“Out of need springs desire, and out of desire springs the energy and the will to win.”
For the first 46 minutes, the Mavs were executing brilliantly on offense and, well, letting the Bucks execute brilliantly on offense as well. Dirk Nowitzki (28 points on 25 shots, eight rebounds, five assists) and Jason Terry (21 points, 8-15 FG, 4-6 3FG, four assists) made beautiful music together throughout, and their play was clearly reminiscent of the simpler times of ’08-’09. But despite the throwback quality of Terry’s shooting, the Maverick offense was anything but the isolation-heavy sets of a year ago; the Mavs notched an impressive 31 assists on 41 field goals.
But the Bucks kept pace. Though the Mavs were able to build a slight lead and reap the benefits of some breathing room, there was never any clear separation. Blame Andrew Bogut, who missed just one of his 14 attempts from the field en route to a 32-point, nine-rebound performance. Or blame the exceedingly slippery Carlos Delfino (22 points, 4-5 3FG, six rebounds, five assists) who somehow seemed to be the open man on any particular offensive set.
The Bucks shot very well from the field, and based on the Mavs’ inability to stop Bogut down low or get a man to stick with Delfino, a win would require just making one more basket than Milwaukee. Or, literally, making a few more baskets and coasting on offense to a one-point victory. In the final two minutes, the Mavs didn’t score a single point. In a rare display of mortality, Dirk turned the ball over with the game on the line. Compound that turnover with the two Maverick misses in the final few, and a game of impressive offense suddenly boils down to a few defensive possessions. On most nights, no problem. But given what Bogut and Delfino were able to accomplish against the Mavs’ D — not to mention the potential impact of a guy like Brandon Jennings — the fact that Dallas escaped with a win seems an improbability. Milwaukee had just scored six straight, all but erasing Dallas’ seven-point lead and bringing the game to a “do or die” sequence with 27 seconds remaining.
Dirk Nowitzki definitely didn’t “do,” as Luc Richard Mbah a Moute channeled him into help defense and the subsequent turnover. But the Mavs found a way to avoid that unenviable demise by doing just enough to ensure a victory. Their last defensive sequence isn’t quite worthy of gilding for display in the halls of the AAC, but in the game’s final three seconds, the Mavs bothered Carlos Delfino just enough to survive.
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s two back-to-back impressive offensive displays from the Mavs. Does not compute.
- Erick Dampier (two points, 11 rebounds, a block, a turnover) played despite sitting out Sunday with his left knee injury. It wasn’t pretty. He was a non-factor on offense, and wasn’t anywhere near his usual defensive impact. Bogut had a field day against Damp (and for that matter, Drew Gooden, and anyone else who tried to guard him) with a few notable exceptions: late in the game, when the Bucks desperately needed points, Damp bodied up Bogut, forced him out of the lane, and prevented him from even taking a shot. It doesn’t quite make up for the fact that the Aussie was putting on a hook shot clinic, but the defensive accomplishments in this game were purely relative.
- Rodrigue Beaubois (eight points, 3-6 FG, 2-2 3FG, two rebounds, two assists) continues to impress, though he was again moved off the ball upon Jason Kidd’s return. But oddly enough, the Mavs were startlingly effective fielding a lineup of J.J. Barea at the point and Beaubois at shooting guard. It’s an interesting look if the Mavs are in need of a short-term shakeup, as the speed of that backcourt could be absolutely brutal against some slower guards.
- Josh Howard (13 points, 4-7 FG, three rebounds) was a bit nondescript, but did make a bit of an impact by driving to the basket. It really is that simple with Josh; if he stops taking bad shots and looks to get to the rim rather than throw up contested jumpers, it will not only help the team but open up the rest of his game. Josh’s jumpshot was always predicated on his ability to drive, and when you take away that foundation, he’s too easy to defend.
- Roddy made a 25-footer without any hesitation, but his long shot was completely upstaged by Carlos Delfino’s. On a busted offensive set with 27 seconds left and the Bucks down four, Delfino nailed a 31-footer with the shot clock on his back.
- The natural chemistry between Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings is a little strange and totally excellent.
- Jason Terry’s impact cannot be overstated. He really may be all the difference between middling offensive efficiency and a top ten mark, which is all the more reason to be optimistic about times like this. Terry has only really looked like himself in a handfull of games all season, and last night’s contest was definitely one of them.
- Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is one of the best defenders in the league. Not just in defending Dirk, but overall. The only shame is that at this point, he’s a bit of an offensive liability. Mbah a Moute really just needs one offensive move — a steady mid-range jumper, the corner three, SOMETHING — to make him impossible to take off the floor. The fact that this guy made it all the way to the second round is a travesty.
- Shawn Marion (12 points, 5-8 FG, five rebounds) is much improved as a finisher. Chalk it up to familiarity with Jason Kidd’s passing or simply Marion settling in, but he’s worlds more effective offensively than he was to start the season.
- This play was huge.
- Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points while shooting a decent percentage. In other news, the world continues to turn.
THE GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Jason Terry. Dirk faced a lot of double coverage early and had to grapple with Mbah a Moute late, so it was up to JET to carry the offense for stretches. He certainly answered, putting up nine points in the fourth frame and hopefully securing his position as the starting 2. The Mavs start and finish better with JET in the lineup, and until Howard can figure things out (and maybe even beyond then), the job should be Terry’s to lose.