- Any chance we could just keep these playoff match-ups? LAL-HOU, PHX-UTA, DEN-POR, DAL-SAS. BOS-CHA, ORL-MIA, CLE-MIL, and ATL-DET. Sounds like a pretty terrific playof to me, with even the bad matchups providing a bit of intrigue.
- Rick Carlisle has his sights set squarely on Aaron Brooks (via Earl K. Sneed): “[Brooks] has had a great season up to this point, and so for us, it’s just to make him work on the defensive end and just try to take the ball out of his hands on offense — make him become a play-maker and not some much a guy who can score…[Brooks] is a priority,” Carlisle said. “One of the reasons that he’s so important is because he generates their tempo. He gets them playing fast — which leads to transition buckets, transition threes, chances to drive and get in the paint. It’s just important that we get everybody back and build walls so he can’t be taking runs at us and getting open shots.”
- Ken Berger ponders the point of Tracy McGrady’s comeback: “Tracy McGrady returned to the Houston Rockets Tuesday night, and the fans cheered. T-Mac hit a 3-pointer, his only points during an eight-minute stint, and all was right in Rocket Land again. Right? No, not so much. McGrady’s comeback is only part of a larger plan to increase his minutes and prove his worth to a team willing to take a chance on his once-breathtaking ability to score and benefit from his $23 million expiring contract at the same time. The Rockets were 14-10 this season without Yao Ming and McGrady, and now the only question is how long they’ll have to keep up the charade until McGrady is in good enough condition to help another team.”
- Head over to this ESPN SportsNation poll for assorted “best of the decade” awards. Not much Mavs rep, but do vote for Mavs-Spurs ’06 as the best playoff series of the decade. At the moment, it’s inexplicably trails the four other nominees.
- Jason Terry is a much improved defender this year, in part because that was his point of emphasis in the off-season and in training camp. As open shot attempts have been fewer and farther between for Terry, that defense has kept him on the floor.
- Rick Carlisle on JET’s responsibilities in the offense: “They’re double-teaming, both on pick-and-rolls and on pin-downs…When that happens, he’s got to be a facilitator for us and he has to have a level of patience. He’s got to stay aggressive to score when the opportunities are there. But when people commit two to him, he’s got to drag those guys, and then make the pass leading to a bucket.”
- Marc Stein has plenty of Mavs content in the Weekend Dime, including a brief Q & A with Erick Dampier, an explanation of why Stein votes Mavs-Spurs as the playoff series of the decade, news that the NBA wants Mavs’ head scout Amadou ‘Gallo’ Fall to help run part of its Basketball Without Borders program, and mention of Mavs’ players in the numbers and the soundbites.
- Sham Sports has come up with a nice nickname for the Milwaukee Bucks’ Ersan Ilyasova (who has been having a terrific season, by the way): Turk Nowitzki. (Link via TrueHoop, Bucksketball)
- Kevin McHale still has high hopes for Dirk.
- Gerald Narciso of DIME Magazine lists Rick Carlisle as the second best coach in the NBA this season (in terms of exceeding expectations), behind only Mike Woodson.
- I have no objection to voicing my opinion, but I don’t like the idea of taking someone else’s work and breaking it down in order to poke holes and criticize. But in the case of Charlie Rosen’s piece on Dirk for FOX Sports, well, I’m just glad Fish got to it before I did, because the temptation may have been overwhelming. Dirk “once ran through a ball game like his pants were on fire, jumped to touch the moon, looked to dunk on every drive and dribbled freely from end-to-end?” Really? Rosen’s column may be the first I’ve ever seen to use “speed” and Dirk Nowitzki in the same sentence.
- Adventures in the facial expressions of Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol.
- Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion are among the league leaders (over the last five seasons) in clutch TS% differential (the differential in true shooting between normal situations and ‘clutch’ situations).
- Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on that final Mavs’ possession (via Charles Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel): “I tried to deny [Dirk] the ball, but he [Kidd] threw it high and he [Nowitzki] caught it…I was trying to make him drive, but he shot that fadeaway. It was a tough shot.”
- Ersan Ilyasova has long flown under the radar as a prospect (so much so that he skipped over to Europe for a spell), but he looked damn effective on both sides of the ball last night.
- Brandon Jennings, on his perhaps ill-advised three with Beaubois in his face (via the wonderful Holly MacKenzie from SLAM Online): “I wanted the ball at the last second. I didn’t know Ersan’s man had doubled me. When I looked back at the tape I saw he was wide open for the jump shot. It’s something I’m going to learn from. It’s a long season.”
- A friendly reminder that Drew Gooden, contrary to his initial performances in a Maverick uniform, is a pretty good basketball player.
