“Too late is tomorrow’s life; live for today.”
First of all, I apologize for just how late/non-existent everything has been around here this week. My spring break has been excellent, but visiting family and friends back home leaves me barely enough time to watch the games, much less keep up with these duties. Everything should be back to normal on Monday. Better than that, actually, as I’m hoping to develop a more regular schedule for recaps/grapevine/previews/etc. Thanks for bearing with me in the meantime.
Despite the fact that the Mavs won by a small margin to an inferior team yet again, this was a quality win. It’s easy to look at the Pacers and the final differential and deem it a moral loss, but that wouldn’t be doing justice to everything that went right in this game. The Mavs won on the road without Erick Dampier and Josh Howard. They won with a colder-than-ice shooting performance from Dirk Nowitzki in the 2nd half. And they won without Jason Terry or anyone else turning in a truly superhuman performance. Instead, the Mavs won with guts and resolve alone. The Pacers continued to have prayer (Jarrett Jack’s three to beat the shot clock) after prayer (Danny Granger’s bank-in jumper while double teamed at the shot clock buzzer) after prayer (T.J. Ford’s unlikely fadeaway three pointer with Wright in his face) answered, and the Mavs always had an answer. And get this: their answer wasn’t always on the offensive end. How about that?
Is it a terrific honor to play good defense against the Pacers, a team that plays forgettable, uninspired defense themselves and lacks a truly potent offensive? No. But, for these Mavs, any strong defensive performance is more significant, if for no other reason than you don’t know if it’s a trend or an aberration. Are the Mavs a bad defensive team that turns in a few good-to-great defensive games? Or are they a good defensive team that still fights through confusion and effort issues 70 (now 71) games into the season? One of those seems to be the more conclusive, and certainly supported more fully by game data, but anecdotally it could go either way.
Jason Kidd had one of those games that makes you thankful he’s a Maverick. He controlled the second half; he first jump-started the Mavs’ second-half offense by rebounding and igniting the fast break, and he followed up his own success by being ominpresent and omnipotent in the most crucial stretches of the fourth quarter. A steal there, a deflection there, a rushed short or pass everywhere. He guarded everyone from Jarrett Jack to Danny Granger, and he really wreaked havoc out there. Antoine Wright will rightfully claim most of the credit for limiting Granger, but no conversation of the Mavs’ defense would be complete without mention of Kidd’s exploits.
Jason Terry was effective but not overwhelming, scoring 17 points on 6-13 shooting to go with 4 assists and 3 steals. He actually started the game in place of J.J. Barea in place of Josh Howard, proof that after the loss to Atlanta the Mavs meant business. It was a perfectly understandable move by Carlisle; Barea had hit double-digits in scoring just once in his six starts, and though his playmaking has generally been fine, a starting shooting guard probably shouldn’t be shooting around 38% from the field in his starts. J.J.’s response was 7 points and 6 assists on 50% shooting, and, most importantly, 0 turnovers. Singleton (who had a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards) and Bass did their part in providing energy off the bench. It wasn’t always beautiful, but their efforts were commendable.
Gerald Green made an appearance early in the 2nd quarter, and immediately hit a baseline jumper and converted an alley-oop layup. But it wasn’t all quite that easy, and it never really is with Green; he missed his next three attempts and still looks homeless at times in the Mavs’ sets going both ways. Though, in his defense, the lineup he was put on the floor with (Kidd, Barea, Bass, and Singleton) is hardly the Mavs’ most potent offensively, and everyone seemed to be looking to get the ball to Green. I wasn’t displeased with his shot selection, but the results were less than spectacular.
Dirk’s poor shooting was as much a product of an ill-timed cold streak as it was the Pacers’ D. Brandon Rush and Danny Granger refused to surrender an inch when guarding him, Troy Murphy refused to bite on Dirk’s pump fakes, and Jeff Foster gave him a lot of trouble by stripping the ball at the waist. But that didn’t stop him from making two of the biggets shots of the game in the last minute and a half, including this one:
Incredible. Kudos to Jason Terry as well, for hitting a huge three with under a minute remaining that should have been the dagger. I don’t know what supernatural force T.J. Ford was in contact with or what he bartered in exchange for that make, but that is some sort of intervention, divine or otherwise.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Jason Kidd. 10 points (3-8 FG, 2-3 3FG), 9 rebounds, and 5 assists hardly makes me scream from the rooftops, but the way in which he converted most of those rebounds into immediate offensive sequences kept the Mavs in this thing and helped them build a small lead in the third. In a game that was eventually won by 2 points, I’m thankful for all the little things he did.