“There is a sort of charm in ugliness.”
Well, at least the Mavs won. Otherwise, they’d be mere participants in a sloppy, ugly contest in which neither team could accomplish much of anything. Whatever specter follows around the Pacers to groan ghoulishly, move around furniture, and haunt Indy’s shooters was apparently bored with only making one team painful to watch. So not only did the Pacers shoot a characteristically bad 36.9% from the field, the Mavs shot 38.6%. Dallas’ offensive performance can really only be positively skewed by saying that it was bad, but not as bad as Indiana’s.
The Mavs did play impressive defense, though it’s hard to gauge numerically based on Indiana’s general ineptitude. This team is pretty miserable offensively night-in and night-out, and if you take Danny Granger out of the lineup (he missed the game due to personal reasons), then they find new ways to redefine misery. So yeah, the Mavs held the Pacers to some poor shooting numbers, including just three makes out of 23 three-point attempts. But the Pacers gave them plenty of help by missing open looks and exhibiting rather poor shot selection.
But if you feel compelled to hand out plaques for nice defensive play, they’d go to Jason Terry (14 points, 5-10 FG, two assists) and Brendan Haywood (13 points, 3-6 FG, 20 rebounds, three blocks). JET played a particularly active brand of perimeter defense, in which he took advantage of Indiana’s lazy passing by not only grabbing three steals, but by deflecting a good deal of the passes and loose balls that were in his midst. Haywood did as Haywood does, challenging shots from deep in the post or just deep in the paint, and though he’s still figuring out how best to work with his new teammates in pick-and-roll situations, his shot-blocking and rebounding abilities were fairly elite in this contest. I know it doesn’t take a legendary defender to hold Roy Hibbert to eight points, but that doesn’t make Brendan’s work clogging the paint and cleaning the defensive glass any less impressive.
But the Mavs offense. Yeah. Okay. Well, hrm. No one shot or scored particularly well at all, though Dirk Nowitzki (23 points, seven rebounds, two turnovers) did settle into his stroke late in the game. Dirk started the game with a 1-for-4 first quarter, and closed it with a 3-for-3 stint in the fourth. Caron Butler (eight points, five rebounds, three assists, four turnovers, two steals, and a block) started with a 2-for-8 first quarter, and at least had the decency to cut down his field goal attempts. Butler put up just two more shots in his final 18.5 minutes of playing time, and while that doesn’t translate to a productive scoring night, it’s his Maverick-low in attempts. Caron has averaged 14.6 attempts on 37% shooting as a Mav. To be fair, Butler has missed lot of looks around the rim over the last five games trying to draw fouls, which is why it’s much easier to tolerate than having him hoist jumper after jumper.
But his deference was enough. The Mavs found a way to scrape together enough points to put up a respectable total, with 10 from Kidd (seven assists, two turnovers) here, eight from Marion (six rebounds, three assists, three turnovers) there, and a Maverick-high seven for DeShawn Stevenson (four rebounds, two assists). DeShawn looked like a real rotation player in 23 minutes, and his play was unlike much of what we saw from him in Washington. The defense was back, and though DeShawn wasn’t quite a lockdown guy, he made smart plays when playing on-ball defense and worked that end of the court. On offense, he didn’t stop the ball or play outside himself; Stevenson hit a shot off the catch or a few dribbles if he had space, or else he simply continued to swing the ball. No indecision. It was nothing flashy — just a wing stepping off the bench to knock down a few jumpers (he was 3-of-5 before garbage time) and get a hand in a shooter’s face — but on some nights that type of play is exactly what the Mavs could use coming off the bench.
The Mavs probably took too long to really put the Pacers out of their misery, as the game wasn’t decided until the beginning of the fourth quarter. Indiana was right there by halftime, though a 15-5 and a 13-3 run to start the third and fourth quarters, respectively, put an end to that nonsense. The result never seemed to be in doubt, but I can understand why some would find the lack of separation (especially in the final score) troubling. But the Mavs did build the lead up to 22 before emptying the bench, and while they weren’t impressive overall, they did manage to muck up a game that wasn’t going their way. Not every win has to be an impressive win, and the more important thing for this team right now is to build confidence in their altered core.
- After J.J. Barea (0-3 FG) received the initial minutes as the back-up point guard, Rodrigue Beaubois (six points, 2-8 FG, three rebounds, two assists) emerged for the first time since the All-Star break. The results were mixed, and the low-light (for me, at least) was Roddy’s defense. He looked awful against the pick-and-roll; Marion would buy Beaubois time by flashing out on picks, but when Marion was forced to recover, Roddy was hardly in a position to defend the ball. I’m not sure whether it was some unusually effective picking by the Pacers, Beaubois’ lithe frame keeping him unable to fight back to his man, or simply an effort thing, but that has to change. With that length and athleticism, Beaubois’ calling card should be his defense, and you can’t defend the point guard position right now without great chemistry in your pick-and-roll defense.
- Jason Kidd and Brendan Haywood – still a work in progress, but they’re syncing up.
- What I couldn’t understand, for the life of me, was how T.J. Ford was able to bait Beaubois and Barea into biting on his pump fakes. I respect the intent to play good honest defense on a shooter, but come on. He’s T.J. Ford. If he wants to take turnaround, fadeaway jumpers, then you shake his hand and be on your merry.
- Shawn Marion was doing entirely too much off the dribble, which probably isn’t a good thing. There are nights where Shawn can do that and get away with it, but Indiana stripped him repeatedly, and three of those strips ended up as turnovers.
- I’m liking what Eddie Najera brings to the table more and more. He’s not exactly Erick Dampier, and that’s because he’s nothing like Erick Dampier; Najera still thrives based on a high energy level, despite being a spry 33 years old. But he’s holding down the center position with his hustle, and what matters is that he can relieve Brendan for 15 minutes a game or so until Damp’s return.
- Pacers’ coach Jim O’Brien was given a technical foul 58 seconds into the game. Dirk’s free throw gave the Mavericks a commanding 1-0 lead.
- Remember when Mike Dunleavy used to be good? He was fantastic for the Pacers in 2007-2008, but injuries seem to have completely derailed his post-Golden State renaissance. A pity, honestly – I’ve always hoped that MDJr would have a chance to redeem himself for all the grief he got while he was with the Warriors, and he was becoming quite the complementary player before he went down.
- JOSH MCROBERTS HAD AN ALLEY-OOP DUNK ON A FAST BREAK. THAT IS ALL.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Brendan Haywood. Speaking of, we should probably be on nickname alert for this guy. Caron Butler already has “Tough/Tuff Juice,” but Haywood needs something aside from the semi-infamous “Brenda.” Get on it, Mavs Nation, because if a 20-rebound night doesn’t deserve a moniker, then I don’t know what does anymore.