Dirk Nowitzki refused to let his team lose. Dallas trailed by 12 (97-85) with less than four minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but close the game on a 15-1 run en route to a 100-98 win over the Chicago Bulls. The 12-point comeback is biggest deficit overcome in a win when trailing with less than 4:00 to play in NBA this season. Dirk sealed the deal for the Mavericks as he hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left. He was untouchable in the fourth quarter as he went 6-of-7 from the field and 3-of-4 from 3-point range for 15 points in the fourth quarter. Dirk scored 15 of the teams 25 points. In the end, Dirk tallied a season-high (game-high) 35 points to go along with seven rebounds in 34 minutes against Chicago.
Brandan Wright recorded his first double-double of the season (fourth career) with 17 points and a career-high-tying 13 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench against Chicago. It was his first double-double since April. 1, 2011 at Philadelphia (15 points and 11 rebounds while with New Jersey).
An MRI revealed that Mavericks shooting guard O.J. Mayo has a mild sprain of the AC joint in his left shoulder. He played in the game and logged just under 42 minutes of action. Mayo went 1-of-13 from the floor. It was evident he was struggling with his shoulder as he missed his first two shots of the day, two left-handed layups. Through the pain, Mayo grinded out the game and provided an all-around effort that made up for his poor shooting performance.
For the Bulls, Nate Robinson went a perfect 7-of-7 from beyond the arc en route to a team-high-tying 25 points for Chicago. He scored Chicago’s first 11 points of the fourth quarter and finished with 15 points in the fourth. He added six assists in 32 minutes off the bench. Carlos Boozer (25 points and 11 rebounds) and Luol Deng (25 points and seven rebounds) combined for 50 points and 18 rebounds.
Really though, this is about Dirk Nowitzki.
Some notes before the quotes:
- Including the postseason, the game against the Bulls marked the 12th time in his career that Dirk made a game-winning basket in the final 10 seconds of a game (and the first since Mar. 30, 2012 at Orlando). Nowitzki, who had 33 points vs. the L.A. Clippers on 3/26, scored 30-plus points for the second time in his last three games (third time this season). He is averaging 29.7 points on 62.1 percent shooting (.455 3FG) over his last three games.
- Dirk during the homestand: 61.5 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from 3, 90 percent from the line. 24.0 points and 7.0 in six games for Dirk.
- Nowitzki went a perfect 8-for-8 from the field (2-for-2 from deep) and 2-for-2 from the line in the first half against Chicago. He led all players with 20 points in 17 first-half minutes. It was the most points he’s scored in any half this season (previous: 17 in first half at Milwaukee Mar. 12). Nowitzki scored 20-plus points in the first half for the first time since Mar. 13, 2012 vs. Washington (20 points). It was the most points he’s scored in any half since Apr. 18, 2012 vs. Houston (31 points).
- By shooting 14-of-17 from the field and shooting 82.4 percent from the field, Dallas has now gone 13-2 in games where Dirk shoots at least 80 percent from the field (min. 10 field goal attempts). Dallas had lost their previous two games under those circumstances.
- Nowitzki, who had 20 points in the first half against Chicago on Saturday, scored 20-plus points for the seventh time in his last 10 games (16th time this season). Nowitzki is averaging 22.0 points on 57.1 percent shooting over his last 11 games.
Here is the quoteboard for Dallas’ heroic win over Chicago. Meet everyone at the altar of Dirk.
Read more of this article »
Jason Kidd was chosen to replace Kobe Bryant in the All-Star game, but the pick was hardly a popular one. Some pointed to his lack of scoring, some his underwhelming defense, and others were aghast at the mere concept of “Jason Kidd, All-Star.” There are definitely candidates out there that could have given Kidd a run for his money (if not overtake him outright), but regardless of your preferred dish (I’ll have the Tyreke), Kidd will be the guy. But how? Why? What criteria could possibly exist that would have Kidd as next-in-line when our better judgment says otherwise?
1. Quality – Jason Kidd is the top remaining player (or at least guard) left unselected in the Western Conference.
“For the record, Jason Kidd had the best WARP of any West guard not on the roster. Would you rather Baron Davis? Manu Ginobili?” [Ed. Note: WARP is "wins above replacement player"]
-Kevin Pelton, Basketball Prospectus (@kpelton)
If I were given the reins, I would have essentially narrowed it down to four players: Kidd, Tyreke Evans, Carlos Boozer, Nene. From there, it’s almost a matter of preference.
