Former University of Kentucky star Nerlens Noel had to wait an extra game for his first start in Dallas because he was late to the plane for his first road trip.
The rangy center-forward made a pretty strong case when he finally did join the starting five after coming over from Philadelphia in a trade at the deadline.
Noel tied a career high with 17 rebounds while scoring 15 points, Seth Curry stayed on a roll since the All-Star break with 24 points and the Mavericks beat the Memphis Grizzlies 104-100 on Friday night.
“This is the most comfortable I’ve felt since I’ve been here,” said Noel, who came off the bench against the Hawks after Coach Rick Carlisle said he had planned to start him. “I really wanted to give a strong go in my first start. … It’s a lot in Coach’s playbook. It’s a whole different scheme defensively, new play calls. I’m taking it all in, trying to be patient but it’s hard when you want to be successful so fast.”
Carlisle was pleased with Noel’s performance.
“He did a good job, very active,” Carlisle said. “It’s very difficult to outrebound this team and when you got a guy getting 17, that’s a big part of that. He did a very good job.”
The Mavericks held on despite going scoreless for more than five minutes in the last half of the fourth quarter. The drought ended when Dirk Nowitzki made a free throw after Memphis Coach David Fizdale was called for a technical with Dallas leading 94-90 with 46 seconds left.
Mike Conley scored 30 points for the Grizzlies, and Zach Randolph had 24 points and 10 rebounds. Marc Gasol scored 13, but was just 6 of 18 from the field.
“The feeling’s frustration right now because we’re trying to find consistency,” Conley said. “You feel like you’re working, you’re doing the things in practice and you do it one game, but the next game, for whatever reason, there’s no energy.”
Noel almost had his second double-double of the season by halftime with 13 points and nine boards. His other double-double was with the 76ers. He also had two blocks, including one on a dunk attempt by Gasol.
Harrison Barnes had 18 points on just 6-of-15 shooting and Yogi Ferrell scored 17 as all five starters were in double figures for the Mavericks, who flirted with a franchise low in points in an 80-64 loss in their other meeting with Memphis in November.
Dallas was without Nowitzki and three key guards because of injuries in the earlier loss to the Grizzlies. Curry started that game and was just 4 of 14 from the field as the Mavericks nearly had the worst shooting night in franchise history at 29 percent.
The Mavericks have since moved on without starting point guard Deron Williams, committing to Ferrell after adding the rookie on a 10-day contract while Curry gets more comfortable as one of the catalysts for the offense.
Curry was 8 of 15 from the field and scored at least 20 points for the fourth time in five games since the break, and Ferrell was 6 of 12 with another guard out as Dallas shot 48 percent. Wesley Matthews missed his second game with a hip injury.