“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
Though it may not bode well for your blood pressure or the items being thrown at your television set, the Mavs are definitely making things interesting. We’re just seven games into the season and they’ve already found just about every possible way to win. They shot the lights out against Toronto, they put up a fine, combined offensive/defensive effort against Los Angeles, Dirk had an impressive one-man show against Utah, and finally, they overcame the 17-point handicap the Mavs gave the Rockets in the first half last night.
That first quarter was brutal. Aaron Brooks and Luis Scola combined for 24 points on 9 of 11 shooting, and the Rockets were picking apart the Mavs’ D with timely offensive boards and sharp interior passing. Say what you will about the talent level of this Houston team, but they’re smart players with good instincts, and their basketball savvy was more than evident during the opening quarter surge. It took a few minutes for them to get into rhythm, but once Brooks started triggering the fast break, the Mavs looked done. Dallas was caught in a bit of a dilemma: hitting the offensive boards would likely translate to more possessions against an undersized Houston squad, but doing so would allow Brooks to jog, skip, or crab walk his way to a free fast break layup. It’s a tough call, and the Mavs clearly deliberated between both options in the first half, before somehow opting to do both in the second.
Something just clicked. After a 10-4 second quarter run, the Rockets managed just one other run of note: a quick 5-0 burst in the fourth, when the game had more or less been decided. The Mavs, on the other hand, rode their momentum going into halftime, and haven’t bothered to disembark since. They rattled off the following runs without answer from the Rockets: 12-3, 10-1, 8-0, 12-4, 8-3. That’s how days are won and dreams are made, kids.
The defense was just as impressive after the internal trigger. The Rockets shot just 11 for 36 in the second half, as virtually every offensive threat was neutralized. Aaron Brooks’ speed was negated by Kidd’s defense, which guided Brooks directly into the help D. Trevor Ariza (9 points, 3-10 FG, 5 rebounds) was completely bottled by Shawn Marion. Luis Scola, Carl Landry, and David Andersen were cut off from smooth interior feeds, instead being forced to take long jumpers or create for themselves by backing down the Mavs’ interior defenders. Dallas was suddenly able to both secure offensive rebounds and halt Houston’s fast break opportunities, leaving the Rox in a bit of a rut.
Jason Terry (24 points, 7-8 FG, 1-1 3FG, 9-9 FT, 3 assists) was absolutely brilliant. He looked and played like a man with a mission, as JET clearly had redemption on the line in his own personal game against the ghost of free throws past. You can’t ask for a better scoring night off the bench.
Erick Dampier deserves a paragraph all to himself, but I’m getting there. Just wait.
- The Mavs showed no hesitation in using the three guard lineup down the stretch in the fourth. Jason Kidd, J.J. Barea, and Jason Terry were all on the floor when this one was carefully put away, giving Josh Howard plenty of time to rest that bum ankle.
- Erick Dampier. Seriously.
- Though the three guard look dealt the final blows against the Rockets, it’s worth noting that the starters did most of the heavy lifting for the Mavs. They were responsible for the 22-3 run bridging the second and third quarters…y’know, the run that completely flipped the game on its head.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to, without question, Erick Dampier. JET was spectacular, Kidd was patient, Marion was aggressive, and Dirk was Dirk, but you absolutely cannot argue with the force of nature formerly known as Ericka. He was an absolute monster (14 points, 20 rebounds, 3 blocks, 6-6 FG, 2-2 FT), and made his presence felt with all the contract year might he could muster. Honestly, I don’t care what Damp’s motivations are. If he’s playing for a new deal, that’s just awesome. If he’s having some sort of mid-life crisis, that’s awesome, too. But as long as Damp keeps rockin’ the rim, setting huge picks, and altering the game with defense and rebounding, I have absolutely no objections.