The Rundown: Volume XII

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on January 21, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Read the First Comment

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The Rundown is back. Every Monday, The Rundown will chronicle the week that was for the Mavericks, as well as let you know what is coming up for the boys in blue, with a unique spin. Simply put, it is your Monday catch-up on all things with the Dallas Mavericks.

After what seemed like a bleak outlook in terms of making the playoffs, the Mavericks are actually right in the thick of the playoff race. The 8th and even the 7th seed are within reach for Dallas. In 10 days, Dallas has moved from 7 games back of 8th spot to 3 games out of spot with 40 games to play. They got to that point with a four-game winning streak. There was a deflating loss before a positive trip to the East Coast, but the Mavericks have made positive strides in order to get to where they currently are. As usual, there were interesting moments that popped up during the week for the team. Let’s take a look at the week for that was for Dallas.

Did THAT Really Happen?

- O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison were dominant in the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Seeing the two guards finding their way on the offensive end of the floor and not being a net negative on the defensive end of the floor against Minnesota was a glimpse into the potential future. Dirk Nowitzki noted later in the week that there have been “numerous” times during film sessions that the two guards have been singled out in team film sessions. Seeing those two respond to the coach’s barking has definitely earned the respect of Nowitzki. There has been tremendous improvement out of the two guards and the game against Minnesota could be a turning point for the two of them.

- With just over a minute left in the game against the Houston Rockets, James Harden drove to the rim in an attempt to give the Rockets the lead. He was met with resistance from one Elton Brand. The big man’s block sparked a fast break which ended with O.J. Mayo going to the line for the go-ahead free throws. Though he wasn’t directly involved in the play, Dirk Nowitzki definitely understood why Brand was able to be so successful in getting to the spot and recording the block. “Since I let my man go by me all the time,” Nowitzki said, “he’s got a lot of practice shot blocking.”

- Mike James got a second 10-day contract. After the second 10-day contract expires, a tough decision will need to be made. Dallas will have to decide on whether they want to keep James, which would mean guaranteeing his veteran minimum salary for the rest of the season. If they don’t do that, James will hit the free agent market.

- With the Thunder up 116-114, James had a mismatch with Kendrick Perkins and Dirk Nowitzki was being guarded by Russell Westbrook with less than 10 seconds to go in overtime. James missed a 26-foot jumper over an outstretched Perkins. “The play got blown up,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. “It’s on me, because when something like that happens at the end of the game, it’s on the coach. That’s about all I can say about that.” The situation did see James play in an end of game spot for the second straight game over Darren Collison. To his credit, Collison remained upbeat and positive in the locker room after the game. He understands that it’s a coach’s decision and he’ll continue to do whatever is necessary to help the team. With Collison getting the crunch time minutes in the final game of the week, it’s going to be interesting to see who gets the minutes at the end of games between those two guards.

- “It’s hard to beat anybody when you’re playing five on eight,” Shawn Marion said after the overtime loss to the Thunder. “That’s nuts. Some of them were fouls. Some of them were questionable. But it is what it is.” Those comments certainly popped up on the league’s radar and Marion paid the price for them. The NBA fined Marion $25,000 for criticizing the league’s officiating, the league announced on Jan. 19. Marion didn’t go overboard with his comments, they were just simply comments made after the game. He certainly gave credit where credit was due in regards to Durant’s game.

Box Score Revelations

- Dirk Nowitzki scored only 10 points in the game against Minnesota and Dallas still won the game. Collision (23), Mayo (20) and Brand (20) all scored 20-plus points for Dallas in the win. It marked the first time this season that the Mavericks had three players with 20-plus points in a game. You have to go back to Jan. 30, 2012 to find a game where three Mavericks not named Dirk Nowitzki scored at least 20 points in a game. Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Delonte West each had 20-plus points in a win over the Phoenix Suns that night.

