Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images.
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“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”
WORST. TRADE. EVER. I mean, did you see how out-of-sync Caron Butler looked? How many botched put-back attempts he had? How Serge Ibaka made a baby hook over Brendan Haywood?
Well, get used to it. Until the Mavs, new and old, have sufficient time to get acquainted, we’ll likely see more of the same. But you’ll also see Caron Butler charging baseline for a one-handed throwdown. You’ll see Brendan Haywood finishing a contested layup on the move after a feed from Jason Terry. In terms of what Butler and Haywood brought to the table in the first game of the rest of our lives, there was a lot to like, and a lot to make you cringe. That’s just the way of things when you’re incorporating new pieces into the rotation, especially with players as significant as these; the old Mavs are trying really hard to integrate the new ones, the new Mavs are trying really hard not to overshoot and alienate the old ones, and everyone out there is just a bit anxious to prove that the trade is as good as it sounds.
The result was some awful shooting, defensive failings, and finding ways to either move the ball too much or move it too little. Dallas Mavericks as pick-up team are not good enough to beat a team as skilled and successful as the Thunder, but that doesn’t say much at all about how good the Mavericks will be when they play like themselves.
On the other hand, you have to applaud the Thunder’s performance. Kevin Durant’s 25 points an 14 rebounds is impressive, but it took him 28 shots to reach that total. On most nights, the Durantula has to carry OKC’s offense. But last night it was his counterparts — Jeff Green (17 points, six rebounds, two steals, two blocks) and Russell Westbrook (17 points, eight assists, six rebounds, just one turnover) — bearded wonder James Harden (17 points on 5-7 shooting, five rebounds, six assists), and the cavalry of Thunder role players that got the job done. The Mavs had a particularly tough time stopping the Thunder’s transition game, in which Westbrook drove it down the throat of the defense before finishing at the rim or kicking it out to an open shooter. For a night, he was a more explosive Tony Parker, and the cast of OKC’s shooters were gunning from the corners in the Spurs tradition.
Fouling also turned out to be a huge problem, as the step-slow Mavs defense ended up hacking the Thunder to the tune of 30 free throw attempts. Most of OKC’s struggles have taken place on offense, and giving them that many free points is just asking for a loss. Know your opponent.
The Mavs were far too hesitant on offense to counter, as efforts to include Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood were often met with turnovers or a short shot-clock. Jeff Green and, oddly enough, James Harden, played some pretty terrific defense on Dirk (24 points on 9-22 shoot, nine rebounds, six assists), with Green in particular hounding Nowitzki out of any late-game heroics he may have had up his sleeve. Dallas couldn’t manage much at all in the way of scoring, as Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, and Caron Butler (the only other Mavs in double-figures) combined for 39 points shooting 12 of 41 from the field. The Mavs played poorly enough offensively to fall short of a lot of teams in this league, and their lack of purposeful ball movement and poor shooting were exacerbated by the hyper-athletic, impressively active Thunder defense.
It certainly wasn’t the Mavs’ finest hour, but hardly their darkest. Give it time.
- The Mavs’ third quarter was miserable. Just miserable. They shot 3 of 21 from the field and scored just 11 points. Sigh.
- J.J. Barea leap-frogged Rodrigue Beaubois in the rotation last night, which makes sense. Though Roddy may seem like a nice defensive match-up against Westbrook, Rick Carlisle was much more concerned with integrating Butler and Haywood into the offense. That’s something that Barea, the more experienced point guard of the two, is able to do…at least theoretically. Barea didn’t exactly have a terrific night, but that doesn’t make the logic any less sound.
- I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many terrible misses from a Maverick team. Butler and Haywood whiffed some of their attempts, which you could easily chalk up to nerves. But how about Dirk? Kidd? Terry? There were some truly miserable attempts that caught nothing but air or backboard, making last night not only one of worst nights of the new year in terms of offensive production, but certainly the worst in terms of offensive aesthetic.
- DeShawn Stevenson did log some playing time, though he only contributed one turnover and one missed shot.
