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Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings is the clear Rookie of the Year frontrunner early in the season, but Dallas' Rodrigue Beaubois got the better of the matchup Monday night.
That's not clear from the box score of the depleted Dallas Mavericks' dramatic overtime win at the Bradley Center. Jennings (25 points, eight assists, seven rebounds) had better numbers than Mavs guard Rodrigue Beaubois (12 points, two rebounds, one assist).
But Beaubois, a rookie who has seized an opportunity opened by Josh Howard's return to full-time ankle rehab work, came up big when challenged to defend Jennings with the game on the line.
Jennings, fresh off a 55-point performance, put the Bucks on his back in the fourth quarter. With Beaubois watching from the bench, Jennings abused J.J. Barea for 13 points in the quarter.
Jennings' groove ended suddenly when Mavs coach Rick Carlisle inserted Beaubois into the lineup for the overtime period. Jennings' only points in the extra frame came on a pair of free throws with 4:26 remaining. Beaubois prevented Jennings from getting a good look with the score tied and three seconds remaining, forcing a missed 3-pointer and allowing Dirk Nowitzki to put up an 18-foot turnaround at the buzzer to beat the Bucks.
Beaubois is one of a handful of players in the league who can match Jennings' quickness. That, along with his 6-10 wingspan, made the Mavs believe that Beaubois could develop into a lockdown defender. We got a glimpse of that against Jennings, who had only one field goal in Beaubois' 24 minutes, a transition 3-pointer in the first quarter. The Mavs outscored the Bucks by 13 with Beaubois on the floor.
The Mavs needed outstanding performances to pull off this win. Start with their only two healthy starters: Nowitzki (32 points, 11 rebounds) and Jason Kidd (nine points, 10 rebounds, 17 assists). Drew Gooden had his second consecutive double-double (22 points, 14 rebounds) with Erick Dampier out ill. Jason Terry kept the Mavs alive during Jennings' flurry, scoring 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter.
Those are all experienced players the Mavs expected to perform well this season. Contributions from Beaubois were considered somewhat of a bonus. But the French kid keeps indicating that he's ready for a significant role.
There's been a lot of talk about all the teams that should regret letting Jennings fall to the 10th pick in the draft. Folks will soon start buzzing about how big of a steal Beaubois was 15 spots later.