“Winning isn’t always finishing first. Sometimes winning is just finishing.”
It’s easy to start with what went wrong against the Sixers, but one thing certainly went right: with the game on the line, the Mavs got the ball into the hands of a proven killer, put him in his comfort zone on the floor, and just watched as a relentless 76ers comeback was wiped away by a gentle splash of the net. Yet again, the Mavs were in a position to demoralize their opponents, the plucky, hard-working, but outclassed Philadelphia 76ers. And yet again, they capitalized.
The fact that Jason Terry was able to create his first clutch imprint of the season is icing on the cake. A shot like that (combined with JET’s clutch pedigree) establishes and diversifies the Mavs’ options in close games, which can only be a good thing.
Also: if you’re Willie Green, do you find solace in the fact that you blanked Jason Terry to the best of your ability and contested the shot well? Or do you find depression in the realization that it wasn’t good enough?
Based on the execution in the first half, it shouldn’t have ever come down to JET. The Mavs played a half of completely balanced basketball, holding the Sixers to 33% shooting while shooting 50% themselves, keeping pace in the rebounding battle, and maintaining the edge in the turnover margin. Provided they kept playing solid basketball, the Mavs had provided themselves enough of a cushion to coast to an easy victory.
Jason Kidd (22 points, 11 assists, six rebounds, four steals, three blocks, 5 for 8 from 3-point land) was reason #1 why everything was rosy at halftime. Kidd brought the heat early and often, connecting on three of his four 3-point attempts in the first en route to a 13-point, 4-assist first quarter. If leaving Kidd open on the perimeter was a strategic decision on the part of Eddie Jordan, it came back to haunt him. That quarter (and this game) was Kidd’s most prolific scoring display of the season, and the early momentum gained from his sudden outburst was a huge factor in determining how the first half would play out. As Philly adjusted to the threat of Kidd’s offense, the passing lanes opened up for the Mavs. Dallas registered 18 assists in the first half, compared to Philadelphia’s seven.
But Terry’s soul-draining shot may have been the only thing to go according to plan in the second half. Not only did the Sixers crank up their attack in the second half, but they toed a line between assertiveness and control. On offense, Philadelphia found a rhythm, but their moves were deliberate and controlled. Every offensive sequence didn’t unfold smoothly, but the Sixers, a relatively limited offensive team, never quite seemed out of sorts in the second half. I’m not sure if their gusto was due to a rousing locker room speech or if they simply picked up on the Mavs’ vulnerability, but their performance was pretty inspired.
Effort definitely played a role, and the Sixers exposed the Mavs on the boards. For the second game in a row, the Mavs struggled to rebound, and the 60-37 rebounding deficit was every bit as bad as it sounds. Dallas managed just 12 rebounds in the entire second half, which is an unacceptable number against any opponent, much less a poor rebounding team like the Sixers. Philadelphia ranks 24th in the league in rebound rate (“the percentage of missed shots that a team rebounds”), and yet the Sixer bigs dominated Dallas on the glass. Samuel Dalembert (19 rebounds), Thaddeus Young (7), Elton Brand (10), and Jason Smith (7) combined for 43 rebounds. Erick Dampier (1), Dirk Nowitzki (6), Drew Gooden (10), and James Singleton (1) combined for just 18. It’s tough to wrap your head around, and though Damp played limited minutes in his return, it doesn’t excuse the Mavs’ overall effort in terms of rebounding.
Last night’s game was conclusive evidence of the fact that when you outwork your opponent, good things are bound to happen. That is, unless you’re a results-oriented win-loss type of guy, in which the moral of the story is that regardless of how hard you work or how much you probably deserve to win, Jason Terry will stomp repeatedly on all of your hard work. Then he’ll go home and sleep like a baby.
- As mentioned above, Erick Dampier made his return to the lineup last night. His mysterious illness is still, well, a mystery. Although his box score production was rather empty (three points, just one rebound, and one turnover), I liked what I saw from the Maverick defense with Dampier on the floor. It’s not like the Sixers have Monta Ellis, but the rim is better protected with Dampier in the game. Period.
- J.J. Barea had a hell of a game. His 11-point 6-assist night is no doubt dwarfed by Kidd’s performance, but the playmaking and outside shooting of Barea were crucial in balancing the Maverick attack. J.J.’s night turned the three guard lineup into a productive bunch once again, as the trio of Kidd-Barea-Terry were responsible for all but one bucket during a 14-3 run in the second quarter.
- Shawn Marion was moving with an obvious limp by the end of the game. That didn’t stop him from playing good defense on Andre Iguodala, but it’s something to keep in mind. Marion put together an unremarkable (14 points, 5 rebounds) but efficient (6-10 FG) offensive night, but in a game where every bucket counts, his contributions were much appreciated.
- Kris Humphries (DNP-CD), Tim Thomas (DNP-CD), Quinton Ross (back), and Josh Howard (ankle) didn’t play for the Mavs. Although the latter is a foregone conclusion at this point, it’s unclear why Hump and Tim didn’t play. James Singleton was the primary beneficiary of the shift in the rotation. Singleton has averaged 15.7 minutes per game over the last three contests, up from just 4.4 minutes in the 15 games prior.
- Iguodala got a pretty decent look to tie/win the game after Terry’s dagger…but it might have been intercepted by Samuel Dalembert. Dalembert clearly thought the shot was short, but from every angle of the shot I’ve seen (a whopping one), it looks like Iggy’s jumper had at least a chance of falling. So pat on the back for the big fella, and I hope he got a rebound (or a steal?) for that grab.
- I got through this entire recap without really giving Dirk Nowitzki (28 points, 11-26 FG, zero turnovers) his due for another big scoring night. Dirk’s excellence is just assumed at this point, which is a testament to exactly how good he’s been this season.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to, without question, Jason Kidd. Terry’s shot was huge, but Kidd’s outstanding first quarter deserves an accolade, even if it’s only a sticker. Efficient scoring and solid defense went hand-in-hand for Kidd in the first, and the results for Kidd and the Mavs were simply brilliant. Kidd’s night was beyond vintage; Jason combined his usual court vision and D with uncanny accuracy as a spot-up shooter. It was quite a night for the future Hall-of-Famer, even in the context of his long and illustrious career.