“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
Well, I’m glad we can all go into the All-Star break without a care in the world. I’ve got a smile on my face, and nothin’ in the world is gonna get me down! I’VE GOT SUNSHIIIINE, ON A CLOUUUDY DAAAAAY…
Okay, I’m putting the plaster smile away. This one got ugly. One good half had the Mavs nursing a double-digit lead, but a complete lack of scoring on the floor when Dirk went cold turned the game on a dime. The Mavs went six minutes without a made field goal, and all the while Paul Pierce had a field day. It literally came down to Dirk vs. Pierce, but after an entire game of shouldering the bulk of the Mavericks’ offensive production, it’s perfectly understandable that fresh legs won out. That doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.
Josh Howard, Dirk’s sidekick, was enjoying the finale from the bench after picking up his sixth foul with almost four minutes left. Yes, he was 6-19. But the rest of the team was drawing nothing but iron, and if nothing else Josh gives the illusion of an offensive threat. That may have been enough to prevent a double/triple team or two down the stretch, which can go a long way in a game this tight. Dirk was passing out of doubles well and trying to assert himself against the pressure at times, but everything was in-and-out in the 4th. Howard was nowhere in sight, Kidd’s jumper was slightly reminiscent of the plot twist at the end of The Village, and Dampier and Wright were Dampier and Wright. It turns out that when the road of life without Terry isn’t paved with Beno Udrihs, things can get a little bumpy. And just a little tip from one traveler to another: having J.J. Barea switch onto Paul Pierce on the pick-and-roll is a bit of a pothole. It’s hard to keep the offense afloat when Pierce can’t even see the guy ‘guarding’ him.
What’s miserable is that a terrible fourth quarter just so happened to ruin a good stretch of basketball and a great effort from the Mavs. Josh wasn’t hitting, but his shot selection was greatly improved. Brandon Bass was threatening to rip down the rim every time he took a single step in the paint. Erick Dampier was protecting the rim. J.J. Barea and Matt Carroll were hitting their shots. Garnett was neutralized by nature of fouls and Damp for almost the entire game, and battled a brief bit of insanity in the 3rd. KG’s ‘tude was met with a knowing smile from Dirk, and more than a few whistles from the refereeing crew. Well played, sir.
Also: Rajon Rondo out-Jason Kidded Jason Kidd with 19 points, 15 rebounds, and 14 assists, and I still don’t know how anyone hopes to guard Ray Allen when he’s running around staggered screens. Is it possible? Is it even imaginable?
All in all, a pretty frustrating night. Quite a build-up for quite a disappointment. Is another fourth quarter meltdown justified with JET out of action? Probably not. There will be nights (and there have been nights) when Terry isn’t pure Drain-O, and we can’t always count on Dirk to score hang 37. If last night’s thriller was a test of the Mavs’ mental fortitude, we didn’t learn anything that we didn’t already know, or at the very least, that we didn’t deeply fear in the very back of our minds. For better or worse, these are our Mavericks, and though their recent success has inched them up the Western Conference ladder, they still have a long way to go before they’re ready to hang with the big dogs. Woof.