The stars have aligned exactly right for Yogi Ferrell. And he knows it.
“I am living the dream right now,” the Dallas Mavericks’ newest point guard said. “I am on cloud nine right now.”
And the Mavs — forgotten by many opponents and by some of their fans — have taken up residency right next to Ferrell on cloud nine.
With some surprisingly unforeseen help from Ferrell, the Mavs upended the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers 104-97 on Monday before a boisterous sellout crowd of 20,202 at American Airlines Center. That came just one day after the Mavs went to San Antonio and stunned the highly regarded Spurs 105-101.
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The spark in both of those games came from Ferrell, a pint-sized 6-foot playmaker overlooked by every team in last summer’s NBA Draft — some teams passed over him twice.
But Ferrell didn’t flinch. He played 10 games with the Brooklyn Nets and did some time in the National Basketball Association Development League with the Long Island Nets before signing a 10-day contract with the Mavs this past Saturday.
And even that came with a bit of drama.
“When I got the call from my agent I was about to play a D-League game that night,” Ferrell said after contributing 19 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists in 38 minutes against the stunned Cavs. “About five or six hours before, my agent called me and said the Mavericks are going to sign you to a 10-day.
“They flew me right to Dallas immediately.”
And the rest has been nothing short of stunning.
The Mavs got Ferrell up to speed on their playbook early Saturday morning, when through some walk-trough drills, had a shoot-around Sunday morning in San Antonio, and the Mavs shockingly put him in the starting lineup against a Spurs team that has the second-best record in the entire NBA.
Ferrell responded with nine points and seven assists in 36 minutes against the Spurs. He also nailed a pair of free throws with 7.3 seconds remaining which iced the game for the Mavs.
Fast-forward 24 hours later, and Ferrell zigged and zagged his way through the Cavs’ defense with so much eloquence, as was as if he’s been with this program the entire season.
“He’s on pace to have one of the greatest 10 days of all-time,” said Harrison Barnes, who finished with 24 points and a season-high 11 rebounds. “He’s just playing with so much heart, and offensively and defensively, he’s had some tough matchups, but he’s brought it every single night and the guys’ giving us a chance.”
Ferrell even stood his ground with Cavs All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, who collected 18 points on only 7-of-21 shooting, and also had five rebounds, five assists and six turnovers.
“He’s very persistent (and) played good defense,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s a guy that has the energy to pick up full (court) and chase a guy like Irving around.
“We gave him very specific instructions about how to try to make it hard on him and he really followed everything to a tee. He just made it tough on him.”
Irving hooked Ferrell and was charged with an offensive foul midway through the fourth quarter. On the ensuing trip up the floor, Seth Curry 916 points) poured in a 3-pointer to pad the Dallas cushion to 97-83.
With the Cavs bearing down and trying to save face, Ferrell drained a 3-pointer to increase the Mavs’ lead to 100-85. Form there, Ferrell forced another Cleveland turnover and then dazzled the crowd when he pranced to the basket and perfectly negotiated a left-handed scoop shot which provided the Mavs with a comfortable 102-85 lead with 3:53 remaining in the game.
Meanwhile, this is the first time LeBron James has lost to the Mavs since the 2011 NBA Finals when he was still playing for the Miami Heat, That record was a perfect 11-0 for James – until the blemish the Mavs tagged him with on Monday.
James finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, and also turned the ball over five times.
“Nobody can guard LeBron James,” Carlisle said. “You look at his career and what he’s accomplished.
“And the teams he’s been on the last six years are all Finals teams, it’s amazing. He’s had such an unbelievable impact.”
After a slow start to this season due mainly to key injuries, the Mavs are 9-9 since Christmas. And the defending NBA champion Cavs – they’re also 9-9 since Christmas.
Ferrell, meanwhile, explained how he had to transition from preparing for a D-League opponent on Friday night to preparing for the Spurs on Sunday to preparing for the Cavs on Monday.
“I got here (Friday) night and had to prep for the game next night in San Antonio,” he said. “I had to flip mindsets quickly and I feel like coach Carlisle and the guys on the team have been preparing me well.
“I get the confidence from those guys to go out there, and when that happens the sky is the limit.”