- To the Mavs’ credit, they hit the offensive boards hard. Butler led the team with four, but Marion, Nowitzki, and Haywood each had three, followed by Erick Dampier’s two. Then again, the Mavs missed so many shots around the basket (they were somehow 9-24 at the rim, compared to the Thunder’s 17-25) that they afforded themselves plenty of opportunities to snag boards.
- Does anyone on this planet not love watching the Thunder play basketball? I enjoy watching just about every team in the NBA, but watching OKC is a pretty sublime experience.
- With the game on the line, Rick Carlisle went with a lineup that he was comfortable with: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, and Erick Dampier. It didn’t really help; the Thunder still closed out the game with authority, holding the Mavs at arm’s length the whole way.
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.
Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.
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-Alfred, as played by Michael Cain
The Mavs have yet to present their magnum opus of home wins, but the formula for their nail-biting win over the Thunder as scribed a bit differently than their other near-letdowns. The effort level was not only consistent, but sufficient, and though the Mavs scored just 19 points in the first quarter while allowing the Thunder a nine-point lead, it was not for lack of trying. The level of execution was clearly sub-par, but in such instances, the Mavs must continue to run. They must continue to rotate. They must continue to drive, and help, and slash, and box-out. Too many teams have been discouraged by the ball refusing to go through the hoop, when effort level should exist in a vacuum.
On some nights, the Mavs would give in. The picks would be weaker, the moves less decisive, and the help defense a step slow. But to their credit, Dallas never ceded the competitive edge. This team knows that it can beat the Thunder, and just as importantly, knows that it can stop Kevin Durant.
Shawn Marion is the man for that unenviable task, and he clearly knows something that the rest of the world does not. How else do you explain KD’s 22.2% shooting against Marion and the Mavs this season, and his 6-18 performance last night? How else do you explain Durant’s seven turnovers, three above his season average? Durant was put on this planet to score the ball, but something in Shawn Marion’s defense has made that objective incredibly difficult. Yes, Durant still put up 30 points, thanks to his 16 attempts from the line. But I’m not sure that anyone in the NBA today is a better man-up defender of the Durantula than the Mavs’ own Shawn Marion, and considering KD’s ridiculous season thus far, that’s quite the compliment. If you’re having trouble with kids sneaking into your garage to steal a trinket or two, you might want to call Shawn. If you’re having trouble convincing a jury of your innocence, you might want to call Shawn. And if you need to close off and defend your borders from an incoming army of up-and-coming All-Star small forwards, you should really, really call Shawn.
Oddly enough, despite of the truly admirable job that Marion did on the defensive end, he probably wasn’t the Mavs’ defensive MVP for the night. That honor goes to Jason Kidd, who played the scouting report on Russell Westbrook to perfection in the first half…only to see Westbrook nail mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper. Naturally, Rick Carlisle and Jason Kidd adjusted, and in the second half, Kidd made defensive play after defensive play. Westbrook was six of nine from the field at halftime, to the tune of 12 points. By game’s end, he was eight of nineteen (that makes two of ten in the second half, for those not in the number-crunching mood) with just 18 points. Kidd’s two blocks tied Erick Dampier for a game-high, and his four steals put him in a class of his own. When the Mavs needed stops, it was Kidd that created possessions out of thin air. When Kevin Durant had a chance to tie the game with 30 seconds left, it was Kidd who challenged his shot, negating Durant’s height advantage with superior effort and technique. Oh, and in between the stops and deflections, Kidd managed to drop 11 points on 50% shooting while totaling 11 assists to just one turnover.
Then there was Dirk Nowitzki, who looked more or less unstoppable against single coverage. 32 points on 18 shots is a tad impressive. Though five rebounds and four turnovers isn’t what you’d like to see out of a star power forward, you take what you get with a guy who can score like hell and hit what was essentially the game-winning shot. Dirk had the Mavs’ final six points, icing the Thunder and putting up just enough to to eek out a victory.
