You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- On a night of needed triumph for the Mavericks, it’s difficult to decide what should lead The Difference: Vince Carter’s (9-17 FG, 5-10 3PT, 25 points) surprise fourth quarter domination, or another night of overarching and essential offensive efficiency from O.J. Mayo (10-17 FG, 27 points). I’ll choose neither, and mention what a relief it was to see Darren Collison (7-11 FG, 19 points, seven assists) back in early season form. The offense fell into step with Collison’s passing surge, and the Mavericks were able to limit turnovers and capitalize on open three-point opportunities (13-29 from beyond the arc). Even with Dirk injured, three-point shooting is central to the team’s identity and success, especially given how well Mayo, Carter, and Jae Crowder (4-6 FG, 3-5 3PT, 12 points, four rebounds) have shot from beyond the arc this season.
- Speaking of Crowder, it was nice to see him back in the rotation and contributing immediately. His reaction after he made a three early in the game summed up the Mavericks’ night: an important moment of victory in the context of recent failure, and a huge relief in terms of the team’s prospects until Dirk returns. (Side note: Shawn Marion continues to be simultaneously fantastic and underrated on defense. That vital close on Carmelo Anthony’s jumper in the final seconds wasn’t perfect, but it was enough to cause a moment of crucial hesitation.)
- It’s almost jarring how much more relaxed and smooth O.J. Mayo’s game as a whole has become in Dallas – there’s a fluidity and calmness to the way he creates space and pulls up for jumpers that almost never existed in Memphis. Perhaps that’s a product of how his role has largely shifted and expanded, and perhaps it’s due to the natural growth some players find in their mid-20′s. It likely stems from both the natural and situational, and Mayo’s dual evolution as a player couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for the Mavericks. At least in the short-term, he’s the relentless conductor that guides the Mavericks’ offense. That was never more obvious than tonight, as Mayo kept the Mavericks in the game through offensive lulls and quickly found Collison and Carter around the perimeter in key moments.