In Evans, you have a dominant scoring guard that can electrify in the All-Star tradition. In Boozer, you have a rock-steady big putting up impressive numbers for a rising Utah team. In Nene, you have a very versatile center that can run the floor, throw it down with authority, and do just about everything in between.
But if you’re looking for a guard, especially a point guard, Kidd may be the sound pick. Kevin Pelton uses two pretty innovative metrics to break down the lot of remaining Western Conference point guards here, and the numbers are kind to Kidd — especially “pass rating.” Kidd is not an ideal All-Star candidate, but that’s okay. Pelton wraps his analysis wonderfully by providing this explanation:
Ultimately, I think the veteran point guard would be my pick, but at the very least this analysis seems to show that Kidd’s selection is hardly the travesty it’s been made out as in some circles. Yes, as at best the fifth-best point guard in the conference, Kidd doesn’t really belong in the All-Star Game. Given the circumstances, however, I think the NBA did the best it could.
2. Convenience – Jason Kidd is the top remaining player left unselected that can actually make it to the All-Star Game.
“New trend for 2010: selecting all stars based on who can get to host city.”
-John Hollinger, ESPN.com (@johnhollinger)
Admittedly, this was the first thought that popped into my head. Dallas is having record snowfall, and the entirety of the Northeast is covered in a white blanket that’s ten feet thick and shuts down cities…much less airplanes. Plauyers from all over the country are having a hard time landing at D/FW, so it makes sense to choose a guy that the league knows can make it to Dallas safely and on-time. Oh hey, Jason Kidd plays in Dallas, doesn’t he? How delightfully convenient!
But then I saw this tweet from Marc Stein (@STEIN_LINE_HQ) “Take note: Kidd [was] already in PHX for his All-Star break. Now scheduled to return to Dallas on Friday.”
So Kidd is flying in to Dallas just like everyone else, and was probably farther away than point guard alternatives Russell Westbrook and Aaron Brooks. So let’s toss this one out, shall we?
3. Host Bias – Jason Kidd is the top remaining player left unselected on the Dallas Mavericks.
“The Jason Kidd emergency selection in the West made enough sense with its hometown angle, considering, with the latest weather developments, that already being in Dallas is emerging as a prime selection criteria. Heck, if Kidd couldn’t make it, the next call was going to J.J. Barea.”
-Ira Winderman, ProBasketballTalk
Take a guess: since 1990, how many times has the host city had just one All-Star?
Once. The 1997 ASG in Cleveland featured Terrell Brandon as the sole representative of the Cavs. But in every other year (excepting the lockout season and the ASG in Las Vegas), the host was either star-less (no All-Stars) or blessed with two All-Stars. Chalk it up to wonky coincidence if you’d like, but the host city had one All-Stars in far more cases than one, and based on the data, 1997 seems more like an outlier.
I’d be shocked if this was the sole criteria in naming Kidd an All-Star, but I’d also be shocked if it didn’t tip the scales in his favor.
In what was supposed to be a relatively uneventful trade season for the Mavs, we know two things:
- The Mavs made a move to swap Kris Humphries and Shawne Williams for Eddie Najera, earning some short-term savings, bringing a fan favorite back to Dallas, and picking up a guy with a positive influence in the locker room.
- Before that, the Mavs tried to package Hump, Williams, and Drew Gooden in a salary-clearing deal for Carlos Boozer that would have saved the Jazz $2.5 million initially, an additional $2.6 million if they decided to waive Gooden, and possibly more if the Mavs threw cash compensations into the deal.