Jason Terry was kind enough to join Dirk in the scoring column, as JET did went to work in the second half en route to a 21-point night on 9 of 17 shooting. It’s no surprise that the Mavs operate at a completely different level offensively when Terry’s shot is falling, and this win belongs to him as much as it does to Marion, Kidd, or Dirk. His looks ranged from obscenely open to closely contested, but JET is a shooter, and once his aim is properly calibrated for the basket’s sweet spot, he’s tough to deter.
- Josh Howard had a horrible offensive night. He was not only shooting blanks but shooting plenty of them (2-14 FG), as the Mavs looked to him often in the absence of Dirk and JET. In theory, that approach is sound; Howard is the most natural wing scorer the Mavs have aside from Terry, and his ability to create his own shot trumps the rest of the rotation easily. But the Thunder were practically daring Josh to pull the trigger from mid-range, and though he was happy to oblige, the Mavs can’t be happy with the result. Howard’s shot selection remains his biggest flaw, and on a night where he simply can’t find the net, he’s not in a position where he can shoot himself into a rhythm. Those are shots that should be going to more efficient scorers, and while I’d very much like to see Josh scoring big in the flow of the offense, I’d rather he not make it his personal mission to chuck up jumper after jumper.
- Rodrigue Beaubois and Byron (the artist formerly known as B.J.) Mullens, who were swapped for each other on draft night, logged a combined zero minutes. It’s a fun time to be a rookie.
- Eddie Najera was suited up for the game, but did not play.
- James Singleton logged seven minutes of action, grabbing two rebounds and…well, not much else. But he appears to be stepping into Kris Humphries’ role as a reserve power forward. I’d expect that to continue, particularly on nights where Shawn Marion is locked in to the three on defensive duties, as he was tonight against Kevin Durant.
- Though Josh had a tough night, he did have a hand in saving the game. Jason Terry missed two free throws with four seconds remaining, leaving the door open for the Thunder to get one final shot. They had no timeouts remaining, and thus Nenad Krstic had to get the ball into the hands of a playmaker in a timely manner. Westbrook was ready and waiting, but when Krstic attempted the outlet, Josh Howard tipped the pass, wasting crucial seconds off the clock. It wasn’t an outright steal, but it was still a tremendous play at a crucial time.
- J.J. Barea has definite value off the bench, and though that role prevents him from applying consistent offensive pressure over long stretchers, it may be his best with the team. He can step in, catch defenses off guard, and create some confusion for half-court defenses.
- Dirk was able to get to the line at will, and his 15 attempts were a huge reason why the Mavs posted an absurd .557 free throws per field goal. That’s a nice parade to the free throw line for a team that sparingly, and oh, every single one of those free throws means a hell of a lot.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to…I don’t know, man. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, and Shawn Marion are all great candidates, with Jason Terry as a possible dark horse. You guys can decide this one; sound off in the comments with your choice for the Gold Star of the Night, with an explanation if you’d like.
Royce Young of Daily Thunder was gracious enough to let me tag along for a podcast adventure, in which we discuss Mavs-Thunder, Russell Westbrook and the evolution of basketball positionality, a retrospective on the Rodrigue Beaubois- B.J./Byron Mullens trade, and plenty of assorted Maverick topics. Give it a listen.
Photo by Larry W. Smith/NBAE via Getty Images).
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“Success is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”
With this season’s Mavs, there is no switch for Rick Carlisle to flip. They need not token motivational speeches, or external motivation, or emotional incident. There’s simply an internal trigger that brings everything into focus. There’s a gentle whisper in the ear of the team leaders with a simple message: It’s winning time.
