dirk Nowitzki might be 38, a number which matches how many minutes he played against the Pacers, but the Big German performed well in the opener, scoring 22 points and bringing down eight boards.
Rumors about Nowitzki’s decline have been greatly exaggerated. Sure, it’s clear he’s not near as quick as he once was, but Dirk can still hit his patented fadeaway and drain a three from the top of the key when called upon.
But it wasn’t just Barnes and Nowitzki who delivered for the Mavs’ starting five on Wednesday. Deron Williams led all Mavs with 25 points and really played well, showing not only that he was healthy but that he can carry the offense, much like he did at points last year, leading Dirk to call a healthy D-Will one of the Mavs’ best players last season.
The struggles of fellow starter Wesley Matthews, who was 3-for-16 from the field, were definitely a negative, but every player, rookie or veteran, experiences nights like that, so seeing Matthews not shoot well in Indy is nothing to get alarmed about.