After bouncing back from a two-game skid against he Minnesota Timberwolves, the Dallas Mavericks – who were without superstar Luka Doncic due to rest – hoped to sweep the season series against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night with a big weekend of basketball on the horizon.
Although things got off to a shaky start, the Mavs steadied the ship in the second half, as they went on to beat the young Rockets, 110-91. It was the first time Dallas swept a season series against Houston since the 2010-11 season.
The Mavs moved to 45-28, the Rockets to 18-55.
Spencer Dinwiddie drives on Christian Wood.
Jalen Brunson shredded the Houston defense on Wednesday.
Luka Doncic got a night off to rest his ankle as the Mavs handled business.
With Doncic taking a night to rest up, Spencer Dinwiddie made his seventh start for the Mavs and didn't disappoint. Despite having a quiet second half – mainly due to Houston double-teaming him every time down the floor – Dinwiddie finished with 26 points and six assists while shooting 8-of-13 from the field and 4-of-6 from deep. He scored 19 of his points in the first half alone. Dinwiddie continues to be a vital piece for the Mavs with or without Doncic on the floor, and that bodes well for Dallas in postseason play.
“That is a credit to the coaching staff and the team," said Dinwiddie of how he's been able to fit in seamlessly with the Mavs. "They are just telling me what they need from me pretty clearly. The team wants me to be aggressive and make plays for everyone. It is a collective effort from their end.
"My time could have been as good as they wanted it to be or as bad, being the new guy. But they welcomed me with open arms, and I appreciate that.”
Jalen Brunson was the other half of the Mavs' two-headed backcourt monster on Wednesday, finishing with 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line. After the Rockets made the halftime adjustment to focus more on stopping Dinwiddie, Brunson exploded for 16 points in the third quarter alone. Brunson also tallied four rebounds and three assists.
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Despite some worrying about how the addition of Dinwiddie would affect Brunson, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, the two have meshed together well in a short period of time.
“I think me and Spencer have been comfortable since he has gotten here," said Brunson. "There hasn’t really been any friction or anything. It has been fun. It kind of just flows ever since he was inserted into the lineup. It is relieving when you have someone else who can create the way he can create for himself and others. It is a credit to him for being a great teammate. For coming in here and just wanting to win.
The Mavs were pleasantly surprised to get even more excellent guard play from Frank Ntilikina, who finished with 13 points off the bench and played great defense from start to finish. Ntilikina shot an efficient 6-of-10 from the field and dished out four assists as well. Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell joined Brunson and Dinwiddie as Mavs starters to score in double-figures with 14 and 13 points respectively.
The Mavs won big on Jason Kidd's 49th birthday.
Dwight Powell attempts a layup on Alperen Sengun.
The Mavs' chemistry continues to grow as the playoffs near.
Next up, the Mavs will matchup with the Wolves one more time on Friday night in Minnesota. Dallas leads the season series 2-1, and a win on Friday would all but guarantee that the Mavs will avoid the Play-In tournament. The Wolves lost to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, putting them 3.5 behind the Mavs in the Western Conference standings.
After that, Dallas will return home to take on the Utah Jazz for one final regular season head-to-head game on Sunday. The Mavs are currently tied with Jazz in the West standings with just nine games to go thanks to the Boston Celtics defeating Utah on Wednesday. A lot can happen in nine games, but things are starting to look favorable for the Mavs with the playoffs right around the corner.
"Yeah, we'll take it. Maybe I need a birthday more often," joked coach Jason Kidd, who celebrated his 49th birthday on Wednesday. "But no, again, we're not scoreboard watching too early. We've got to take care of ourselves and if we do that, we're going to accomplish one goal and that's to make it to the playoffs. We can't dictate who we are going to play. We have to worry about ourselves."