Mavericks win first game minus Rondo vs. T-Wolves
On Monday night at American Airlines Center, the Dallas Mavericks played their first game without starting point guard Rajon Rondo, who is slated to miss at least the next three games with an orbital fracture in his left eye and a nasal fracture.
And in a game the Mavericks (33-17) led by as many as 21 in the first half, in the end Dallas had to stave off a furious late counterpunch from the Minnesota Timberwolves before eventually prevailing 100-94.
J.J. Barea started in Rondo's place at the point and delivered a strong performance, finishing with 10 points, eight assists, four rebounds and one turnover in 29 minutes.
Barea scored six of his 10 in the fourth quarter, including two huge buckets late that gave the Mavs some breathing room after Minnesota had gotten as close as two at 96-94 when the T-Wolves' Mo Williams, who lives in Dallas during the offseason, hit two free throws with 1:52 remaining,
But Barea would score the final four points of the game to seal the win for Dallas. His first bucket came on a driving lay-up with 52.9 seconds remaining which put the Mavs ahead 98-94. Barea then hit both free throws after being fouled by Minnesota center Nikola Pekovic with 17.1 seconds remaining to pretty much clinch the win for the home team.
Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle lauded Barea for his solid performance, singling out those two crucial plays he made down the stretch for being an integral part of the victory.
"They were huge plays because we were struggling to score and they (the T-Wolves) were hitting us with some buckets at the other end. The play along the left baseline was huge because I think it went from two to four, put some pressure on them and we got them to miss. And there was another play I think where he made a play to (Tyson) Chandler which was a big one too," Carlisle said.
At that time, Barea was Carlisle's only viable option at the point, especially after Devin Harris, who had seven points in around 24 minutes, left the game early in the fourth quarter with an apparent leg injury.
Carlisle couldn't say whether Harris' injury was an ankle or something else, but hoped it wasn't serious, especially with the Mavs' point guard ranks currently thin due to Rondo's injury.
"( I saw) nothing other than what I saw is the guy fell on his leg and it looked like he got kind of twisted around, so we'll get it checked out and we'll see," Carlisle said of Harris. "Hopefully it's not bad."
Carlisle did play Dallas' third option at the point, Raymond Felton, for 5:10 in the second quarter. Felton scored three points, had one assist and one rebound during his short time on the floor, but the Mavs head coach did not play him the rest of the game.
"I thought Felton did well when he was in there, just decided not to go back with him in the second half, but I thought he did some positive things in the first half," Carlisle said.
The Mavs were led by Monta Ellis, who paced all scorers with 23 points while Chandler Parsons had 18 and Dirk Nowitzki 16 for Dallas, who will hit the road later in the week for road games at the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday and the Sacramento Kings on Friday.
Dallas also got a nice showing off the bench from Al-Farouq Aminu, who delivered his latest in a recent string of solid performances, finishing with nine points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.
Aminu's recent uptick in form continues to make Carlisle proud.
"He's been playing well. He's a defender and an activity guy and a guy that's shooting better all the time and he runs and finishes, so he's doing a little bit of everything," Carlisle said of Aminu.
But it's not just Aminu's defense that has impressed Carlisle, he also likes the high energy which Aminu brings off the bench, something his teammates clearly feed off of.
"Well, he's one of our best rebounders pound for pound, so that's really important and that's what's getting him on the floor first and then you know he's playing a good all-around game of basketball. His energy is important," Carlisle said. "He's another one of those guys on our team that the guys get behind. They pull for him and they really like the way he works every day and all that. He's really emerged as one of our important guys."