To say that last night’s game has me drowning in ambivalence would be an understatement. Wins just don’t get more bittersweet.
The call with the Mavs has been to play defense when it matters, and they did just that. Down the stretch, the team came up with big stop after big stop to not only come back from 12 down, but to keep the Thunder at bay. Credit that to Carlisle’s unabashed use of the zone, which turned OKC’s lineup of non-shooters into turnover machines. Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green picked up the slack in a big way, but their work wasn’t easy. Are Westbrook and Green elite scorers? Not exactly, but when players get hot (or in this case, aggressive in their efforts to get to the line), the general measures of defensive success are bent ever so slightly. I’m not thrilled that Westbrook scored 14 or that Green scored 7 in overtime, but I’m definitely pleased with the significant ruckus the Mavs’ defense was able to raise.
That’s not to say that the defensive effort was complete. There’s a distinct reason that the Thunder turned a 5 point deficit into a 12 point lead, and it’s not solely because the Maverick offense went cold. The Thunder should have no business taking the Mavs to task on the offensive end without Kevin Durant, even with a parade to the charity stripe.
There are games where Jason Kidd’s lack of scoring is a significant deadweight. This was not one of those games. Kidd was far from an offensive dynamo in terms of his scoring output, but I’m not at all displeased with what he did for the Mavs’ offense. When the double-teams tried to curtail Dirk (who finished with 41 and was the Clutchotron 5000), Kidd was the principal influence on the Mavs ability to move the ball to the open man (either directly or through the ‘hockey assist’). He came up big with two huge threes and went 4/4 on some crucial free throws (imagine that!). Ballin’.
But where were Josh Howard and Antoine Wright? Two of the crucial cogs in the post-Terrian Dallas attack? They were there. That’s about it. Howard was plagued by foul trouble and bothered by Thabo Sefolosha. His recent uptick in defensive activity was counterbalanced by a few extra whistles. In spite of all that, Howard was +19 for the game, good for best on the team. Wright on the other hand, was out of the game for the entirety of the fourth and overtime. He wasn’t hitting his shots, but Wright wasn’t exactly terrible; his drop-off can be largely attributed to a Maverick surge behind Kidd and Barea in the backcourt.
James Singleton is a monster. That is all.
Dirk scores 41, but the offense was hardly a well-oiled machine. The Mavs defense gets stops late, but allows the Durant-less Thunder to push them to the limit. The Mavs went off on a 16-0 run to avoid disaster, but still nearly blew it against an inferior team missing their best player. Hey, if they gave us definitive answers and consistent play, they just wouldn’t be the Mavs.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to none other than Dirk Nowitzki. 41 points (16-30) is always tasty, but Dirk did a great job of shooting and deferring at all the right moments for all the right reasons. Welcome back, Dirk.