Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images.
“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.”
Well…did you see that one coming?
You could attribute the Mavs’ biggest (and, well, only) win of the young season to a variety of factors. The first, and in my mind this is almost undeniable, was some favorable refereeing. I hate to play this card and hate even more to have it leave the preview, but the Mavs caught a break or seven last night.
Now, that, in and of itself, wouldn’t have even come close to securing a Mavs’ victory. The more telling display was the aftermath of those…interesting calls. The reigning champs completely unraveled when the balls and calls weren’t bouncing their way, and barking at officials soon became the Lakers’ transition defense of choice. It’s entirely too early in the season to start diagnosing teams, but if I’m a Lakers’ fan, that worries me. There are going to be tough games and there are going to be impossibly tough games, even for the premier squads in the league. You’d like to know that Kobe, Lamar, Ron, and Bynum can keep their heads on straight when the going gets tough. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. And more than anything, that lack of composure is what derailed any chance of a late Lakers comeback.
That, and, oh I don’t know, a completely dominant stretch run by Shawn Marion. In just over two fourth-quarter minutes, Marion alone went on a 8-3 run. As Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea found Marion for an array of runners down the middle of the lane, the Lakers turned the ball over three times and managed just one shot attempt. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve naturally assumed that Jason and Shawn had been long-time teammates, especially when considering that their offensive chemistry elevated them to first offensive option status down the stretch. For a team that has long relied on the dark two man game arts of Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki, that level of confidence and offensive consistency is a godsend. To have it come from Marion, who has been a Maverick for all of a few months, is even more so.
That’s the difference between the two teams who stayed pretty close for an entire half. Whenever the Lakers needed to dig in and find something on offense, their very visible frustration prevented them from operating at their usual level. Whenever the tides turned against the Mavericks, they either held strong on defense or responded with timely offense. The Mavs played far from a perfect game, but it’s nice to see a bit of resourcefulness translate to a huge victory when Dirk and JET couldn’t quite find the bottom of the basket.
Speaking of Dirk, he had a bit of an interesting night. Though his final numbers aren’t awful (21 points, 10 rebounds), his shot clearly isn’t in regular season shape. Dirk warned us that he may start slow, and he’s done just that, shooting just .385 from the field over his first two games. That’s shocking for a super-efficient star like Dirk, who hasn’t shot worse than .459 since his rookie year. But there’s no reason for alarm; it’s no more than a temporary slump, a slight delay in Dirk’s true arrival for the regular season. Plus, with Dirk totaling 55 points over those two affairs (and 24 FTAs!), there’s no real sense of urgency.
In theory, Kobe Bryant should have completely eclipsed the Mavs during Nowitzki’s time in the shadow. But for whatever reason, Bryant disappeared during the game’s crucial third quarter. Kobe went 1 for 6 in the frame, with a whopping zero assist, despite playing all twelve minutes. The Mavs’ defensive efforts in that quarter were a huge reason why Kobe Bryant was sufficiently shackled to just 20 points (6-19 FG), which just so happens to be Kobe’s lowest scoring output against Dallas since 2003. (For the record, Kobe missed all five of his shot attempts while being guarded by Shawn Marion).
- Kris Humphries (8 points, 7 rebounds) had a productive 20 minutes off the bench. That’s exactly what the Mavs need from him until Drew Gooden (2 points, 0-4 FG, 1 turnover) figures out how to be a Maverick. J.J. Barea also continues to impress, and he continue to put pressure on the defense with 12 points (3-7 FG) and 2 assists.
- There was an interesting exchange to end the first half, where Humphries appeared to be talking of big game to Kobe Bryant. I fully expected Hump to talk a big game out of Kobe Bryant, but it may have actually added to the frustration that turned out to be Bryant and the Lakers’ downfall.
- Two games in, the Mavs are making a considerable effort to get the ball inside and to the free throw line. I know it’s been a theoretical point of emphasis for just about every Mavs squad passed, but for 96 minutes it’s been put into practice. If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what will.
- Jason Terry isn’t taking any of the point guard minutes, but he’s playing like more of a point guard. His shot also has yet to show up for the regular season, but JET is moving the ball as deliberately and effectively as he ever has during his time with the Mavs.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Shawn Marion, for essentially ushering the Mavs into the W column. Shawn’s combination of interior offense and lockdown defense meant all the difference in the fourth quarter, when the Lakers attempted some semblance of a last ditch effort.