Needless to say, the latter would have been a complete game-changer. If the Mavs had the luxury of bringing Boozer off of the bench (and make no mistake, that’s the role that would best serve the team) instead of Gooden, Dallas immediately becomes a contender for the Western Conference crown and the title. Plus, if the Mavs could have picked up Drew Gooden on the flip side after being waived, they would have a dominant rotation of bigs capable of matching any in the league.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Rather than trade out of their luxury tax obligations by ditching Boozer for pennies (or halves of pennies, really) on the dollar, the 9th place Jazz know that right now they need Carlos Boozer. Deron Williams has quietly had a terrific season, but would he be able to fend off the Thunder, Rockets, Hornets, and Grizzlies with Kris Humphries’ production replacing Boozer’s? Hardly. Booz is absolutely crucial to Utah’s playoff hopes, and while I’m sure that on some level Kevin O’Connor would love nothing more than to rid himself of the headache, he’s well aware of his team’s dependency.
So no Boozer, for now, at least. And now that Drew Gooden’s contract has lost its value to teams over the luxury tax (his salary is now guaranteed for the season), hopefully never. As Stein mentions in his piece over at TrueHoop, the Mavs don’t gain much if they agree to swap Josh Howard or Erick Dampier in a deal for Boozer. That said, Stein cites a different line of logic than I would. According to Marc, trading Howard, Dampier, or another core piece for Boozer is troublesome in that there’s no guarantee of Carlos’ return. That’s true. But the real trouble would be what the Mavs would do this season without either one of those players. If they lose Dampier, the vaunted Mavs’ defense falls to pieces, and Damp’s minutes are ceded to a guy marked by his inability to block shots and his irrelevance as a low post defender. If they lose Josh, the perimeter defense suffers, albeit with a bit less of an overall effect on the team’s success on that end than if they were to trade Damp. Trading Josh seems like the more palatable option…but while Boozer would bolster the Mavs’ rotation in the frontcourt, the backcourt would likely be a mess. No Howard means more Terry (who for all his improvements on defense, is a merely average defender) and more Barea (who has really struggled lately and continues to be a defensive liability), which is a pretty lethal blow to the team defense.
Carlos Boozer would be an interesting addition, and the Mavs took a shot. A long shot, admittedly, but Nelson, Cuban, and Carlisle tried to offer the Jazz exactly what they need. That Utah still fancies themselves contenders for the playoffs seems to be the real complication.
- Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune: “For all the available options to slowing a player on an (admittedly) unstoppable roll, the Jazz seemingly explored few alternatives, not even mustering a token hard foul. They stuck with Okur and Carlos Boozer on Nowitzki, even with Andrei Kirilenko and Paul Millsap offering other options. Kyrylo Fesenko even matched up against Nowitzki in the first half and seemed to frustrate him with his size and physicality. The Jazz also opted not to double-team Nowitzki upon catching the ball or all-out denying him the ball in the first place. Sloan said he thought the Jazz would leave shooters open by double-teaming and that Nowitzki would get the ball no matter how much denying. …Okur said he could have done more to try to deny Nowitzki the ball and that he was making a concerted effort to pressure Nowitzki at the top of the floor, to avoid giving him open looks at the kind of jumpers he torched the Jazz with last season. …The Jazz additionally could have considered a zone defense, to at least deny Nowitzki those easy drives down the lane. They could have given Nowitzki different looks with different defenders, hanging and draping themselves all over the former NBA MVP. Anything to break his rhythm, including calling timeouts. In contrast to Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, who called one timeout Tuesday after his team gave up consecutive baskets, Sloan is not predisposed the same way.”
- Mark Cuban on Dirk’s performance (via Evan Grant): “Best [I've seen] in a regular season [game] by far.”
- Proposed trade in Jazz-land: Carlos Boozer for a can of tuna.
- Click here to see the visual representation of Dirk going NOVA.
- But if you’re more of a reader, Matt Moore explains just how impressive Dirk’s performance was: “[Dirk]’s release point is so high it’s insane to think he’s ever been blocked. It’s like lining up a missile. But tonight, that was just part of it. He was unconscious, which is a key element of going Nova. You have to have that flow where you’re just scoring. Not thinking, not analyzing, not deciding, just getting buckets. And Nowitzki did everything. Random loose ball ends up in his hands for a fading three? Yes. Slide off the off-ball screen and grab the inlet pass off the glass? Indeed. Stop pull-ups with a little bit of fade in the key? Danke. You almost half to feel bad for the Jazz. Almost. 29 points in the fourth quarter, 40 points total, with 5 blocks. And a reminder that when Nowitzki is in that zone, that level, he can take a game that you feel is on lockdown to absolute disaster. Don’t look away. It’ll hurt more if you don’t see it coming.”
