“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
-George Bernard Shaw
It’s the Clippers, but it’s something. After playing three quarters of embarrassing basketball just a night prior against the Hornets, the Mavs turned things around 360 degrees. Dallas started strong, built a double-digit lead and groomed it in the second quarter, and experienced an incredible drop-off in the third before rallying to an utterly dominant finish.
What caused the Mavs’ unexpected let-down to start the second half? Well, Dallas shot 6-for-23 in the quarter, which was the only one in which they didn’t top 50% shooting. Meanwhile, the Clippers seemed to be in a constant state of free throw shooting: LA attempted 16 free throws in the third alone, which is just four short of the number that Dallas attempted in the entire game. The Clips won the turnover margin and the offensive rebounding margin for the quarter, and even though their shooting from the field wasn’t dreadfully effective either, the freebies were enough to erase the Mavs’ fourteen-point lead coming out of halftime. Oh, and who has two German thumbs and was thrown out for mumbling under his breath? This guy:
Maybe the ejection was warranted, or maybe it wasn’t. Who knows? What we do know is that for a ten-minute stretch in the third quarter, the Clippers were incredibly aggressive and the Mavs looked lost. We’ve seen this before, when Dirk’s elbow became better acquainted with Carl Landry’s mouth: when Dirk leaves the game due to abnormal circumstances, the Mavs fall apart. In that contest they pulled it together enough to rally back and force overtime, and in this one they regrouped in between the third and the fourth.
Part of that was because whoever called the initial play of the fourth for the Mavs, either Rick Carlisle or Jason Kidd, set everything ablaze with an old favorite:
It was only the beginning for Rodrigue Beaubois, who finished his 15 minutes of playing time with 10 points and three rebounds. The Mavs don’t have any better options off the bench as a situational scorer, and Beaubois continues to deliver time and time again. Does that me he can take over the back-up point responsibilities and run the team efficiently? Undecided. Most of his time in this game (and this season) has him working off the ball. Nights like these are a clear reminder that Roddy deserves playing time, but with his ability to play the point still in question, something has to give. the minutes have to come from somewhere, and what point do you sacrifice the minutes of the Mavs’ wings in favor of Beaubois?
It wasn’t an issue last night, because Dirk’s ejection gave the Mavs a prime opportunity to go small. Very, very small. When Dallas vaulted into the fourth on the strength of a 22-3 run, they were fielding a lineup of Kidd-Terry-Beaubois-Butler-Haywood. We’ve seen them run the three-guard lineup in the past with Dirk and Dampier, but shifting Butler to the four opened up a unique opportunity for minutes and, apparently, a unique opportunity to blow the top off of the building by pushing the pace.
Beaubois stole the show a bit, but it was Jason Kidd (26 points, 12 assists, six rebounds) that transformed a shaken team into a juggernaut in a matter of minutes. He had 13 points and four assists during tide-receding fourth, triggering the Mavs’ transition attack with his quick outlet passes and defensive rebounding. It was his 37th birthday, and he was a monster.
Unknowingly, the Mavs utilized a three act structure in taking down a most unspectacular foe, making what could have been a cruise control win into a carefully structured dramatic masterpiece. Overdramatic? You betcha. It’s against the Clippers, for blog’s sake. But it’s something.
- Drew Gooden (26 points, 20 rebounds) came to play. He would have had a double-double with points and offensive rebounds alone, and while he doesn’t harbor ill will towards the team for his current circumstances, don’t think for a second that he didn’t want to turn a few heads during his grand return. Gooden went 8-for-21 from the field, but made up for his poor shooting by grabbing his own offensive boards and leading the Clips’ free throw assault (10-of-10 from the line).
- Erick Dampier started in place of Brendan Haywood, though it’s still unclear whether it was to jump-start Damp or as a message to Haywood. Either way, Haywood was not only more effective, but more engaged. He finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
- Caron Butler is struggling. Really struggling. Four points and six rebounds on 2-of-9 shooting for him last night, which is the kind of stat line that had Josh Howard scapegoated all over the internet. I’m glad he had the sense to halt his attempts at single digits, but the Mavs are going to need more from Butler on offense, especially if Dirk is unexpectedly out of the lineup.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of the Mavs’ first half. Good execution and energy, which is important regardless of opponent. We’ve seen this team sleepwalk through first quarters before, and it’s a good thing to see them ready to perform from opening tip.
- Another culprit of the Mavs’ third quarter struggles: transition defense. Jump shots led to transition opportunities, which is what you get with this team. But the same transition D problem that plagued them against New Orleans reared its ugly head in the third. When the Mavs started getting back on defense and set up in the zone, the Clippers’ pace and production slowed down considerably.
- The Mavs’ third quarter implosion and fourth quarter explosion were almost instantaneous. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Dallas’ 14-point civilization was constructed, burned, and pillaged by nightfall, reimagined, and built anew by morning light.
- Dirk only played 19 minutes before his ejection, but he neared point-per-minute status with his 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting. He did a great job of creating and making his usually “difficult” shots, but Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood also did a tremendous job of freeing up Nowitzki with screens.
- Travis Outlaw still likes to take Travis Outlaw shots.