A Serge Ibaka dunk put the Thunder up 75-71 with 8:18 left in the fourth quarter, and over the subsequent seven minutes (in which the Mavs went on a 21-5 run), the Mavs were a whirling dervish of defensive stops and heady offensive play. The sloppy execution by OKC was a perfect contrast to Dallas’ patience with the basketball. As the Mavs looked to seal the win and wrap it in a bow, they refused to give into the temptation of contested jumpers or solo heroism, and as a result, they reaped the benefits of open jumpers and, well, solo heroism. Dirk Nowitzki (35 points, 13-17 FG, 11 rebounds) had already established his offensive rhythm, but the Mavs continued to execute their game plan. Sometimes that involved getting the ball into Dirk, but even those possessions were carefully executed and fed the ball to Nowitzki at his favorite spots on the floor. The spacing was excellent, and when OKC’s pressure proved to be too much, Dirk was quick to kick the ball to an open teammate around the basket or at the 3-point line.
On defense, the Mavs managed to exploit the limits of the Thunder offense. As I made note of prior to yesterday’s game, Russell Westbrook (16 points, 6-19 FG, six rebounds, five assists) is a terrific talent, but if it’s the point guard’s job to manage the offense on critical possessions and under difficult circumstances, Westbrook failed. He worked so hard to get into the paint, and it’s hard to rip a guy when he’s putting forth that kind of effort. But last night was an excellent case study in the differences between a veteran offense with a point guard in the truest sense, and a young, developing team still in search of its offensive mojo. Westbrook didn’t have a bad game and the loss hardly falls on his shoulders, but if the Thunder had a different breed of point guard, does the blanketed Kevin Durant get more open looks? Does he get the ball in space, on the move, or from the spots on the floor in which he likes to operate? It’s hard to say conclusively given the stellar defensive effort by the Mavs, but the end result is a bit telling.
The Thunder certainly didn’t give up, and the manner in which they attacked the basket late in the game is commendable. But the Maverick D was ready and waiting, helping and covering to counter screens and giving OKC’s shooters all the room in the world and dared them to shoot. It was the same philosophy that allowed the Mavs’ zone defense to be so effective in the second and third quarters, and a logical plan of attack against a team that ranks 23rd in the league in 3-point shooting percentage.
The crowning achievement of the Mavs’ defense was their shackling of Kevin Durant (12 points, 4-18 FG, four turnovers). It started on the ball with Shawn Marion and Josh Howard, who limited Durant’s touches through ball denial and crowding. When KD finally got his hands on the ball, he faced pressure on his shot from Marion and Howard, pressure on the dribble from Jason Kidd, and pressure on his drives from Erick Dampier and Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavs were able to take away everything that makes Durant so brilliant, and those looking for a keynote performance from the Maverick D need look no further than their work against Durant and the Thunder.
Oh and by the by, Dirk Nowitzki looked pretty much unguardable. He had a few turnovers, but Ibaka and Green, for all their best efforts, were more or less hopeless.
- James Harden (12 points, six rebounds, three turnovers) and Jeff Green (15 points, 7-11 FG, 11 rebounds) were the OKC offense, and I mean that in ways both good and bad. Green was especially remarkable with his range and his touch around the basket, but the fact that the Thunder offense was left to lean so heavily on Harden and Green (who combined to score just 27 points) is a bit problematic. OKC’s offense isn’t very good to begin with, and without big contributions from Kevin Durant and/or Russell Westbrook, they’re going to have a hard time winning games.
- The Mavs were able to weather another minimal scoring performance from Jason Terry (seven points, 2-12 FG, five assists). He ran down the shot clock needlessly and even committed a double-dribble violation while trying to break down his man at the top of the key. Not exactly what you’d like to see out of your team’s second best scorer, regardless of who is matched up against him.
- Rick Carlisle is definitely tightening up the rotation, as only three Mavs (Howard, Gooden, Terry) managed to get off the bench. More to come on that topic later.
- 15 points and three turnovers for Josh Howard, whose offensive efforts were productive, if not pretty. I can’t say I’m too proud of Josh’s shot selection, but again, he came up big. 15 points in a 14-point win? I wouldn’t say that every bucket was crucial, but finding scoring relief with Dirk on the bench is paramount right now.
- Jason Kidd was Jason Kidd. That is all.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Dirk Nowitzki. I mean, he’s pretty good, right? Good enough to drop 35 on 18 shots, good enough to impact the game defensively, and good enough to take over the Maverick offense and make all the right plays. Nowitzki is as good as it gets in the NBA right now, and the Dirk we saw last night had virtually no weaknesses in his game.
