J.J. Barea and the Comeback Companions Fall Short

Were it not for what happened in the third quarter against the Wizards on Saturday night, what happened in the fourth quarter would have been pretty impressive. Led by an improbable 13-point outburst from J.J. Barea, the Mavs mounted an almost heroic comeback in a final period that saw them score 39 points on 12-for-21 from the field. The problem? One quarter before that, it was the Wizards who scored 39, and they shot a ridiculous 16-for-23 in the process.

For Mavericks fans, the third quarter was the very definition of a basketball nightmare. Running an offense the opposition had no answer for, Washington went completely nuts and started knocking down every shot they took. Worse still, many of them were open looks, indicating a defensive breakdown of sorts, but not many teams get as hot as the Wizards did no matter how open they are. Otto Porter was particularly ruthless, scoring 17 points in the quarter and missing just one shot. He would go on to post a career-high 28 points, while John Wall pitched in 26 points and an incredible 16 assists. Quite simply, Washington had themselves quite a bit of fun on Saturday night, and they’re probably a little sad the season series with the Mavericks is over. Just think: they did all this without the services of Bradley Beal, one of the better scoring shooting guards in the game.

As for Dallas, that fourth quarter made things look close, but it was a pretty disappointing effort all in all. After struggling to accept Raymond Felton‘s presence in the early stages of this season, I’ve concluded with complete certainty that I actually don’t mind him a bit in the facilitator role. Filling in for the sick Deron Williams, Felton was fantastic, ending up with a triple-double that consisted of 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. As a pure point guard, I have zero issues with Felton, but he isn’t better than Williams, and when both players get extended minutes, it means Felton is being used as a shooting guard. By the numbers, the best lineup the Mavs run out features Felton and Williams, so I shouldn’t complain, but I simply don’t like it. Thankfully Rick Carlilse has never tried a lineup that featured Williams, Felton, and Barea, because then that would put one of them at the small forward position — hilarious.

Felton’s nice performance aside, Barea also had an encouraging effort, scoring 21 points and somehow hitting five of his six attempted three-pointers. The damage has already been done with J.J. though; after watching him miss shot after shot all season, I still cringe every time he puts one up, and I don’t think he can repair the damage he’s done to our relationship at this point. Wesley Matthews was arguably more important to the offense than either of the former two, however, as he scored 28 points and drained another six threes, giving him 16 in the two games against the Wizards. These were the bright spots. The rest was much harder to watch.

Alarmingly, Dirk Nowitzki just hasn’t looked right the last two games, and that lofty field goal percentage from earlier in the season is starting to come down. He got only nine shots on Saturday, and for once that small number was probably a blessing, because he only hit three of them. It’s not a stretch to say that the team’s performance is largely going to mirror Dirk’s, and right now neither party is faring well. This loss is the second in a row for Dallas, and it makes them just 4-7 since that impressive 9-4 start. They’ll need a win against the Suns on Monday to right the ship, and that’s far from a given, although Phoenix has recently suffered through two separate four-game losing streaks.

With the Mavericks looking a little stale at times, many fans are curious to see if some of the players who rarely see the court might inject some new life into the team, and I definitely count myself as a member of that group. Carlisle appears to have little interest in turning to the guys at the back of his bench barring injuries or the need to rest someone, so that means players like John Jenkins and Justin Anderson don’t get a chance to show what they can do. Anderson is a rookie and he’s made some pretty bad decisions at times when he’s on the court, but consider me bullish on his future. Judging by how he plays in the D-League, I know he could make an impact if he were given the minutes to do so.

This is a veteran team coached by a man who likes playing veterans though, so I guess we’re stuck with what he have. The playing time allotment is unlikely to change if the team stays competitive, and because I really want to experience the thrill of a playoff appearance, I’ll have to be content with seeing the same old-ass players out there all year, even if it does cost JaVale McGee that MVP award.

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