DALLAS - Entering Wednesday night's matchup with the Detroit Pistons, the Dallas Mavericks had lost four of their previous five games. Getting a win against a team bound for the NBA Draft Lottery felt almost like a necessity.
Need fulfilled: Dallas 127, Detroit 117.
“I don’t think there was any message that needed to be said,” said Tim Hardaway Jr. “Just go out and play harder, play more aggressive and will your team to victory, basically.”
Luka Doncic led the way for the Mavericks with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists but received plenty of help in the scoring department. Jalen Brunson (20), Kristaps Porzingis (19), Hardaway Jr., Josh Richardson (12), and Dorian Finney-Smith (11) each scored in double-figures.
The Pistons received a strong outing from Jerami Grant, who recorded a team-high 26 points. Cory Joseph was not far behind with 24 points of his own. Meanwhile, Mason Plumlee finished with an impressive 13 points, 16 rebounds, and 7 assists.
The Pistons came out of the gate hot with 36 points in the opening period and held a narrow three-point advantage as a result. Grant led the way with an impressive 15 points while going 6-of-8 (75.0%) from the field. Dallas was frequently getting caught in cross-match situations after switching and Grant was thriving within the gaps.
Detroit was frequently using dribble penetration to get to the paint for favorable finish while being met with minimal resistance. This prompted the Mavericks to shift to a 2-3 zone-scheme to give the Pistons a different look. It worked as they Pistons were held to 22 second-quarter points.
While getting stops defensively was a challenge for the Mavericks in the opening quarter, their offense was getting the job done overall in the first half.
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Primarily Jalen Brunson took the reins of the scoring load with Luka Doncic on the bench in the second quarter. Brunson repeatedly got downhill for pull-up jumpers and finishes at the rim - resulting in 13 points within the frame.
Overall, Brunson, Doncic, and Porzingis shouldered the scoring load in the first half with a combined 45 points. Perimeter shooting was a key factor in this as well as Dallas went 9-of-22 (40.9%) from deep compared to the Pistons' clip of 5-of-13 (33.3%). Each of the Mavericks' top three scorers were key in the 12-2 run to close the second quarter.
With a 67-58 lead entering the third quarter, the Mavericks used a balanced scoring attack to maintain their advantage. Josh Richardson and Tim Hardaway Jr. each nearly matching Doncic (8 points) in the scoring column with 7 points apiece.
Grant experienced foul trouble in the later stages of the second quarter and it was almost immediately an issue once again to begin the third period. Detroit's offense sputtered against the Mavericks' zone without their top scoring option.
Dallas simply needed to maintain the 10-point lead they had established through three quarters and they did precisely that. Both teams recorded 27 points within the final frame and Detroit never came within single-digits.
Maxi Kleber took a charge during this game that forced him to take a hard fall. He was diagnosed with a lower back contusion and was ruled out from making a return. He is dealing with a 'pretty substantial bruise,' based on Carlisle's description.
On Thursday, the Mavericks - who used Dwight Powell as a starter on Wednesday - will complete the final portion of the back-to-back when they take on the Los Angeles Lakers.
“The Lakers are coming in here with (the returning-from-injury Anthony) Davis and (Andre) Drummond and a lot of good players,” said Carlisle, who knows L.A. will be without the sidelined LeBron James but still poses a stiff challenge. “So we’ll look at everything and see what’s what before (Thursday night).”