- Rick Carlisle on Dirk’s performance (via Eddie Sefko): “I put it up there with a lot of the stuff [Larry] Bird pulled off. …And some of the all-time greats. It was just phenomenal. And the rest of the guys knew where to get the ball and how to feed off him. It was something to behold.”
- InsideCorner, D Magazine’s sports blog, is no longer with us. Frown town.
- But InsideCorner alum Zac Crain did hijack D’s FrontBurner blog to drop the most topical 2006 quote you’re likely to read this season.
- Mike Fisher puts a spotlight on the difference between the Mavs of this year and yesteryear: “The evidence is clear: Last year’s team shot well enough to win 50. … but used its shooting ability as a crutch, and when its shot failed it, Dallas lost. [With] Team Carlisle 2.0, and the early evidence [is] that the Mavs can push, shove, grind, grit, run, hustle and plow their way to wins even while clanging their shots.”
It’s Pressing will be a periodic feature here at The Two Man Game where I shine the spotlight on the night’s post-game press conference. There isn’t always gold to be found, but it’s nice to check in with the major players following a big game like tonight.
“It was just an unbelievable come back. We really couldn’t get anything going for three quarters and it was just ugly. There was a lid on the basket. We missed layups, easy shots, put backs and it was just ugly. Defensively we were actually decent, but offensively we just couldn’t get going and then in the fourth quarter we just left it all out there and see what happens and it worked out for us tonight.”
Regarding whether or not his performance qualified as “stupid good”:
“It might, but we kind of went through the same game against Washington at home where we couldn’t get anything going offensively. My mentally in the 4th was to go out there and make things happen. I think what really helped was we got to the bonus real quick in the 4th by being aggressive and driving to the basket and we were shooting free throws the rest of the way and that helped us get back into the game.”
Regarding his late surge of free throw attempts:
“Once you’re down by that much you’ve got to try to use the clock and get back in the game. We made up a lot of ground in the 4th at the line without the clock moving and we drove to the basket, got fouled and stopped the clock. Our defense was solid, even at the end when we made the come back, we contested shots, rebounded and our defense has been really solid the first four games. It’s our offense that has been struggling. We have been shooting in the low 40’s every game and that’s a concern, but defensively we look pretty good.”
“We were looking for a spark offensively and I was able to do that tonight. Sometimes it’s Jet off the bench, sometimes it’s Josh jumping off to 20 point first quarters so we just needed a little spark and when I was feeling it they kept feeding me the ball. I got every play down the stretch and I was able to deliver. This was a big win for us. Even if it’s early being 3-1 is better than 2-2.”
“It was a level of frustration throughout the whole team with what was happening offensively. We had a lot of good looks and weren’t getting them to go down. The thing that has changed this year, to this point, is that this is three out of four games, I can’t really say it about the first game, is that when shots weren’t going in, guys were becoming more determined defensively to dig in and find a way to make something happen. That first game of the year, we waited around for something good to happen to us against Washington. The last three games, we’ve been the team to continue to be persistent and make something happen. At some point, the ball is going to start going in the basket for us. But until then, we’ll find a way to win. I give the team credit for that because this wasn’t our personality last year.”
“Twenty-five years in this, I’ve seen a lot of amazing things happen. To be honest, it wasn’t looking great, but we just needed a couple good things to happen offensively for us. And the biggest thing that happened was Dirk got us in the bonus early in the fourth. That started a chain reaction of plays where stops led to good decisions which led to aggressive plays which led to him going to the free throw line time after time after time. During that stretch, when there was some kind of mistake, somebody came up with a loose ball play and made one pass. Somebody handed it to Dirk one time for that three. It was just sheer will. It was led by Kidd and Dirk. And Dirk scored the majority of the points. I can’t overstate the effect that Kidd has on games as a competitor and as a guy that just knows what winning is about and how to facilitate it. We needed it badly. And they needed a game badly. That was clear coming in and they played extremely well. We get out of here alive and it’s good to get the first win at home.”
