You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- Hopefully we can all look back at this game as the moment when everything turned around for Lamar Odom. The man donned a headband and everything changed; within seconds of coming into the game, Odom drove into the paint to set up Vince Carter with an open three, then made a huge block on the other end. A few possessions later, he forced the issue in semi-transition to create an open driving lane. This simply wasn’t the Odom we’ve sadly grown accustomed to watching this season (or that some have been accustomed to booing). He sprinted. He dunked. He defended. He was an excellent drive-and-kick shot creator. He was Lamar Odom, and in his best 23 minutes of the season, he reminded us all just how constructive of a force he can be.
- Luis Scola was a mad man in the first half; he dropped 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting in almost 18 first-half minutes, and seemed to thrive regardless of whether his shots were contested or not. But in the second half, the Mavericks were more diligent in their defense, and the Rockets backed off a bit; Houston was understandably ready to go to Scola on possession after possession in the first half, but Ian Mahinmi seemed to make it his particular goal to challenge Scola’s jumper, and Jason Kidd roved to make things particularly difficult for him in the post. Sometimes that’s all it takes to throw a certain player — and in this case, an entire defense — off-rhythm.
- This was also a fantastic outing for Rodrigue Beaubois, who has possibly never looked more committed to getting to the basket. At the urging of the Mavs’ coaching staff, Beaubois appears to have fully embraced J.J. Barea as his spirit animal; watch enough tape of Barea’s fearless drives, and eventually you start to wonder what you might be able to accomplish as a faster, longer, more athletic player. Last night we saw some of the results, as Beaubois attacked relentlessly off the dribble with the intent to score, and ended up creating easy buckets for both himself and his teammates.
- This tide of this game changed dramatically as Dallas began paying more defensive attention to Houston’s three-point shooters. The looks that were wide open early in the first were largely taken away by quarter’s end, and though the Rockets would go on to hit some tough shots from the perimeter, it was at no fault of the on-shot defender. The close-outs got even better in the second half — Houston converted just one of their eight three-point attempts in the final two frames.
- A fun moment: At the apex of their respective jumps, Beaubois swiped a rebound from Marcus Camby. I know it doesn’t need to be substantiated that Beaubois is athletic and Camby is old, but this particular bit seems fit for bottling nonetheless.
- Dallas went to Vince Carter offensively a bit more than they should in the post, but they clearly liked something against his matchups against Courtney Lee and Chandler Parsons — I’m just not exactly sure why. Both players are very good defenders, and though defending the post is an entirely different ordeal than defending on the perimeter, this hardly seemed like the Mavs’ most favorable matchup.
- The Mavs deserve a lot of credit for making the ending of this game look easy. An 8-3 Houston run late in the fourth could have made things pretty interesting, but Dallas kept its collective calm, executed based on what had been working previously, and rode out an easy win when a difficult one was certainly within view. The Rockets aren’t exactly a team that goes quietly into the good night, and although the Mavs had a hold on the entire fourth quarter, the absence of slippage of any kind towards the end is certainly a positive sign.
- Embrace this game as a learning experience: the Mavs can stay afloat when Dirk Nowitzki is off his game — they just need multiple players (whether it’s Kidd, Jason Terry, Beaubois, Odom, Carter, or Shawn Marion) creating shots, and a good, active team defense. Nowitzki still ended up with a team-high 21 points, but his inefficiency demanded that scoring come from elsewhere. Beaubois, Terry, Odom, and Brandan Wright were happy to respond, and more importantly: capable of responding.
- On Wright: His transformation into a legitimate NBA player has been amazing, to the point where Dallas signing him on a minimum deal may represent a league-wide failure in scouting. I’m not completely familiar with what opportunities were on the table for Wright (it’s certainly possible that he turned down more lucrative offers to play in Dallas, though I’m not under the impression that such was the case), but he’s a remarkable finisher, a legitimate shot-blocking threat, and a per-minute dynamo. He can’t create much for himself at this stage in his career, but he’s young yet.