The Dallas Mavericks have struggled all season, but there is some optimism that the Mavs can turn things around once they get healthy.
Dallas (3-13) snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 91-81 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans at American Airlines Center on Sunday. Harrison Barnes, once again, led the way for the Mavs with 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists, though he only made 9 of 24 shots from the field. Barnes has led the team in scoring eight times so far.
Wesley Matthews remained hot, tallying 21 points on 7 of 14 shooting, including 6 of 8 from beyond the arc. Reserve Justin Anderson had perhaps his best game of his pro career, contributing 14 points along with eight caroms and two assists in 23 minutes. Seth Curry also reached double-figures with 10 points, while Andrew Bogut grabbed a game-high 14 boards with five coming on the offensive end.
Dallas shot 41.6 percent from the floor and 37.0 percent (10 of 27) from beyond the arc. But the Mavericks limited the Pelicans to 39.0 percent (30 of 77) from the field and 20.0 percent (5 of 20) from long distance. The Mavs are allowing the 10th fewest points (100.8) a game, though they are 18th in defensive rating (107.2) per Basketball Reference.
Dallas’ biggest issues this season have been health and scoring. The Mavericks have reached the century mark just once in their last nine games, and three times all year. The Mavs, who are averaging a league worst 91.5 points a game, have been held under 80 points twice. They rank 29th in the league in assists, field goal percentage and three-point percentage.
Barnes has been terrific since signing with the Mavericks this offseason. The 24-year-old has nearly doubled his career scoring average. He is averaging 20.8 points and a career-high 5.8 caroms while shooting 46.8 percent from the field, though he is shooting only 28.6 percent from long-distance.
But Barnes is the only player on the team to start every game this year, and one of four Maverick players to appear in all 16 games. Seth Curry, Justin Anderson and Dwight Powell are the other Mavs players to appear in every game.
The good news is that the Mavericks are getting kind of healthy.
Nowitzki had missed the last eight games before returning for the Clippers game due to an Achilles injury. He was a little rusty against the Clips and Cleveland Cavaliers, tallying 25 points as he made 10 of 28 shots from the field and 2 of 8 shots from beyond the arc. The 38-year-old has appeared in five games this year, averaging 12.2 points along with 6.4 rebounds while shooting 35.8 percent from the field. He sat out Sunday’s game against the Pelicans.
Point guard Deron Williams also returned to the court last week. Williams made his return versus the Cavs on Friday, scoring four points and dishing out five assists in the loss. The 32-year-old had missed eight of the team’s previous nine games. He may be on a minutes restriction as he is still dealing with calf issues.
Williams got off to a strong start to the season, but he has missed 22 of his last 30 shots. He is currently averaging 11.0 points and 4.8 assists. Williams is shooting 38.1 percent from the field and 33.3 percent of his three-point attempts.
Starting center Andrew Bogut has also missed three games. Bogut hasn’t been much of a factor on the offensive end, but he has seven double-digit games and is averaging a team-high 10.5 caroms.
Dallas is still without the services of guards J.J. Barea and Devin Harris. Barea has missed four straight games and is expected to be out until at least January with a leg injury according to ESPN. Barea had gotten off to a good start to the season, averaging 16.3 points and 5.4 assists while shooting 41.5 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Harris has yet to play this season due to a toe injury. The good news is that coach Rick Carlisle told Earl Snead of Mavs.com that the six-foot-three guard could be ready for game action within a week or so. He returned to full-court activity for the first time at practice on Tuesday.
Matthews has been inconsistent this season. The 30-year-old has reached double-figures in five of the last seven games as he has regained his shooting stroke, canning 21 of 45 shots over the last four games. He is averaging 13.7 points while shooting 35.3 percent from the floor and 36.0 percent from beyond the arc.
If Dallas can make a run at the playoffs, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News recently suggested that the Mavericks may try to pry Khris Middleton away from the Milwaukee Bucks. Sefko said Middleton would be the kind of building block Dallas needs, but added that he had no inside information to suggest that such a deal had been discussed.
It is highly unlikely that the Bucks would trade Middleton. Middleton has not played this season due to a hamstring injury and is not expected to return until after the All-Star break in February. The 25-year-old has four years left on a five-year, $70 million deal that he signed in the summer of 2015. Also, the Bucks (7-8) expect to be in the middle of the playoff race themselves, and the major thing that they are lacking is a scorer. Which is Middleton’s strong suit.
Middleton had a career year in 2015-2016. He averaged 18.2 points a game as he shot 44.4 percent from the field and 39.6 percent on three-point attempts.
Sefko also said that the Mavericks may also bring back forward Quincy Acy in the future. The Mavs released Acy in order to sign Jonathan Gibson, who is averaging 13.2 points in four games. Acy appeared in just six games, averaging 2.0 points over 8.0 minutes of action.
Marc Stein of ESPN is reporting that Acy has entered the NBA D-League pool of players. Stein said that the Los Angeles D-Fenders have the first shot at Acy. However, he added that the Texas Legends — the Mavericks affiliate — are trying to make a deal for his rights.
[Featured Image by Darron Cummings/AP Photo]