The Dallas Mavericks swung perhaps the biggest trade of the NBA season prior to today’s contest against the Detroit Pistons. Dallas sent out Dennis Smith Jr and expiring deals to the New York Knicks for Kirstaps Porzingis and some big long-term contracts.
While the trade was finalized it’ll still be days before the players suit up for their new respective teams, and that meant, combined with a Luka Doncic ankle injury, the Mavs were short handed. Really short handed. And they still almost beat this sad-sack Pistons team.
Detroit trailed most of the way but eventually clawed out a 93-89 victory in front a listless Little Caesars Arena Crowd and team owner Tom Gores. The crowd seemed to have more fun cheering for Dirk Nowitzki than anything else and Gores, as is his habit, hurled some T-shirts into the crowd.
How’d the Pistons win? A better question might be how’d they almost lose to this team. THIS TEAM. A team that was missing Smith and DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews and rookie phenom Doncic.
Oh, there are so many ways. And they all live on the wing. Stanley Johnson was 0-of-7 on the night and Bruce Brown was 0-of-3. Reggie Bullock, in his first game back after missing a couple with a sore ankle, was a sizzling 1-of-8 and Luke Kennard was 1-of-5. That is 23 shots and two makes for those scoring at home.
And Jose Calderon, again filling in for an injured Ish Smith, played 12 minutes and a minus-16 on the night.
Perhaps fitting to have all those misses on a night when Andre Drummond became the top offensive rebounder in franchise history. Drummond finished with 20 boards (six offensive) and 24 points.
Drummond was huge in the final quarter for the Pistons, when the team finally decided they might not want to lose to a G-League level team. He was 5-of-5 from the floor with four boards. Crucially, he secured a rebound off an intentional missed free-throw and was quickly fouled.
Miss both and the Mavs had almost four seconds to tie or even take the lead. Make one and the worst that could happen was Dallas could force overtime. Make both and he could ice the game. Drummond calmly knocked down both free throws.
Blake Griffin struggled with his shot on the night he was named an All-Star, but finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds. And I can only imagine just how pathetic the offense would have looked without him. Reggie Jackson wasn’t exactly exciting, but he was making competent decisions with the ball (mostly), and had 17 points and nine assists.
The Mavericks were led by Harrison Barnes with 27 points and Devin Harris, who chipped in 15. In what might be his last game against the Detroit Pistons, Nowitzki scored 7 points in 13 minutes off the bench.