Dallas, TX — The All-Star starters were recently announced and there has been a buzz about a couple Mavericks players participating in either the dunk or three-point shooting contest. Prior to the game, both teams’ respective head coaches, Coach Carlisle for Dallas and Coach Casey for Detroit, were bombarded on questions regarding coaches votes for reserves for the All Star game.
It seemed if all the focus had already shifted to all-star break instead of the upcoming battle between the Pistons and Mavericks. It was as if everyone forgot about there being a game inside the American Airlines Center.
However, there was one player who didn’t forget about the game: Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin. He played 40 minutes and was a force that could not be stopped as he finished with 35 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. But, his efforts alone weren’t enough as his team lost, 106-101.
Griffin wasn’t the only player on the court whose opponent was trying to contain, though. Coach Casey mentioned before the game the importance of the Pistons, specifically Andre Drummond, keeping DeAndre Jordan in check. Drummond and company did, in fact, contain him, yet he still finished with a double-double with 13 points, 11 rebounds. On the flip side, Drummond also had a solid game with 15 rebounds, 23 points.
Dallas tried to slow down Griffin with the substitution of Maxi Kleber who was able to play him physical. Yet, his physicality wasn’t the only advantage the Mavericks had with him in the game. Kleber’s speed against a bigger player in Griffin paid off for Dallas as he quickly beat Griffin to the spot to draw a charge which changed the momentum in favor of the Mavericks.
Kleber also kept the crowd engaged and the momentum with Dallas by his defense (four crucial blocks) as well as the excitement that came with each of his four triples.
“The two blocked shots he had down the stretch were enormous plays in the scope of the game,” expressed Coach Carlisle on Kleber’s play Friday night. “If he doesn’t make those two blocks, it is probably a one-point game going back and forth those last two minutes instead of getting a five to seven point cushion. He was terrific and his shot making in the first half got us going and got the crowd into it…”
In addition to Kleber’s stellar performance, rookie sensation Luka Doncic scored 32 points against a physically robust Pistons defense. He nearly had another triple double as he also had eight assists and eight rebounds.
Feeding off of defensive energy, it was Doncic’s step back jump-shot with 1:19 left in the fourth quarter and two important free throws that helped close out a 106-101 victory.
Unfortunately for Detroit, it dropped another close game and Coach Casey expressed his frustrations after the game.
“It doesn’t feel good, first of all. Let me clarify that. It doesn’t feel good at all… One thing again, it’s what the tenth game [we’ve lost] five points or less? I thought we played well if you take away the second quarter – our bench was 4-for-21 [tonight], and they have been food to us all year. But they let us down a little bit as far [as] the shooting and scoring.”
With a win over the Pistons, the Dallas Mavericks are now 22-26. Now that the season is past the halfway point and the depth of the West as a conference, the Mavs will need to fire on all cylinders to secure a playoff spot. They will be tested when they host the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night but they should take several key notes on tonight’s win for when they face the Pistons on the road on Jan. 31.