Dirk Nowitzki’s incredible one-man fourth quarter comeback against the Utah Jazz will go down as one of the finest performances in franchise history, but Dirk’s brilliance overshadowed another impressive showing by the Mavs’ defense. In the first installment of Moving Pictures, we’ll take a look at some of the key stops Dallas made during their fourth quarter run, the very stops that enabled Dirk and the Mavs to pull off an unlikely victory.
“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.
- The Mavs are treated to back-t0-back games against Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Oh, joy.
- Drew Gooden has had a pretty rough start with the Mavs, and it could be a bit rougher if these allegations are true. If so, not cool. A source from the Mavs is denying that Drew was actually involved, but it’s worth noting that the team does have incentive to do just that. Regardless, the NBA seems to be trying to get to the bottom of things with their own investigation. I wouldn’t be upset if this was the last I heard of this situation.
- Erick Dampier talks about his contributions to the team, including a trip down 2006-’07 memory lane (via Mike Fisher of DB.com): “I hear the talk, but I’ve been through all of this before. …The talk…it’s really not a big deal to me. In (2006-07) they decided I should come off the bench and we started the season winless…then I became the starter again and we ended the season with the best record in the NBA. …I think that means something. …People who have played basketball, people who know basketball, they know what I contribute here,” Damp says. “Some people just want to watch the games to see who scores 40 points. But that’s not all basketball is about. There are a lot of things that go into winning a basketball game, and I help my team do those things. Basketball people know this.’’
- Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: “‘They’re a tough bunch there,’ Nowitzki said. ‘They’re physical, and the refs really let them get away with a lot of stuff in Utah. Usually here, nothing happens. We’re a very confident bunch at home. We feel like we can beat anybody at home…If you lack confidence in this league, you don’t stand a chance. We got to have a swagger and walk on the court like we’re supposed to win this game.’” It’s true, Utah hasn’t been very good away from home this season. That’s not exactly news. But they did beat a tough New Orleans squad in NOLA last week, so I’m not counting my chickens just yet. Also, let me drop some knowledge on you: the home team has won the last seven times that the Mavs and Jazz have played each other.
- Don’t underestimate San Antonio’s ability to get to that seventh seed. Would it be difficult? Absolutely. Would I bet on the Spurs? Hell naw. But they’ve got Tim Duncan, they’ve got Tony Parker, and most importantly, they’ve got Gregg Popovich. Maybe the team isn’t playing at quite the level they were earlier this season, but this is a team that can win games…supposing Pop doesn’t bench the starters and send them to the spa.
- Tim Cowlishaw says that being in 8th sucks, and the Mavs need to get in 7th. Good to know.
- Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: “‘Josh wants to play. It’s been very frustrating for him. But this is a situation we have to manage as a franchise intelligently. We got to try to keep him tuned up to play, but we can’t overdo it and get the ankle swollen and sore again. It just doesn’t work. We hope he can play, but I just can’t tell you at this time.’ [said Rick Carlisle]…The good news for Howard is that there are never back-to-back games in the playoffs, and usually there are two or three days between games in the first round. Carlisle said Howard usually responds better with more time between games. The Mavericks have only one more set of back-to-back games.”
- Deron Williams has averaged 27 points and 11.3 assists against the Mavs this season. Sigh.