“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
-William Arthur Ward
It was only a win over the lowly Timberwolves, who boast a .280 win percentage. It was only a victory in a game that was assumed as such. It was only a blowout in what deserved to be one, against a team that was missing two of their best players.
But boy did that feel good.
Back-to-back losses of the heartbreaking (Denver) and soul-crushing (Cleveland) varieties made an otherwise pedestrian win all the more delicious. There’s no reason the Mavs should have lost last night’s game, and they didn’t. They showed up, blew the Wolves out of the water, refused to concede their substantial lead, and finished the game with ease. That’s exactly the kind of win the Mavs need at this point in the season and their closing schedule. Wins aren’t just wins, but exercises in execution and boosts in the ever-important confidence level in a team that will surely be a playoff underdog.
The Mavs’ offense was white-hot, and for once wasn’t completely reliant on jumpshots. Almost every Mav was getting into the paint at ease, and Jason Kidd using laser-guided passing to cutters and players with good post position surely didn’t hurt. Essentially, the Mavs did everything right offensively. Want Dirk and JET to bust out of their mini-slumps? Boom, 44 combined points on 20-34 shooting. Think the Mavs need to get more easy baskets? Pow, 55% shooting overall, including a plethora of looks right around the rim. Tired of seeing a lethargic Josh Howard? Well golly gee, he was active on both ends on his way to 14 points (6-12 FG) and 6 rebounds in just 22 minutes. Rest for the weary? Kidd, Dirk, and Terry got to take catnaps on the bench, and finished a combined 15 minutes under their season averages.
Oddly enough, the Mavs only attempted 11 free throws despite a renewed commitment to get into the paint. Chalk it up to a Timberwolves defense that often wasn’t even in a position to foul, a Maverick team resolved to get good looks inside, and the mentality of a team staring down a significant deficit.
James Singleton (11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks), J.J. Barea (9 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds), and Brandon Bass (8 points, 4 rebounds) went out and did their jobs. Some of that came in garbage time, and some of it came in what basically amounted to third quarter garbage time, but their solid contributions made everything that much easier. There’s nothing wrong with going with the flow, succeeding without pushing the issue, and allowing the starters their aforementioned rest.
Kevin Love gave the Mavs some trouble, but how can you really complain when his shots and Mike Miller’s were practically the only ones falling? The Mavs could have done a better job on those two, but it’s always hard to maintain defensive intensity when nursing a lead hovering around 20. Both are talented offensive players, and I’m not going to beat the Mavs up about it. You hold a team to 39.8% shooting and win by 20, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.
It’s hard to pinpoint specifics that could really help the Mavs going into the postseason, but a win like this is best appreciated in a general sense. So chalk up the V, give the guys a round of applause, and get pumped for tonight’s game against Miami.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Josh Howard. Via Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: “‘A world of difference,’ said James Singleton. ‘He brings so much to the table, it’s like a different team.’”
He only played 22 minutes, and only seemed limited in terms of his timing and conditioning. I noticed him grabbing his shorts a bit. But it’s great to have him back, and 14 points on 50% shooting is a smooth first game back. Glad to have you back (again), Josh.