- Darren Collison tallied a game-high 23 points to go along with a game-high-tying nine assists in 36 minutes versus Minnesota. Mavericks shooting guard O.J. Mayo scored 20 points handed out nine assists against the Timberwolves. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it marked only the fifth time in franchise history that the Mavericks had two players with at least 20 points and nine assists in the same game: Mark Aguirre and Derek Harper did it in 1988, Jason Kidd and George McCloud in 1996, Michael Finley and Robert Pack in 1999 and Steve Nash and Tim Hardaway in 2002.

- Vince Carter has 77 made 3-point field goals through 42 games. He had 74 made 3-pointersthrough all of the 2011-12 season. Carter has been a tremendous asset to the Mavericks this season. Questions swirled as to how the Mavericks would adapt to life without Jason Terry bringing his regular scoring punch off the bench. To this point, Carter has definitely held up his end of the bargain with scoring. With the trade deadline approaching, it wouldn’t be surprising if teams around the league inquired about the availability of Carter.

- According to ESPN Stats and Information, Kevin Durant scored 19 of his career-high 52 points in clutch time against the Mavericks. Ten of those points came from the free throw line. After the game between the Mavericks and the Thunder, Durant had a league-best 94 points in clutch time, the last 5 minutes in the fourth quarter with the score within 5 points. He also had a 50.0 percent field goal percentage in that same time frame. The second best player? O.J. Mayo. Dallas’ shooting guard had scored 78 points during that time frame and shot 48.1 percent from the field.

- The Mavericks actually held on to the lead after having one going into the fourth quarter against the Orlando Magic. The Mavericks played 10 games before their game against the Magic. They have led in the fourth quarter of all 10, but they had only gone 5-5 in those games. It wasn’t the prettiest finish, but the Mavericks found a way to survive in the Magic Kingdom. It also helped that they had seven players in double figures. The Mavericks have had at least six scorers in double figures in each of their last five games. Dallas is 9-4 this season when they have at least six players score in double digits.

Check Your Calendar

- It’s a light week for the Mavericks. Dallas will essentially have a quasi All-Star Break or training camp period. Whatever you want to call it, the Mavericks will be on a break. They will be off until Friday and then they will be hosting the San Antonio Spurs. Dirk Nowitzki will be able to continue to get some good practice time leading up to that game and hopefully get out of “training camp” as he called it. The game against Dallas will be the first night of a back-to-back for the Spurs as they host the Phoenix Suns the following night.

- Speaking of the Suns, Phoenix will come to town on Sunday. This will be the second night of a back-to-back for the Suns as they take on the Spurs. It’s a circle of life for the three squads. Okay, maybe not. It WILL be the fourth game in five nights for the Suns. Phoenix is in a full blown rebuilding period. They picked player development director Lindsey Hunter as interim coach after the team parted ways with Alvin Gentry.

BG’s Baller of the Week

Baller status has been granted to Elton Brand. The vet is completely in a groove now and the numbers are backing that up. He averaged 13.8 points and 8.8 rebounds for the Mavericks during the week. His shot has also returned back to its usual form as he’s been shooting 55.6 percent from the field since Jan. 1.

Speaking to Mavericks’ officials, the team had to rely on Brand more than they envisioned while Dirk Nowitzki had to sit earlier in the season. There was more pressure on Brand and the results just weren’t showing up. Now that he’s entrenched as the dual-threat performer off the bench, Brand has found his way. The impressive block against James Harden in the Houston game showed that he can be the anchor in the middle that the Mavericks need. It also did show that he still has some spring left in those legs. When asked if he was impressed with Brand’s vertical leap, Dirk Nowitzki snicked, “He’s got really long arms.”

It remains to be seen whether or not the Mavericks need to make a lineup change and move Brand into the starting lineup at the expense of Chris Kaman. That is something that will be discussed at a later time here on the Two Man Game. For now, everyone will enjoy the fact that the team is getting the performances they expected out of Elton Brand when they acquired him via the amnesty provision during the summer.

Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.