“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”
The Mavs put together another complete performance, but this time around things were different. This wasn’t against the Warriors, or the Heat. This one was big, and it was against the contending Orlando Magic. I like what I saw.
Somehow, a Dallas outfit that has been miserable in guarding the three point line turned a group of “snipers” into kids with cap guns, firing blanks at every opportunity. A lot of credit goes to both Carlisle and the players themselves, who combined a solid gameplan with excellent execution. Looking to the box score, it may seem like the Mavs were absolutely grilled inside. This is entirely true. Dwight Howard awakened his inner Hakeem as he threw in hook after hook, and he finished the night with 35 and 11. But this time, Dwight’s dominance was by design. Erick Dampier has shown himself to be a capable one-on-one post defender in the past, and tonight he was given the task of derailing Howard with no help from the weak side. That not only forces Dwight to (theoretically) force up errant shots, but also keeps the ball out of the hands of Orlando’s shooters, who typically capitalize on Dwight’s ability to draw double teams. Nuh-uh. Not last night. Wing defenders were all over the place, and their efforts were bolstered by a poor shooting effort by the Magic. Even when they had open looks, the Magic shooters were hearing Maverick footsteps. Or maybe they were just cold. Whatever.
The offense just rolled and rolled, snowballing into a monster during the late 3rd and early 4th. Josh Howard was aggressive early but struggled a bit with his shot, and Jason Terry seemed a bit off the entire night. That didn’t stop Dallas from claiming a 7-point lead at halftime, largely behind the efforts of Dirk Nowitzki (29 points, 12-21 shooting). Dirk was the anchor during the tough stretches, and his work was rewarded by a supporting cast that came around and a defense that made life easier for everyone in blue (body, not trim).
Ryan Hollins actually broke a sweat tonight, playing and fouling out in 11 minutes. Some of his fouls seemed ticky-tacky to be honest, but that’s the way it goes when you’re young, and that’s the way it goes when you’re Ryan Hollins. He still put his imprint on the game though, manning the center position for a key third quarter stretch in which the Mavs went +13. Hollins and Dampier didn’t exactly shackle Dwight Howard, but they did make him work for his points one way or another. Any other night, y’know, one where he doesn’t make around 10 hook shots, and Dwight’s stat line looks a lot more palatable to Mavs fans.
Magic point guard Jameer Nelson dislocated his right shoulder while fighting with Dampier for a loose ball. I’ve loved Nelson’s play all season, and it’s a shame that this had to happen just after Nelson’s first All-Star selection. Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Jameer. Although, it should certainly be noted that the Mavs didn’t win this game because Jameer went out. It certainly didn’t help Orlando, but the Mavs had already “imposed their will” on the game by that point. He probably could’ve made a difference down the stretch, but the Mavs won this game because they played well, not because Jameer went down.
Three blips on my radar: the Mavs bench was absolutely nuts tonight, standing at all times, jumping up and down, and really showing some love for their teammates. I love it. Second, the Magic play some really strange sound effect on made shots. It sounds like that toy laser gun you had when you were growing up, mixed with the intro synth on any prominent 80s pop song. Wacky. And third, I want to give some props to the Magic broadcast team. I watch a lot of basketball and I’ve heard some pretty biased/blatantly wrong commentary, but this crew was not only fair but incredibly knowledgeable. They avoided all the classic pitfalls regarding the Mavs, and from the small sample size I’ve heard of them (around 5 games on the season), I’ve been impressed.
Oh, and one final thought: as Mavs fans, we’re not often treated to exquisite dunks. Sometimes Bass will throw down something fierce, or Dirk will dunk on the break. But tonight, we witnessed something truly special. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Dunktacular Stylings of Sir Erick of Dampier.
The Gold Star of the Night goes to Jason Kidd, who provided some offense of his own while getting Dampier and co. involved as well. Dirk really needed a boost to get this team over the hump, and Kidd skipped the shot in the arm method and instead went straight for the jugular.