You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
Don’t look now, but Mavericks basketball is fun again. Delonte West turned his second game filling in for Jason Kidd into something special, as from the very beginning he was creating some truly spectacular shots off the dribble. West found Brendan Haywood in the right spots, turning the typically clumsy center into an occasional weapon. He created situations that put so much pressure on Detroit’s defense that Dirk Nowitzki was left wide open on the weak side. He worked the ball around, made a living off of his silky handle, and picked up six steals to just five points to make his Kidd imitation complete. It’s been a true pleasure to see West go to work for the Mavs this season, and this seems like a good a time as any to remind you that this guy is playing for the league’s minimum salary. I’m still not quite sure how that happened, but hot damn did Dallas get one of the steals of free agency.
Preface: garbage time, Detroit Pistons, etc. But Brandan Wright…wowza:
“How beautiful is youth! How bright it gleams with its illusions, aspirations, dreams! Book of Beginnings, Story without End, Each maid a heroine, and each man a friend!”
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Winning isn’t always pretty, but in games like the Mavs’ win over the Pistons, you can always appreciate the little things. The offense was decent rather than miserable. Ben Gordon (5 points, 1-16 FG) was locked in a steel cage and thrown into the ocean. Rodrigue Beaubois made it perfectly clear that he has no intention of staying buried on the bench. Those are the things a fan can take solace in, even if the Mavs let a mediocre Pistons team hang in this game for far too long.
Rodney Stuckey (28 points, 12-20 FG) and Will Bynum (27 points, 11-16 FG) proved yet again that this team has trouble containing quick, penetrating guard play. A late shift to the zone seemed to slow down Bynum, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the Mavs put up a solid defensive front. Jason Kidd, in particular, looked a step or two slow in trying to curtail Stuckey. It would have been nice to see a second half response like we did against Aaron Brooks and the Houston Rockets, but the Mavs more or less retained the same defensive strategies in trying to defend Bynum and Stuckey. But whether it was by design (Dirk mentioned post-game that the primary defensive objective was to take Ben Gordon out of the game) or not, Stuckey and Bynum were getting what they wanted when they wanted it.
But the Mavs’ own quick guard had a field day in half-court sets and the transition game alike. Rodrigue Beaubois had a perfect night from the field (14 points, 6-6 FG, 2-2 3FG, 4 assists, ZERO turnovers) and continues to impress with his decision-making abilities. After watching the summer league games, I was expecting Beaubois to be a bit out of control, try to do to much, and be his own worst enemy until he got his sea legs. Well, those sea legs must have been shipped overnight before the season began, because even Rodrigue’s lesser games are graced by a savvy that goes far beyond his years and professional experience. He’s not forcing things, he makes smart passes with a purpose, and he isn’t afraid of anything. Despite the fact that Beaubois has logged only 57 minutes thus far, it’s hard to be anything less than thrilled with his performance. We knew that he would eventually be a contributor, but Rodrigue appears more NBA-ready than anyone predicted.
And it’s a good thing he is. Beaubois’ excellence, combined with solid nights from Drew Gooden (11 points, 11 rebounds, one block) and Shawn Marion (11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, two steals, and a block), helped the Mavs to survive more poor shooting from Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 11-27 FG, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) and Jason Terry (9 points, 1-7 FG, 6-8 FT, three steals). Dirk and JET still managed to contribute to the game throughout, and they took over in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Between them, Nowitzki and Terry scored 14 out of the Mavs’ final 16 points by hitting big jumpers, getting to the free throw line, and benefiting from some smooth ball movement.
Erick Dampier missed the game due to illness, and was rushed to the hospital. It’s unknown exactly what Damp’s symptoms were.
Kris Humphries deserves mention for providing good minutes in the middle. You don’t want the ball going to Hump with the shot clock winding down, but you have to appreciate his hustle. Kris finished with just 5 points, 2 rebounds, and two blocks, but he played well.
The Mavs may have caught a big break when Rodney Stuckey came up limping in the fourth quarter. He had been tearing it up all game long, and the Pistons could have used him late in the fourth with the game still in the balance.
Weird night for +/- : all the Mavs’ starters were positive, but the reserves were negative. All the Pistons’ starters were negative, but the reserves were positive.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to, for the first time in his career, Rodrigue Beaubois. “Roddy” energizes the offense when he’s on the floor, and his ability to create with the ball in his hands and also thrive off the ball (three cheers for point-guard-to-point-guard alley oops!) should make Mavs fans salivate. Beaubois is the silver lining to Josh Howard’s injury, and he’s making a very compelling case for playing time after Josh’s return.