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie: “This is on the Mavs. This was a decisive performance that, even if it ended with the Mavericks taking the loss, tells us that we can’t bank on the “Dallas’ core is on the other side of 30, and they played last night” warning shot. This isn’t to say the team won’t drag during some four-game-in-five-night endeavor before the All-Star break — every team does — but we do know for sure that these Mavericks have the mettle to work through those tired legs.”
- Giving a little love to Dirk, Kidd, and Gooden.
“Let’s be bad guys.”
If last season’s Mavs had one defining flaw, it would be their lack of a team identity. They struggled all season long to define who they were as a team, and with no team-wide, implicit understanding of their collective on-court personality, the 2008-’09 Mavs faltered when faced with a legitimate challenge.
The 2009-’10 season to date has played out a bit differently. One might claim that the Mavs have developed a strong defensive identity, and though you probably wouldn’t know it from watching the second half of last night’s game, they wouldn’t be wrong. One might claim that the Mavs have developed a resilient identity, working tirelessly toward wins despite their shortcomings. But I see something different. Through eleven games, the Mavs have forged a completely new identity from the regular season fires. Your Dallas Mavericks, ladies and gentlemen, are heartbreakers.
Just ask the Milwaukee Bucks, who fought and fought and probably deserved to win. Or ask the Houston Rockets, who ran out to a big lead against a more talented Mavs team. Or ask the Utah Jazz, who…well, you know. These aren’t just big wins or comeback wins. The Mavs are trivializing the spirit of their opponents’ hard work and execution by showing that this team will always be there, ready to break some hearts and play the villain. These Mavs may not have many characteristics that make them inherently hate-able, but if you win enough games that have gone to the wire, opposing teams (and their fans) will not only feel deflated, but resentful.
The Mavs’ long lost offense turned out to be the mechanism that silenced the Milwaukee crowd. Though the Mavs’ O stalled significantly in the second half (37 second half points vs. 66 first half points), it was more of a return to earth than a genuine struggle. The hot shooting in the first half had to stop at some point, and Brandon Jennings, Ersan Ilyasova, Luke Ridnour, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute took full advantage of the sudden cold streak. An 18-point Maverick lead was wiped out completely, and a team whose defense had struggled all game long was now left with cold shooters to contest the oozing confidence of Brandon Jennings.
Let’s take a minute to properly appreciate what Jennings did. He exploded for 13 points in the fourth quarter, and they could not have been bigger in terms of magnitude. These were game-tying buckets, go-ahead buckets, and momentum-shifting buckets, many of which could have gone down as the final scene if not for some Maverick heroics. Jennings simply ran around or shot over every Maverick not named Rodrigue Beaubois, and Carlisle’s shift to a zone in the fourth quarter seemed to be an admission of that. It didn’t help much at all, as Jennings (25 points on 8-22 FG, 7 rebounds, 8 assists) and Ilyasova (19 points, 4-7 3FG, 12 rebounds) were well in rhythm on the threes and mid-range jumpers.
But each time the Bucks made a big shot, the Mavs made an even bigger one. Dirk Nowitzki was especially effective down the stretch, but the Mavs would have been lost (and would have lost) without the clutch contributions of Jason Terry and Drew Gooden. Gooden’s contributions on the night won’t be forgotten (22 points, 14 rebounds), but his tip-in of a missed Nowitzki layup was absolutely tremendous, tying the game with 27 seconds remaining in overtime, and setting up Dirk’s game-winning jumper.
At times, it almost seemed as if the Mavs were trying to lose. Jason Kidd had his best passing game of the season to the tune of 17 assists, but very nearly gave away the game with an unforced turnover near the end of the fourth quarter. Dirk Nowitzki had an excellent night, but committed a horrible loose ball foul that sent the Bucks to the line with the game tied and just 37 seconds to play. Rick Carlisle refused to put Rodrigue Beaubois into the game in the fourth, despite the fact that Brandon Jennings was just 2-11 from the floor while Roddy was in the game. But all of those figures found redemption in the game’s final sequence: Beaubois partially blocked (or at least heavily contested) a Jennings 3, Carlisle draws up a game-winning inbounds play executed perfectly with a pristine pass from Kidd and a sweet jumper from Dirk at the final horn.
- Rodrigue Beaubois (12 points, 5-9 FG) needs to be on the floor more, and needs to be on the floor when it matters most. His performance wasn’t flawless, but he really does change the game with his speed and in this game, with his defensive ability. I respect J.J. Barea’s defense more than most, but he was a liability on the court. He couldn’t stop Jennings, and J.J.’s trips into the lane often ended with an awkward floater or a blocked attempt.
- Shawn Marion missed the entire second half with an ankle sprain, Erick Dampier was still not with the team (although he seems to be feeling better), and Josh Howard was still out with injury. This was a big win for the Mavs regardless, but even bigger considering the Mavs’ injuries.
- I feel sorry for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. He played that last shot about as well as anyone could, but Dirk still got a pretty good look and an even better bounce.