“Well there wasn’t obviously anything we were able to do with Nowitzki. I’m not sure that maybe we should’ve tried a couple different things. Mehmet [Okur] I think had 1 or 2 fouls when he started guarding him and Boozer had 5. And try to keep [both of] them out there we put Mehmet on him and I don’t think we did a very good job. He was sensational. He made every basket and got to the free throw line, but the most important thing he did was he was able to take the ball to the basket. When were coming down to trying to finish the game we had I think 4 turnovers in the 4th quarter. And you could feel the momentum kind of shift in that situation because they had the spirit and we turned the ball over a couple times we felt sorry for ourselves. I think it made it tougher for us to try and finish the game. But giving up 44 points [in the 4th quarter] is pretty tough.”
Regarding his (lack of) defensive adjustments on Dirk in the fourth:
“We might’ve tried to double him or tried something but they still had some pretty good shooters out there on the floor. And they were into a rhythm where I felt like if we go off and leave Terry or even Jason Kidd – he’s out there on the floor, he hasn’t shot the ball especially well but you know him in that situation is going to be able to make a 3-point shot. So you’re looking at 3′s to have to defend against and you try to keep him off the top of the basket and try to play him. We pushed him to the short-side of the floor one time I think, the rest of the time he went to the long side where he had a lot more to operate and get on top of the basket.”
Regarding defending Dirk down the stretch:
“We did a couple of different things. It just seemed like either he made his shot or he was shooting free throws. I thought we couldn’t be physical with him, couldn’t touch him too much without them calling a foul on us. Obviously he was aggressive, he’s a great player, but I thought we were doing a decent job. But anytime we touched him they called a foul, so, not to much you can do when you can’t be physical with somebody.”
Regarding his foul trouble precluding him from guarding Dirk:
“Yeah, it’s tough. The first two or three plays of the 3rd quarter I picked up 2 quick ones on him [Dirk] and he didn’t even have the ball. That put us in a tough position. Regardless, that’s history now.”
Regarding this being a tough loss:
“It’s tough, because we were up by 15 with 8 minutes to go. The next thing you know it was free throw, free throw, free throw, free throw.”
Regarding his defense on Dirk:
“I don’t know. I just wanted to pressure the ball and he didn’t want to settle for jump shots – he took the ball to the basket and he got to the free throw line and made some tough shots. He’s one of those guys that once they get hot it’s hard to stop.”
“Like I said, I wanted to pressure the ball. I could’ve done a better job on him, maybe deny a little bit. Not let him catch the ball easily like that. I posted him, but he was active tonight.”
Photo by Ronald Martinez/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.”
-Ella Wheeler Wilcox
In watching, writing about, and loving the Dallas Mavericks, I’m frequently treated to the incredible basketball stylings of Dirk Nowitzki. And every once in awhile, he does something so incredible, so breathtaking, that it’s almost indescribable. Unbelievable.
Tonight was one such night. He was truly unbelievable. That word bounces around in my head, back and forth consuming just about everything else. Unbelievable. There is now just a pile of jelly where a perfectly fine brain used to be, an empty blackness where there used to be coherent thought. This guy blows minds, and if you happened to be watching the Mavs-Jazz game amidst a flurry of competitive games and photo finishes elsewhere in the league, you were treated to something special.
I was ready to write the other recap. The one that mentioned how the Mavs were undefeated on the road, but had yet to win at home. The one that mentioned how Dirk and Jason Terry were mysteriously pedestrian with their jumpers. The one that talked about how even though the Mavs did an admirable job trying to defend Deron Williams, he was simply too hot from midrange and the Mavs’ own offense just couldn’t keep pace. That recap was already being pieced together in my mind as the Mavs were down 16 points with 8:17 left on the clock. Maybe it wasn’t right, and maybe it wasn’t fair, but with the way Dallas had been performing on offense, I hardly think you could blame me.
Then, Dirk Nowitzki decided he was going to change everything. He cured cancer, he invented the time machine, he solved world hunger, and he even stopped by to drop 29 fourth quarter points directly onto the heads of the Utah Jazz. That’s good enough to snatch away the franchise record for points in a quarter from Mark Aguirre, and just short of the league record of 33. Dirk’s takeover couldn’t have come at a better time, as 25 of his points came during a key crucial an impossible 36-9 run that stole away a 16-point lead from the Jazz. 25 of that 36 came courtesy of Mr. Nowitzki himself, who went 7 for 8 from the field, 1 of 2 from the 3-point line, and made all 14 of his free throws in an absolutely dominant fourth quarter performance.
