Deron Williams continues to fight his way back into full form for the Dallas Mavericks after suffering a strained hamstring.
The Mavs point guard missed four games after tweaking his left hamstring on Dec. 22 against the Toronto Raptors, and his team came together and stepped up in his absence. They reeled off four straight wins, including three at home. He praised the play of the squad and his replacement in the starting lineup, J.J. Barea, while he was working his way back to health.
“It was difficult (not playing) because I want to be out there, but not as difficult because we’re 4-0. When you’re winning, everything’s good,” D-Will said. “We’re riding this hot streak right now, riding J.J. Barea. We’re playing really good basketball. It started in Brooklyn with that first half and since then we’ve been playing really solid basketball. I thought against the Warriors, it was the best we’ve looked all year offensively.”
But after pulling off a big upset of the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, giving them just their second loss of the season, the Mavs hit the road and experienced a letdown against the Miami Heat.
D-Will was eased back into action and came off the bench on the beach. He played 20 minutes, turning in a solid line of nine points and five assists. Unfortunately, the Mavs were off to a rough start. Dallas shot 21.7 percent from the field and was 0-for-7 from three-point range in the first quarter and fell behind 22-10.
In the second quarter, Deron provided a big spark for the offense. D-Will started it off dishing on a trifecta by Charlie Villanueva. No. 8 splashed two three-pointers of his own shortly thereafter, and he closed his quarter out with a pair of dimes: another to Villanueva and an alley-oop to JaVale McGee.
“I like the way he moved out there,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “There were many positive signs. You know, I thought he competed hard and got the ball in the basket a few times. And look, he’s been out 10-12 days. It can be difficult stepping back out on the court, but he did a good job. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have enough as a team to really get close enough to be there.”
Deron had six points and three assists in the second quarter, and the Mavs shot 61.9 percent, but they couldn’t stop the Heat offense. Miami shot 66.7 percent on the other end and took a 58-45 lead into the half. As Carlisle said, the Mavs just never could overcome that slow start, as Miami lead wire-to-wire in the 106-82 final.
“Well, my hamstring felt fine. The game was the concern,” Deron said. “It was just a rough shooting night. You know, we’ve had the tendency this year where after big wins we’ve kind of went out and laid an egg, and this was kind of another one of those games. We just didn’t shoot the ball well. You know, you’ve got to tip your hat to them, because they did a good job defensively. And they were hitting everything.”
The Mavs had a quick turnaround, as they returned home the following night to host the New Orleans Pelicans.
D-Will continued to work his way back against NOLA, chipping in 11 points and three assists in 21 minutes of play, but his evening was cut short. Late in the third quarter, tightness in that left hammy caused No. 8 to call it a night early.
But while on the floor, he did all he could to make sure the Mavs didn’t repeat their mistakes the night prior. Deron turned in a terrific first quarter, going 3-for-4 for nine points. He checked in midway through the frame and buried a 19-footer, followed by a tough floater on the interior. He also added a pair of points at the free throw line before canning a three-pointer that gave the Mavs a one-point lead with a minute to go in the period.
However, New Orleans star Anthony Davis responded emphatically, throwing down an alley-oop to make it 26-25, Pelicans, after one. That was more or less the theme for the night: The Mavs had their moments, but they just couldn’t stop Davis, who finished with 31 points and 14 rebounds.
Deron dished on a bucket by Dirk Nowtizki early in the second quarter. In the moments that followed, the Mavs built a six-point lead, only to see it evaporate. The Pelicans went on a 7-0 run to close the half with a 48-47 advantage.
D-Will sent out two more assists in the third quarter, but turnovers quickly became an issue for Dallas. The Mavs coughed it up seven times, resulting in 11 easy points for the Pelicans in the third. That allowed NOLA to make its run. The visitors led by 10 when Deron checked out with his sore hamstring with 1:11 to go in the third.
The Mavs made a run late, tying the game on multiple occasions in the final quarter, but they never could get over the hump and take the lead. New Orleans also did its due diligence, going 10-of-12 from the free throw line in the fourth to close out the 105-98 win.
“Last night was just a bad one all around with no energy and no shotmaking, so we just put that one away. But tonight, give a lot of credit to New Orleans,” Barea said. “You know, they played better than us and made more shots. We tried, and I think we made a run at the end. But we couldn’t get a stop there at the end.”
Still fighting some hamstring tightness, Deron is going to be somewhat cautious going forward. He’s listed as questionable for Tuesday night’s tilt with the Sacramento Kings (13-20).
Sacramento blasted the Phoenix Suns 142-119 over the weekend to end a three-game skid. The Kings are also 1-0 against the Mavs so far this season. They’ll visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, putting them on the second night of a back-to-back when they roll into Big D.
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT from the American Airlines Center.
- Mavs at Heat: Game Book (NBA, Jan. 1, 2016)
- Pelicans at Mavs: Game Book (NBA, Jan. 2, 2016)
- Game 33: Mavs at Heat (Mavs.com, Jan. 1, 2016)
- Deron Williams set to return tonight in Miami (Dallas Morning News, Jan. 1, 2016)
- Deron Williams says he’s ready to return (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Jan. 1, 2016)
- Game 34: Mavs at Pelicans (Mavs.com, Jan. 2, 2016)