Photo from AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee via ESPN.
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
It may not come with a ring, but we’ll take it.
The Mavs took this game by the throat early and dominated it offensively, registering 60% shooting on the night and almost 44% from three. The Heat aren’t exactly the Warriors, either; Miami ranks 8th in the league in defensive efficiency. That ranking is a tad misleading given the absence of Shawn Marion, but it doesn’t change the fact that Dallas was clicking on cylinders they didn’t even know they had.
Dwyane Wade matched Dirk point for point, but the big surprise came with Devean George’s defense in the first quarter. George drew the short straw after , and was given the assignment of checking Wade early…and managed to do a damn good job with it. Wade attempted just four shots (making two), had three turnovers, and crowded Wade into a -9 point margin in his first quarter apperance, and that’s including Wright’s — let’s just say imperfect — defense. Not too shabby at all, especially in the context of Wade’s brilliance so far this season (Rick Carlisle on how to defend Wade pregame: “Hope that he misses.”) Of course Wade eventually got his on his way to 30 on the night, but he did so without catching fire; he scored well and fairly efficiently, but there was never a feeling that he was going to take the game over. I’m sure a lot of the credit for that goes to the Mavs team defense, who had obviously done their homework. The box score may be a bit misleading, considering the Mavs went with subs for almost the entire fourth quarter, but Dallas’ D on the night was pretty rad. I may even stop waking up, startled, in the middle of the night and in a cold sweat, muttering “Pick-and-roll, pick-and-roll, pick-and-roll…” as I rock back and forth, curled up in a ball. (That was one hell of a run-on.)
Erick Dampier was nice on the defensive end. Offensively, notsomuch. Par for the course with Damp, but the numbers won’t do his defensive impact justice.
Josh Howard’s shooting seems to be coming on. He “only” shot 7-13 from the field, but he was nailing his spot-up attempts and he’s definitely a better shooter from the corner than any other wing on the roster. On the other side of the court, his defense wasn’t exquisite, but it also wasn’t lacking in effort. You can take this one of two ways: cue one up for the “Josh Howard is only Josh Howard when the game is already decided” camp, or see it as a step in the right direction going forward.
I’ve always been one for nostalgia: 14 fouls against the Mavs in the first half, just 5 against Miami. The Heat shot 20 free throws in the first half, the Mavs shot just 5. This time it was a little different, though: Dwyane Wade attempted just 4 free throws.
I want to take this opportunity to gush a bit about Jason Eugene Terry. At the 7:30 mark in the second quarter, Terry dribbles around a pick at the three point line, only to see a double-team on the other side. Then, in one fluid motion, he spins around the second defender, squares up his shot, and launches a three. When the net splashes up like a droplet rippling in a puddle (as a product of a smooth dance of muscle memory and instant calculation), you know you’ve got a special shooter.
The Heat tried their hand playing a zone against the Mavs, and it left me wondering: why would you play zone against Dallas? Ever? The Mavs don’t rely on heavy penetration, and they don’t have a dominant big man. Jason Terry, Josh Howard, and Dirk Nowitzki are all good shooters from midrange and ideal “zone-busters.” Brandon Bass and Erick Dampier are both excellent at hitting the offensive glass, which is problematic for the scheme’s inherently weak defensive rebounding. Aside from changing things up for the sake of changing things up, what do opposing coaches hope to do by going zone against a team that’s already too reliant on shooting jumpers?
The Gold Star of the Night goes to, surprise, Dirk Nowitzki. 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists might be enough to get it done on some nights, but his excellence was elevated to an outrageous level by his efficiency; Dirk went 12-13 from the field (the box score reads 12-14, but Dirk insists one of those attempts was actually a ball batted by Michael Beasley) including 1-1 on threes, was perfect from the line in 5 attempts, and had 0 turnovers. Yeah.