It’s a good thing Dirk showed up when he did, because it took such a fantastic offensive performance to counterbalance the rest of the team’s offensive misery. The rest of the Mavs shot just 34.3% from the field, and a frigid 30.2% if you take away Jason Kidd’s 6 of 11 night. That is beyond horrible, and even worse when you consider how good these Mavs are capable of being on offense. That’s supposed to be the end of the floor where Dallas wins games. The old heroes and the new kids are supposed to flow together into an amorphous, flexible, and all-consuming blob of a basketball team. Despite their occasional flashes of brilliance, this season’s Mavs couldn’t be farther from, and the sooner Josh Howard and Jason Terry’s jumper can get back to the team, the better.
That paragraph then begs the question: If the offense didn’t win the game, what did? Well, Dirk Nowitzki did. But, if Dirk only went NOVA for the better part of one quarter, how were the Mavs even within range? Well, that you can credit to the defense that seems to be the trademark of this year’s Mavs.
This marks three games in a row that an opposing team’s offense was completely discombobulated, as Dallas held Utah to three quarters of 20 points or less and 41.5% shooting from the field. Both teams played sloppy basketball, a fact which worked to the Mavs favor. When the shots weren’t falling the Mavs’ way, they threw gum into the game’s works in almost every way possible. As a result, Carlos Boozer was way off for most of the night courtesy of Erick Dampier, Mehmet Okur was hounded by Dirk, and virtually every other Jazz player not named Deron Williams was a non-factor. There were contributors here and there, but early Dallas turnovers inflated the offensive numbers of a good chunk of Utah’s roster. When things really got bogged down in the half-court, the Jazz turned into a two trick pony: Deron Williams went to work with jumpers, or he tried to find Mehmet Okur for a bailout. The former is the central reason why the Jazz were able to brake free in the third quarter, but one man rarely an offense makes…unless that one man is suiting up for the home team. But neither option was of much use during the fourth quarter implosion, when Dirk Nowitzki and a train powered by pure momentum steam rolled the captive Jazz as they lay tied helplessly to the tracks. The Jazz may have lent a hand in tying themselves up, but it was primarily the diabolical schemings of the dastardly Mavs, who played the part of the mustached villains to ruin what could have been a nice outing for Utah.
Just for fun, here’s a breakdown of Utah’s final fourteen possessions, only four of which ended with points of any kind:
|At the rim||1||3 (2 blocked)
|Miscellaneous||2 steals, 1 other TO||XX
The day that solid defense and consistent offense coincide for the Mavs will be a beautiful one, but until then I’m perfectly content to watch this squad gut out ugly win after ugly win.
- Although the Mavs’ fourth quarter offense was comprised almost entirely by Dirk Nowitzki field goals and free throws, the Mavs could not have won this game without Jason Kidd (19 points, 5-8 from three, 5 rebounds, 6 assists). He was pretty horrible in the first quarter (3 turnovers in that frame alone, with 7 for the game), but made up for it by striking from long range for some huge buckets. No basket in this game was bigger than Kidd’s dagger three with 50 seconds remaining, stretching the lead from 4 to 7.
- Erick Dampier didn’t near a double-double with just 4 points, but his 12 rebounds and 6 blocks speak volumes about what Damp was able to offer aside from scoring. For what it’s worth, his two buckets did come when the Mavs were desperate for points in the first, so even those were bigger than they seem.
- Quinton Ross left the game in the first half with a bruised lower back. It doesn’t seem serious, but no official word from the team as of yet.
- The Mavs’ point totals by quarter: 17, 18, 17, 44. Yeah.
- Credit to Rick Carlisle and the Mavs on the floor down the stretch for going to Dirk time and time again when it mattered most. Nowitzki has a powerful will, and he clearly had the need to win this game or at least bring the Mavs close. When he gets that look in his eyes and his tongue starts wagging, it’s usually best to get him the ball, spot up on the 3-point line, and stay out of the way.
- Matt Carroll played, but he did not play well.
