The up-and-down season for the Dallas Mavericks continued on Saturday night, as they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime, 100-99. The loss dropped Dallas to 15-15 on the year.
The Mavs put up a valiant effort on the second night of a back-to-back in Cleveland, especially when considering Luka Doncic, Spencer Dinwiddie, Josh Green, Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber didn’t play. Meanwhile, all of the Cavs’ regulars played on Saturday.
Despite the loss, Kemba Walker had a breakout performance in his third game played for the Mavs. The 32-year-old veteran point guard was the game’s highest scorer with 32 points on 12-25 shooting from the field. He also grabbed five rebounds, dished out seven assists and was a +7 in his 42 minutes as a starter.
With 12 seconds remaining in overtime, Walker had a chance to put the Mavs in front of the Cavs with a 16-foot mid-range jumper, but he wasn’t able to get it to fall. After Christian Wood won a jump ball against Jarrett Allen with eight seconds left, coach Jason Kidd decided not to use a timeout, and Wood’s 34-foot 3-pointer missed as time expired.
“We trust Kemba with the ball late and early,” said Kidd. “He played an incredible game for us. Hopefully, he can build on this, and we build with him being able to get him minutes with the starting group and guys that come off the bench.”
Although Walker is accepting of whatever role the Mavs want from him, he expressed his want for more playing time alongside Doncic going forward.
“I would love it. No question,” said Walker when asked about potentially playing more with Doncic. “Who doesn’t want to play with that kid? He’s special. I really just do what I’m asked. That’s what I’m here for. Fill whatever role they need me to play.”
Wood had a big game as well in what was just his second start of the season. He finished with 26 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks while being a team-high +11 in 43 minutes of action. He shot 9-18 from the field, including 5-13 from deep and 3-4 from the free-throw line. The performance has Kidd considering moving Wood into a starting role full-time going forward, especially since the Mavs are thin on frontcourt depth.
“I think all of those things are all on the board [when] talking about this group: Looking at C-Wood starting, looking at Kemba getting more minutes. … We’ll make that decision as we go, game-by-game.”
In all honesty, Wood should have probably been starting next to Doncic all season, despite his occasional lapses on the defensive end. However, Wood has improved his focus on defense in the last few games, and that could be the main reason Kidd is coming around to potentially giving him the starting job 30 games into the season.
“I think I’m just minimizing the lapses I’m having defensively, and guys are trusting to make the right rotations — and I have been,” said Wood after the Mavs’ blowout win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. “Being the low-man, especially with Maxi and [Dwight Powell] being out, [I’m trying] to be the anchor for our defense.”
Wood scored 32 points in the win over the Trail Blazers, and our guy Grant Afseth broke down that performance in depth here.
If Wood and Walker can play with same aggression we saw on Saturday night in Cleveland while also playing alongside Doncic going forward, the Mavs might be able to turn their season around and be more than just a .500 basketball team. The first chance for Kidd to make the changes he’s thinking about making will be on Monday night, as the Mavs begin a two-game mini-series on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves.