PJ Washington with a typical homecoming at Dallas. A native to north Dallas, PJ Washington always plays well in front of friends and family, doing damage as a combo forward, something the Mavs have historically had trouble defending.
The Hornets eventually ran out of gas, sans LaMelo Ball. They had a tight game against Indiana on the road Saturday night, so this was a tough back to back even with gaining an hour of sleep. Shots fell short, and they shot 57% from the free throw line.
Nick Richards killed the Mavs, yet again. His role as a finisher is the Mavs’ weak spot, given how well he times stepping into the paint and his good touch at the rim.
Jaden Hardy had a big game, including a poster dunk. With a spot-up 3 and two and-1 drives, Hardy played a key part in trimming the Hornets lead in the late third quarter & early fourth quarter.
Grant Williams continues to be a saving grace for the Mavs. His shooting has started out extraordinarily hot (currently shooting 59% on catch & shoot 3s as of Monday morning), and he plays sound defense while consistently making the right play. His numbers will regress to the mean, but there’s a strong chance that someone else on the team normalizes their numbers positively while this eventual slip happens. Another outcome is that the defense corrects itself during his eventual dry spell.
It wasn’t an efficient shooting game for Josh Green, but he still had an impact from passing, finding open jump shots for teammates. His defense left a lot to be desired, getting burned from sagging off slightly too much, as well as being the victim to several LaMelo Ball & PJ Washington made shots.
Dereck Lively II had a masterful game, despite some defensive shortcomings including the great games by Mark Williams & Nick Richards (although their great games were not Lively’s shortcomings). Lively’s ability to thrive in the P&R as well as put in maximum effort for rebounds while controlling the rim (something he still needs to and will get better at) made a big difference. Yet again, his passing near the rim is advanced for a rookie.
Dwight Powell continues to thrive in his backup role early on, giving hard contests to negate defensive shortcomings, as well as getting to the line and converting for free throws. Kyrie Irving found good chemistry with Powell, allowing for some crafty finishes at the rim. I still want to see more of Powell returning to a shooter in a minimal role again, a la 2019 before his Achilles injury.
Kyrie Irving had a phenomenal game too, getting to his spots easily while also creating well for others with a 10:2 assist:turnover ratio. He found holes in the Hornets defense and quickly acted on those holes, which helped keep the offense flowing.
Unfortunately this was another game in which Luka Doncic slowed his effort on defense, having teammates and coaches yelling at him to get back on defense caught on the broadcast. Still, Doncic’s offense was strong, often using his change of speed to toy with Hornets defenders.
Brandon Miller had a good defensive night. He played a bit passively on some drives, putting his arms out and defending with his chest into the slasher, which allowed for offensive players to get what they wanted more easily, but his contests on jumpers were strong. Miller’s defensive upside remains high as it did in the pre-draft process.