- Want a visual to understand just how dismal the Mavs’ offense was in the first three quarters? Dirk and JET combined for three airballs.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to…who am I even kidding? 40 points (12-22 FG, 15-16 FT), 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals 5 blocks, 0 turnovers. You know his name, you know the snarl, and you’ll probably name your first-born son after him.
- Creeping into my list from Friday: Dwyer’s ranking of the top ten defenders of the decade, which includes Jason Kidd at number 8. Kidd’s not that defender anymore, and he probably wasn’t during his first stint with the Mavs, either. Still, give the guy his due.
- It’s hardly news by now, but Stephen Jackson wants out of Golden State…and back in to Texas. Jax is a Port Arthur native looking to come home, and also a quality two-way shooting guard with a big contract and apparently a distaste for the current climate in the Bay area. More to come on Jackson’s potential place in Dallas, but on paper it would make the wings awfully crowded.
- More on Jackson here, here, here, and here.
- Tracy McGrady could be back sooner than initially thought.
- The Mavs apparently talked trade with the Jazz about Carlos Boozer, but I’m almost thankful we were spared from that headache.
- A wild, wild night in the lig. Devin Harris hit what many are calling “the shot of the year,” and I don’t think I can disagree. Nate Robinson scored 41 points off the bench, made a game-clinching layup, and has my head spinning. Carlos Boozer returned for the Jazz, and scored 2 points (technically he didn’t make a basket; it was a Josh Smith goaltend) to go with 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 turnovers. Tyson Chandler returned for the Hornets, and notched 15 points and 10 rebounds (albeit along with 5 turnovers). The Nuggets were absolutely punked by the Celtics sans Kevin Garnett. Wacky.
- Jerry Stackhouse is down already…just as I was planning to publish a “What Should We Really Expect From Stack?” post. Oh, bother. I wasn’t terribly optimistic about his potential to return to his former self, and maybe these type of delays are a blessing in disguise to help us temper our expectations. Or maybe we’re just delaying the inevitable, and Stack’s eventual return will be accompanied by his blinders-on offensive mentality, only without the usual production. Fun. I’m hoping that Carlisle keeps his cool and does the same thing he’s done all season: refuse to accept the ‘given.’ It was given that Stack was going to be a contributor on this team, but he has to prove himself just as every other player on the roster did. He didn’t seem all that pleased with Stack’s play early in the season, and one can only hope that he makes stack earn his way into the game rather than handing it to him.
- Jake of Mavs Moneyball compares the Mavs’ defense to the Spurs’. For most of the season, the Mavs matched up more favorably than you’d think. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that the Spurs defense isn’t quite what it once was. It does show that the Mavs have been subtly improving on that end since their midseason meltdown, but Jake is certainly right in assessing that the D doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.
- David Moore, with a friendly reminder on the DMN Mavs Blog: The trend extends even further. The Mavericks are 4-13 on the road against the best in the West since Jason Kidd’s arrival last February.
- Tom Ziller warns you to “discount the Jazz at your own peril.”
- Moore’s article for the Dallas Morning News continues with the same basic message, but goes further. Could the loss to the Rockets actually prove to be a stepping stone for Dallas’ road success to come?:”‘The formula has got to be there. You’ve got to play consistently on defense and rebound. Offensively, you’ve got to be efficient and you’ve got to score enough points.’ [Carlisle said.] That’s the problem. The Mavericks haven’t been consistent on defense on the road. Their offense has been sporadic. Their bench has been erratic. But there are signs of improvement, such as Friday’s 93-86 loss in Houston. ‘Well, look at that game,’ Kidd said. ‘We put ourselves in position coming down the stretch, but didn’t execute and turned the ball over…It’s there. We’re right there. It’s a matter of staying with it.’”
In case you didn’t notice, there was no Grapevine yesterday. Apparently there are only so many synonyms for “embarassment,” “blow-out,” and “complete and utter destruction.” Pity. Oh well, let’s kick it.
