The Dallas Mavericks are no longer the juggernaut they looked to be for a spell earlier in the season. And that declarative statement holds true even when they are at full strength. On Saturday, when they were facing off against the Brooklyn Nets, the Mavericks were not at full strength, having been robbed of the services of two of their key players; neither Tyson Chandler (hip injury) nor Chandler Parsons (sprained ankle) were available due to the different afflictions that had struck them down. Not forced to take on the Mavericks at their best, the Nets benefited from their opponent's depleted roster and did not waste the opportunity that presented itself to them, using the unfortunate injury luck of the Mavericks to their advantage. In a game that the Nets definitely needed in order to arrest their further descent into mediocrity, the Nets were able to pull off the 104-94 victory over the weakened Mavericks.
As has been the case infrequently for the Nets this season, Saturday's contest represented both a doubling down in the way they play and also stark departure from their previous outings, one that propelled the Nets to a win. Once again on full display was the Nets' penchant for pouring a disproportionate amount of their offensive efficiency into one quarter. In the third quarter, the Nets were able to tap into all of their unlocked basketball potential, and it was a quarter that set them up for future success because for once, they were able to back it up with enough competent play in the other quarters so that their spectacular efforts in the third period were not nullified.
The third quarter saw the Nets knock down an array of shots -- the team combined to go 14-of-26 from the field, including five three-pointers, and added two free throws -- as they totaled 35 points in their highest-scoring quarter of the game by a wide margin. Their high-octane third-quarter offense turned what had been a four-point deficit at the start of the quarter into a 10-point lead at the end. Quite simply, the Mavericks could not keep pace with the Nets when the Nets were at their most potent on offense.
Those familiar with the Nets will no doubt recognize what came next for the club. After scoring with a staggering regularity in the third quarter, the Nets regressed to the mean in all their infuriatingly inconsistent offensive glory once the fourth quarter commenced. But unlike in the past where their plummeting offensive efficiency has cost them dearly, in the fourth quarter, the Nets were able to hold on to just enough of a semblance of a working offense. Their clinging to their lead was middling basketball at its most lackluster, but they still managed to do so to a favorable end.
Getting a chance to exorcise their late-game demons, the Nets made sure that the advantage never slipped from their grasp, no matter how sparingly they were able to do score; of course, the Nets were helped greatly in the fourth quarter by their own defensive efforts that limited to the Mavericks to an equally awful offensive performance. In the fourth quarter, the Nets were no longer the efficient machine that had earned them their advantage in the first place, but with seven different players scoring clutch points over the final 12 minutes of action, the Nets were able to fend off the Mavericks' admittedly feeble comeback attempts.
After battling their own ineptitude, the Mavericks would eventually whittle the Nets' lead to five points with 2:36 remaining in the game, but the new and improved late-game version of the Nets would refuse to allow the Mavericks to get any closer. Following the Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki's three-point play that made it a 97-92 score in the Nets' favor, the Nets would score the next four points of the contest to give themselves a comfortable nine-point advantage with just 53 seconds remaining, one they were able to preserve with no problem as time ran out.
In securing the victory, the Nets adopted an all-hands-on-deck approach that resulted in the team getting significant and efficient contributions from multiple sources. Five different Nets players reached double figures, and none did it in a more impressive fashion than Deron Williams, who scored a game-high 25 points and did it all while only attempting 14 shots from the field and four free throws; Williams was especially deadly accurate in the third quarter as he was responsible for 12 of the Nets' 35 points during that period. Williams has not always lived up to his outsized reputation and has been in a steady decline since first donning a Nets uniform, but on Saturday, he looked like the legitimate star he was in his prime.
While their past performances indicate the Nets are unlikely to be able to replicate this particular winning formula to a satisfying degree in the future, at least Saturday's victory will keep them in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.