“I’M WALKIN’ ON SUNSHINE, WHOA-OH, AND DON’T IT FEEL GOOD? YEAH.”
-Katrina, Katrina and the Waves
Last night was, in the opinion of this humble writer, the most important Mavs win all season. Bar none. Yeah.
Yet I’m in a very dark place knowing that a motivated, rested Blazers team is lurking in the shadows this evening, ready to ruin everything. But let’s get to that later, eh?
The Mavs and the Suns couldn’t stop each other last night, as evidenced by the Mavs’ 53.4% shooting and the Suns’ 55.2% shooting. But the Mavs got the big plays when it mattered, weren’t shy about letting Dirk dominate in the second half, and took advantage of nearly every free throw attempt (18-20 as a team from the line). This was far from a great defensive effort by the Mavs, but as a team they showed more poise and guts down the stretch than we’ve seen from them all season. Everyone came up big, and the Mavs overcame the absence of Josh Howard to put away a desperate team with its back against the wall.
Dirk was an artist. He made all of us forget about his 4-13 first half with a monstrous second (he finished with 34 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks). He defined high post brilliance with his arsenal of shot fakes and spins, and Matt Barnes was stranded by his coach and his teammates as the Mavs milked the iso for everything it was worth. If the look was there, he took it. If the look wasn’t there, he took it. He took everything that Matt Barnes had ever held dear in his life, set it on fire, and swished the J. There are nights where a player is unstoppable, and there are nights where Dirk is something else entirely. Those are great nights to be a Mavs fan.
When the double teams finally came, Dirk dished it off to an open Kidd, who hit two consecutive threes to ice the game. Beautiful. Kidd was 4-8 from deep and really hit the boards hard, seemingly converting every long rebound into a fast break or a seamless progression into the half-court offense. Though, it should be mentioned that as good as Kidd was, he struggled defensively…again. Putting Kidd on Steve Nash was clearly not a desirable option; Jason Terry and J.J. Barea both provided better alternatives.
The Mavs went to the three-guard lineup to start the game (only with Wright instead of Terry), and it paid off. Devean George has his moments, but in general I prefer Barea’s penetration and mentality, even if he does present his own unique defensive problems and has a tendancy to overdo things. His effort in Phoenix gave me all the evidence I need, as his early point-per-minute rate eventually culminated in a 16 point night with 4 assists as garnish, and a nice scoop of +14 to top it all off. Barea agitated Nash on the defensive end by crowding him, and gave the Mavs exactly what they needed against a Suns squad that just couldn’t match their firepower.
Jason Terry was more than back, exemplifying everything that I love so much about his game. His defense wasn’t always there, but the effort was, and his performance on that end was much easier to swallow when balanced by a 25 point performance on 18 shots with just 1 turnover. He shot just 3-10 from three-point range, but he seemed damn near unguardable for a good portion of the game, and he’s gaining confidence with that injured left hand by the minute.
The Suns couldn’t guard Dirk, they couldn’t guard JET, and they couldn’t guard…Brandon Bass. Bass was active and involved in the offense, hitting his face-up looks and playing the offensive glass. If and when Bass develops a true back-to-the-basket game that doesn’t involve only taking jump shots, I will jump for joy and possibly buy a Bass jersey. In the meantime, I’ll still be really excited, hope the Mavs resign him in the offseason, and maybe still buy that jersey.
Ryan Hollins gave the Mavs an unexpected shot in the arm when Erick Dampier picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter. I expected James Singleton or Brandon Bass to try their hand at guarding Shaq, but Carlisle thought differently. Good thing, too, because the Mavs turned in a +18 performance with Hollins sprinting like a seven-foot gazelle with rocket boots down the middle of the floor, keeping the defense focused on the paint and even scoring six of his own. His defense on Shaq was far from perfect (by my count, Shaq scored six on him on rudimentary post seal moves), but he was active in denying O’Neal the ball on a night where no one else could stop him (Shaq finished 9-10, but 10 is the important number there) and made the Suns pay for not being able to keep up with him. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why Ryan Hollins can be an asset for the Mavs. He’s not as strong as Erick Dampier nor as disciplined defensively, but he gives the team a completely different dimension that they’ve never had before. Scoff at it all you like, but that’s something.
- The Suns were basically cheated out of a possession after a Maverick bucket, when the Phoenix timekeepers reset the shot clock to just 15 seconds rather than 24. Very odd.
- In the second quarter, Dirk attempted the world’s ugliest running hook shot. I appreciate the effort, big guy, but when you talked about how that shot is different in practices than in games, you weren’t kidding.
- Congrats to Shaq, who climbed to 6th on the career scoring list with a bizarre double-clutch layup on a Dampier foul.
- The Suns broadcast team made a note that Lou Amundson is the Phoenix equivalent of James Singleton. Thoughts?
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night should go to Dirk, who was all kinds of spectacular. But since he gets it pretty much every other game, I’m going to show some love to Ryan Hollins instead. Hollins keyed a stretch in the third quarter that included a 9-0 run and a 6-0 run to give Dallas the lead for good. The way he not only minimalized the loss of Erick Dampier due to foul trouble but actually capitalized was surprising in the best possible way. 6 points and 4 rebounds doesn’t exactly grab you, but this guy changed the fricking game. Mad props, yo.