“Things do not change; we change.”
-Henry David Thoreau
How much do you read into a solid offensive performance against the worst defensive team in the league? Hopefully not too much. The Mavs did nasty things to the Kings’ defense all night, and didn’t even buy them a drink. But just because we shouldn’t go hog wild with a win like this doesn’t mean we can’t find a few things to be proud of and a few things to take away from this one.
This win starts with the rebounding. If you hadn’t guessed, Sacramento isn’t what you would call a “good rebounding team” — they rank 29th in the league in rebounding rate. Dampier just killed it on the glass, taking advantage of Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes, and everyone on the Sacramento frontline. The rest of the team did their part too, to the tune of a 47-28 rebounding edge. I like. Half of being a good team is beating the teams that you should, and likewise, half of being a good player is schooling the players that can’t match you in size, strength, or skill. Hawes and Thompson are good players, but they don’t have the muscle to fight down low with a bear like Damp.
The Mavs offense didn’t miss a beat in JET’s absence. Antoine Wright, who usually averages 5.5 shot attempts and 1.2 free throw attempts, shot 14 times and went 6-6 from the line. He attacked the basket, he made his open jumpers, and he generally played like he wasn’t Antoine Wright. If this new offensively gifted, awesome, sexier Antoine is here to stay, life after Terry is going to be a breeze…or we can stop living on Fantasy Island and assume that Wright’s 23 points came from a solid effort, a great all-around game, a weak defense, and a bit of good fortune. Big ups for Wright’s night, but I’m not penciling him in for 20 points a game. Josh Howard upped the ante as well, finally filling up the box score (23 points on 14 shots, 1-1 on threes, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, one steal, and one block) in the way we’ve come to expect. Howard, Wright, and J.J. Barea’s production (10 points, 5-7 shooting with no turnovers) gave the Mavs plenty of breathing room in the second half. Dirk didn’t even have to go bonkers for the Mavs to get rolling, and personally, I don’t mind seeing a few wins with merely mortal performances from Nowitzki, no matter the opponent. Watching Dirk have one of “those nights” brings a special kind of joy to my heart, but having those 40+ point performances as a crutch can’t be good for the team’s long-term offensive stability.
Rick Carlisle got his first extended in-game look at Matt Carroll, but Carroll wasn’t all that effective in his 18 minutes. His 4 points on 2-4 shooting were meh, but the far more damning number was Carroll’s -17 point impact on the Mavs while he was in the game. If Carroll’s shooting mojo doesn’t find its way back home soon, I’m starting up the official FREE GERALD GREEN movement.
How good was the Dallas offense in this one? I’ve gone this far without even mentioning Jason Kidd, who was great in his own right. Kidd posted up on Beno Udrih, caused a lot of problems with his ability to get into the lane, and of course created for Howard, Wright, and the like both in the halfcourt and on the break. In the spirit of Kidd doing wonders for this team and still going relatively unnoticed, I’d hate to break with tradition and suddenly shower him with praise. So good job, champ; let’s move on.
Things weren’t all smiley last night, though. The defense, especially in the first quarter, was pretty awful. Kevin Martin and John Salmons had the basketball equivalent of a Turkish Delight in the first quarter, partaking in all sorts of delicious treats that were handed to them by the Mavs on a silver platter. Carlisle managed to screw everybody’s heads on straight with an early timeout, but the idea that we didn’t even come to play against the Kings isn’t a comforting one. Still, it should be mentioned that the game never felt out of control. I never got the impression that the Kings were really going to run away and win this thing. The third quarter turned out to be a dominant performance for the Mavs, keyed by a 20-6 run and a defense that handcuffed Sacramento into shooting 20% from the field. There was little room for doubt thereafter.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Antoine Wright. 8-14 FG, 1-3 threes, 6-6 free throws for 23 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 steals. Wright gets a lot of tough love around here, but he had a helluva game. Kudos to you, sir.