The Mavericks left Washington with a 109-87 victory over the Wizards on Saturday night. Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Russell Westbrook led the way for the Wizards with 26 points and 14 rebounds. The game had a feeling of modesty, as several starters were left out of both teams. The Wizards were without Bradley Beal and Rui Hachimura, while the Mavericks were without Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber.
Both teams struggled to start the game, although the Mavericks were able to gain a five-point lead late in the first quarter. Nothing much changed in the second quarter, although Nicolo Melli took over with a surge of energy, scoring eight points. The energy was welcome, as the Mavericks have typically underperformed on the second night of a back-to-back.
However, the Mavericks slowly pulled away in the third quarter, extending the lead to eight. Doncic fought from behind the arc throughout the game, but dominated in the paint and in the midrange. The Mavericks finally eliminated the Wizards in the fourth, extending the lead to twenty at one point with two minutes remaining. Both teams shot poorly throughout the game, but the Mavericks finally came to life at the end, shooting 56% in the fourth quarter. This came despite Luka playing just a little over five minutes in the fourth quarter.
The Mavericks basically smothered the Wizards for the entire game and eventually overcame their own poor shots to close out the game. Here are three observations of a rare second night win from a back-to-back.
Melli was startled and made the most of it.
With Kleber gone, Melli started and impressed. His box score won’t jump off the page, with just 10 points and eight rebounds, in addition to contributing three assists. But he brought an energy the Mavericks have needed at times this season, especially when facing troubled teams like the Wizards. In a game where the depth of the Mavericks’ front court was almost non-existent, Melli got huge positive minutes. He finished at +22 for the game, though he only scored two points in the second half.
Dallas’ decimated big-man rotation allowed the Wizards to keep the game close.
With Porzingis (injury recovery), Kleber (left leg contusion) and Willie Cauley-Stein (health and safety protocols), the Mavericks only had Dwight Powell and Boban Marjanovic to pitch to the Wizards. Powelll and Marjanovic aren’t exactly defensive blocks, so it’s no surprise Washington feasted on the paint.
Robin Lopez finished with 18 points in 32 minutes off the bench, easily scoring whoever the Mavericks put in front of him. The lack of protection at the rim led the Wizards to outlast the Mavericks in the paint 48-36. This helped them keep the game close despite not having much firepower in the absence of Beal and Hachimura. The Mavericks’ frontcourt rotation has been a wild ride all year, and as the playoffs approach, the only thing Dallas headquarters can do is hope injuries and matchups work in their favor. .
A balanced attack buried the Wizards.
Doncic played brilliantly, as always. But what really helped the Mavericks win the game was that the rest of the roster contributed as well. Six players scored in double figures: all five starters and Jalen Brunson off the bench. Powell and rookie Josh Green combined for nine points. There were no crazy performances or scorching shots from a player. Doncic simply created opportunities and his teammates converted. The Mavericks are a different team when RPGs are hitting shots, and that’s what happened tonight.
The Mavericks hope to bring this momentum home to Dallas when they face the Utah Jazz on Monday night.