Mavericks fans can breathe a sigh of relief after watching their team run away with a narrow 103-101 victory over the injury-hit Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday night in Dallas. The player of the game is Reggie Bullock, who saved his best when the team needed him most. Bullock hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, allowing the Mavericks to beat the Clippers and avoid what could have been a catastrophic loss for a team desperate to get back on track.
Appetizers started hot and set the tone early. Luka Doncic has been working his way up the paint and has continued to give Ivica Zubak the blues. Flames from deeps Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Feeney Smith let the Mavericks go into halftime with a 54-32 lead.
Then came the third quarter. The Clippers managed to create open look after open look as the Mavericks struggled to get the ball to the basket. The seat outside Christian Wood was terrible. Tim Hardaway Jr. finished the game with zero points thanks to a 0-for-7 night from the field. Maxi Kleber played hot potato in his 10 minutes and absolutely refused to kick the ball. Josh Green finished 0 of 1 from the field in 14 minutes but still managed to fill out the three activity rings on his Apple Watch. Against most teams, that kind of performance off the bench just wouldn’t get done and if it weren’t for Pollock, it would have cost the Mavericks this game.
Stats might tell a different story, but no team in the NBA seems to have given up as many double figures in such a short time as the Dallas Mavericks. Last season, they relied on their defense to keep them going in games where they struggled to get the ball going. This season, long shooting slumps have proven disastrous. This puts an enormous burden on Luca and makes players like Christian Wood and Spencer Dinwiddie invaluable. Without the safety net that provides a solid defense, it’s impossible to know how a team will behave night into night. Losses to magicians and wizards are not aberrations. Instead, they are evidence of how sluggish a team’s defense is.
Vinnie Smith and Bullock are back!
Dorian Feeney-Smith broke the 20-point mark in Season 1 and he couldn’t have come at a better time. Often seen as the weakest shooter on the team, Vinnie Smith was able to make defenses pay more during the 2021-22 season. This year, however, has been a bit of a struggle. At 32% depth, he was shooting well below his career averages and a step back from last year. Hopefully, we’ll see some positive pullback and start seeing more shows like Tonight’s Shows as the season progresses. Vinnie Smith hit a career-high seven 3-pointers against the Clippers.
Now, it’s time to address the elephant in the room. Bullock hit a three-point shot. I repeat, Reggie Bullock hit a 3-point shot. This is not a maneuver. In fact, he hit four of them during the fourth quarter and the Maf desperately needed every single one during a thrilling finish. While Bullock’s shooting struggles have been the topic of conversation for most of the season, few will find all of his struggles surprising. He had a similar start to the season last year and has shooting splits over his career that can be awful to start seasons off. He usually starts shooting best in December and then takes off to the races from January.
Because of this, no one was expecting this kind of performance tonight. He was scoreless for the first three quarters but succeeded when the team needed him most. As relieved as Mavericks fans are, no one was happier to see those shots come down than Bullock himself. If the Mavericks coaching staff can somehow convince him that we’re in January, we might start to see more of the player he was during the second half of last season and into the playoffs.
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