You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- The story of this game begins and ends with Dirk Nowitzki (14-21 FG, 40 points, six rebounds, 29 minutes), as is so often the case. It’s a rare treat to watch Dirk play an offensive game so full of efficiency, production, and unheeded will. Dirk was at his best throughout Saturday night’s matchup with the Jazz, taking advantage of poor defense and open opportunities to sink jumpers at his discretion. Dirk’s signature, elusive mid-range jumper made a welcome return back to its typical successful form, and a myriad of Jazz defenders were unable to hinder Dirk’s rhythm and improved lift. Quite simply, it’s fantastic to watch him play such a unique, terrific brand of basketball. Following four consecutive losses, a Mavericks’ victory and Dirk’s return to superstar output certainly felt important to righting the proverbial franchise ship with the Western Conference playoff race reaching a frantic pace.
- In his first game back with the Mavericks, Lamar Odom (3-5 FG, nine points, five rebounds, three assists, 18 minutes) displayed both an impressive amount of energy and skill. Odom has been faced with considerable struggles this season, both on and off the court, and it was nice to see a positive crowd reaction to Odom’s strong play on Saturday night.
- I was initially puzzled by Rick Carlisle’s decision to insert Vince Carter (3-8 FG, nine points, four assists) back into the starting lineup for Rodrigue Beaubois (1-4 FG, three points, two assists). Carlisle’s comments after the game indicated he was looking to keep Beaubois’ minutes to a low after he logged 31 minutes yesterday against the Hornets. It’s a reasonable concern, given the busy upcoming schedule for the Mavericks, and Carlisle has consistently managed lineups and minutes effectively throughout his coaching career. Still, it’s an odd decision after such a stellar game from Beaubois only one night before, and a clear display of Carlisle’s willingness to constantly tinker with the starting lineup. However, Beaubois did little to invalidate Carlisle’s decision, as the attacking, effective style Beaubois utilized so impressively Friday night was replaced with a more passive and jumper-filled regimen, resulting in a generally underwhelming performance.
- The defensive strengths of Brendan Haywood remain intriguing. Haywood seems to struggle with lateral, instantly moving centers, as evidenced by Brook Lopez’s recent dismantling of Haywood during a 38-point scoring output, but he seems to shine against shooting, gradually moving centers, as evidenced by tonight’s strong effort against Al Jefferson (4-12 FG, 11 points). It’s a logical separation, as Haywood isn’t exactly fleet of foot and doesn’t possess great reactive ability, but it’s still interesting to intake the dichotomy of Haywood’s matchup-reliant failure and success, within only a few brief nights.
- A Mavericks’ victory appeared in hand when the Mavericks surged to a 22-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but a series of turnovers and stalled offensive movement allowed the Jazz a brief comeback attempt. Dirk Nowitzki was forced to return along with the Mavericks’ primary unit, and the Jazz comeback was eventually quelled behind Dirk’s ten points in the final five minutes.
- Jason Terry (8-15 FG, 22 points) had a confident, natural bounce back game. Terry remains, and will remain, the Mavericks’ second most important player. The Mavericks’ defense has been impressively strong this season, but the scoring output of the team has become a significant issue. As a result, Terry is even more essential to the Mavericks’ continued success.