“Y’all just mad. Because today, you suckers got served.”
-David, You Got Served
They most certainly did.
It’s a refreshing feeling to be on this end of a savage beatdown. I don’t have to explain away an embarassment, or throw a breakdown under the microscope. I think I like it.
The Mavs could have allowed the Suns to create a bit too much significance out of the final five games of the season. Hell, they could have at least let Phoenix make a game out this singular contest, dubbed by Grant Hill as the team’s ‘World Cup.’ But for whatever reason, the Mavs weren’t in a generous mood. They stabbed the Suns right in the heart, twisted it, and twisted it some more. This wasn’t a demonstration of killer instinct, but rather, a will to annihilate. It wasn’t just a destruction of the Suns’ playoff chances, it was a complete eradication of hope and confidence. Behold, ladies and gentlemen, the puddle of disappointment that lays where the mighty Suns once stood. The Mavs didn’t start Phoenix’s downfall, but they have likely dealt the finishing blow and inked the death certificate.
The Mavs’ weapon of choice in the duel between man and turnstyle was the three-pointer. The Mavs shot a ridiculous 15-25 from three (compared to the Suns’ 6-21). It was a product of a hotter-than-hot shooting night from three, but also spectacular shot selection and a complete failure on the Suns’ part to put a hand in anybody’s face. Dallas wasn’t particularly great in their contests defensively, but Phoenix certainly helped their cause with an off-night (the Suns’ starters shot a combined 1-8 from deep). This isn’t exactly the type of scoring output we can expect night-in and night-out from the Mavs. They just don’t have that kind of shooting consistency from beyond the arc. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it, and giggle with delight whenever a Maverick moneyball rips through the net.
One of the reasons why the Mavs suddenly displayed unbelieveable shooting efficiency was Jason Kidd, who had already notched 16 assists by halftime. Kidd’s court sense was uncanny; he was finding shooters all over the court and opening things up for easy baskets inside. On top of that, this game was perhaps the first on the season that Kidd’s post-up game was completely dominant. Steve Nash and Leandro Barbosa didn’t stand a chance against Kidd backing them down in the lane, and on four straight offensive possesssions in the first quarter, Kidd created ten points (two buckets of his own, two threes on dishes to Terry in the corner). The Suns’ inability to counter Kidd’s work in the post caused them to shift to a zone, which cleared the skies for the long-range attack. Kidd was brilliant, and his offensive significance in this game cannot be understated. 19 points (6-8 FG), 20 assists, just 2 turnovers, +29 overall. Cue applause.
Shaquille O’Neal is supposed to be the Suns’ safety net. When the shots stop falling, Shaq is supposed to allow them to pound it inside and carry the load on his back. That he was not on Sunday. 14 points (6-9 FG) and 7 rebounds isn’t a bad night by any means, but it was certainly a forgettable one that was miserably timed. Erick Dampier, Ryan Hollins, and Brandon Bass fought valiantly in the paint, both to secure position and deny Shaq shots altogether. Shaq could have been a huge thorn in the Mavs’ side, and could have severely damaged the Mavs’ lead. Instead, Dallas ran him off the floor, made him a defensive liability, and limited his offensive impact. Allowing 116 points rarely seems like defensive success, but the Mavs’ ability to make Shaq a non-factor is definitely a self-standing victory.
Dirk was creeping around, quietly dealing body blows to the Suns all game long to the tune of 28 points (on 10 of 12 shooting!) in just 29 minutes. His midrange work was impeccable as always, but he had great movement off the ball as well, and finished well around the basket. Offensive games don’t get much better from Dirk, and yet most of the viewing audience was none the wiser.
It’s worth noting that J.J. Barea got the start over Antoine Wright at shooting guard, and did not disappoint. Having another ball handler on the floor during the game’s crucial early stretches (a hot start against the Suns can do wonders for a team’s confidence going into the final three quarters) helped tremendously, and J.J.’s aggressiveness offensively was incredibly valuable. Barea’s partner in crime, Brandon Bass,was tremendous. He had 18 points, 4 rebounds, and was +29 on a night where most of his minutes came lined up against Shaq. He was trying to tear down the rim as usual, and Shaq looked lost as Bass whizzed by him and slammed down alley-oops behind him.
Honestly, I could go down the roster and single out almost every Maverick for praise. Josh Howard had another nice offensive night, with 24 points and 4 rebounds, but was equally instrumental defensively. Jason Terry seemed automatic on his way to 18 points, including 4-6 on 3FG. James Singleton, Ryan Hollins, Antoine Wright, and Erick Dampier all gave tremendous effort and impacted the game in their usual ways, only with exaggerated results. From top to bottom, the Suns got creamed.
Sometimes it’s easier to just go by the numbers:
- 81 points in one half of basketball. 140 points total.
- Lowest quarter output: a measly 26.
- 68.8% eFG.
- 82 points scored on 34 team assists, and 48 points off of Kidd’s 20 assists.
Sunday was a good day. Playoffs, here we come.
Oh, and this:
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to, surprise, surprise, Jason Kidd. He put on his shorts one leg at a time, and then dominated everyone who guarded him, spearheaded the Mavs’ offense, put up epic numbers, and overtook Magic for the 3rd spot among all-time assist leaders. Well done, sir.