On a special night when the franchise was poised to honor Dirk Nowitzki after the game by retiring his No. 41 jersey, the Mavericks made a statement against the Golden State Warriors.
And they did not do it with their offense, but with their defense.
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They held the league’s best Warriors, who averaged 111.3 points per game, to just 82 points, which is their lowest point count of the season.
Part of the visitors’ offensive struggles was Stephen Curry’s second consecutive night off. After scoring just nine points (3-17 field goals; 1-10 triples) against the Heat on Monday, the two-time former league MVP scored 14 on Wednesday night on 5 of 24 field goals, including 1 of 9 from beyond the arch.
While this might seem like a unique game when it comes to defending the Mavericks. However, that is not the case.
The Warriors were limited to just 39 points in the first half, their lowest scoring second half of the season.
The Mavericks are tied for the league lead (3 times – BOS, MEM) by keeping their opponents below 40 points in the first half. pic.twitter.com/p4FCEca9ov
– Mavs PR (@MavsPR) January 6, 2023
This is Dallas’ fifth game in a row to restrict its opponents to less than 100 points, and the 3rd in a row to keep opponents below 90.
At the end of games Wednesday night, the Mavericks’ defensive rating is tied for sixth-best in the league and ranks best during this initial stretch of January.
Some credit for the team’s improvement on that end of the court could and should go to new head coach Jason Kidd, especially considering the team’s performance on defense over the past two seasons.
|Off. Rating (range)||Def. Rating (range)|
|2021-22||109.0 (17th)||107.3 (tied 6th)|
|2020-21||114.6 (eighth)||112.3 (21º)|
|2019-20||115.9 (1st)||111.2 (eighteenth)|
This level of defense is not a form the Mavericks have found recently.
Divisions indicate that Dallas was showing this defensive intensity early on this season, it was improving every month at that end of the court: October (103.7, 11), November (111.7, 25), December (108.1, 5th) and January (90.5, 1 °).
The challenge for the Mavericks going forward would be to maintain this level of defense with Luka Doncic on the court. During his best defensive month (December), the young Slovenian missed 11 of his 15 games, while in November, his worst defensive month this season, he played 10 of his 13 games.
With him on the court, his defensive rating is 109.2 while, without him, it goes up to 104.1. Now his last two wins (Denver, Golden State), which were great defensive efforts, came with Doncic in the lineup.
The Mavericks hope this small sample size is a sign of things to come.