- The Mavs offense isn’t exactly the bell of the ball, but the D is definitely the girl who tears her dress, spills punch all over herself, and breaks a heel when she tries to leave, crying. That’s probably putting it mildly. Via Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News, Dirk harps on the Mavs’ defensive deficiencies: ” “You name it. Pick-and-roll. One-on-one containment. Transition. Rebounding. Rebounding actually is OK. But it’s all over the place. We got some work to do.” “
- The same Sefko article has a lot of quotes from around the team concerning the Mavs “making their run” in the Western Conference race. It could just be a strange coincidental slip of several tongues, or possibly the way the quotes are framed, but it all oozes a bit of arrogance. If everything is going well, this team is capable of playing at a much higher level than they’re playing now. But the problem is that they are absolutely clueless as to how they’re going to harness that power. It’s as if they’ve unearthed a safe filled with precious goods, and plan on calling the locksmith in the morning and being done with it. But unless Darrell Armstrong is going to single handedly make the fringe Mavs into good perimeter shooters, turn Josh Howard into a premier defender, keep Dampier motivated game-in and game-out, and significantly change the way the Mavs play team defense on almost every possession, I’d say it’s easier said than done. We’re not biding our time. “Waiting too long” to make a run isn’t an issue; we should be worried about making a run at all.
- Randy Hill of FOX Sports ends up rehashing tired, false maxims, including the famous angles of “Dirk as a playoff failure” and “Kidd as a fast-breaking dependent.” Nevermind the fact that Dirk has averaged 25.4 points and 11.1 rebounds for his career (that’s a 24 PER, holmes) or that Kidd’s New Jersey teams played at andante. Still, his negativity concerning the short-term future of the franchise is surely something he shares with some Mavs fans: “Where do they go from here? Or, better yet, how can they be more efficient in hiring players? Well, upgrading the talent level will be tricky. Dallas has almost $69 million already committed to next year’s payroll, with Josh Howard, Jason Terry and Erick Dampier signed up to make around $10 million each. Superstar salaries for less than superstar players may make Cuban seem generous when the contracts are signed, but with those employees joining Dirk to win at a .568 clip, it makes for a weak financial case. Good luck trading one of those cats for anything or anyone of value or consequence.”
- Jeff Caplan of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has some interesting numbers on the Mavs’ shooting from distance: “It’s no secret the Mavs need help with the 3-ball. Entering Tuesday’s games, they ranked seventh in the league in 3-pointers attempted per game (20.5), but just 25th in percentage made (33.7). Dallas shot better on the last road trip, three times hitting for 40 percent or better from behind the arc as it went 2-for-2. Jason Kidd, oddly the team’s most consistent long-ball threat this season, made 11 of the team’s 25 3-pointers on the four-game trip, accounting for 44 percent of the Mavs’ makes.”
- Sports Illustrated‘s Jack McCallum, Chris Mannix, and Steve Aschburner all pick the Mavs to miss the playoffs. But I tend to agree with Ian Thomsen: “We can talk all we want about all of the different reasons one or another team will fail, but injuries and trades will define the race. Utah has been hurting all season, and for the moment I’m thinking the Jazz without Carlos Boozer are the most likely outsiders among the contenders.”
It hasn’t gotten much play, but Andrei Kirilenko could miss significant time if his ankle doesn’t improve “over the next two or three days.“ He’s not a starter, but he’s arguably been Utah’s second most important player to date. Couple his status with Carlos Boozer’s ambiguous return, and you could have a team that’s waiting, waiting, waiting, and shown the door come April.
- Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com breaks down Josh Howard’s monopoly on the first possession of the game. He’s taking a lot of the Mavs’ first shots, and the stats aren’t pretty. That said, Fish does offer a disclaimer that should entice a “Mmhmm,” among those familiar with the Dallas offense: “If the five guys on the floor are Dirk and Josh, and then, say,Kidd, Wright/George and Damp. … maybe Josh Howard SHOULD be taking two or three of the first five or six shots.”
Fish urges readers to look at the data and analyze for themselves, and that’s a good idea. Check it out.
- Oh no. Please, don’t let it be true. OH DEAR LORD DON’T LET IT BE TRUE. My words of advice to Mark Cuban (who confirmed a potential exploratory interest to Tim MacMahon of The Dallas Morning News Blog): just think the situation through before you do anything rash, like sign Marbury. And then, if you still think signing Marbury would be a good idea, still don’t do it. It’s for the best.