Russell Westbrook has the potential to be a terrific player, even if his natural instincts tell him to take bad, long jumpers and drive into the lane without a plan of attack. Still, he intends well, and he’s the rare breed of NBA talent that boasts both tremendous athleticism and excellent work ethic.
Nothing comes easy for Russell Westbrook on the basketball court…except for the running and the leaping. But those skills make Westbrook more a track star than a legit NBA player. Yet Russell is considered one of the best young points in the league, and his dynamic, energetic play is one of the reasons why the Thunder are slowly invading the national consciousness. He boasts a rare combination of top-notch athleticism and maximum effort, two traits which are almost antithetical in today’s NBA. The league’s athletic freaks typically coast on their natural gifts for far too long, temporarily halting their development and limiting their opportunities. Those that aren’t blessed with that athleticism typically opt towards honing a particular skill or simply outwork everyone else on the floor. But despite his ridiculous ups and explosive speed, Westbrook has managed to stay grounded.
Read my full post on Westbrook here.
The Dallas Mavericks visit the Okahoma City Thunder
- Interbasket.net sat down with Nathan Jawai for a little Q&A, and Jawai proved to be quite the brown-noser when asked about his favorite players: Ibn: Who are your favorite players? “Well, a range of players for their specific fundamentals they bring to the game. Dwight Howard’s aggressiveness at the post and his D. Now going back to the old-timers in Australian NBL, Andrew Gaze commitment and leadership. Though mostly the biggest influence on me has to be, (Dirk) Nowitzki. His current leadership and hints to me have totally influenced me on how to improve my game in every way. Oh, he’s gonna like that…”
- Shawn Marion suggests that the Mavericks may exist on a plane where ‘position’ is merely passing fancy.
- Spotted: what we can only assume is a Mavs fan donning the jersey of one of the franchise’s most beloved role players. EDDIE!
- Hey, remember that time Russell Westbrook lit the Mavs up for a five-point play? Yeah…good…times…
- SLAM Online’s Joey Whelan names the addition of Marion as the Southwest’s Best Long-Term Move: “This one may come a as a surprise pick for some given that the UNLV grad is coming off a significant down year statistically, but Marion has landed in a perfect situation to get back to being a major force. This addition gives Dallas a slew of offensive weapons to surround aging point guard Jason Kidd with for what should be the final three years of his career. While this may not suddenly thrust the Mavs into the race for Western Conference supremacy, it does put them right on the heels of the Lakers and the Spurs in regards to the pecking order.”
- This time, a Ball Don’t Lie two-fer: Donnie ranks among the top GMs, and the top two point guards…well, isn’t it obvious?
Photo by AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
SOMEBODY KILL ME PLEASE.
Games like these make me hate writing recaps. Losses are always hard, but can’t the Mavs at least get a little more creative in the way that they lose? Oh, a quick point guard burned Jason Kidd. Oh, one of our significant players didn’t play due to injury. Oh, the defense was atrocious and the offense couldn’t keep up. Oh, we lost another game to a subpar team, and another game to a team missing multiple significant players (I guess that might be a new one — to my knowledge, the Mavs haven’t done both of those in the same game).
As much as we’d like to believe that the Mavs are playing better, everything is still exactly the same. The Mavs are still a team that’s unable to put together consistent effort on either end of the court, and it costs them games against contenders and basement-dwellers alike. If you grant them even the slightest benefit of the doubt, they’ll relax and blow it. It’s aggravating, and I’m sick and tired.
The worst part: as good as Russell Westbrook was (17 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists), he didn’t kill the Mavs. He shot 6-18 and had 6 turnovers. The real murderers? Nenad Krstic (26 points, 10-16 FG), Thabo Sefolosha (15 points, 6-11 FG), and Kyle M.F. Weaver (18 points, 7-13 FG). Let that sink in for a minute. I’ll wait. Also: Malik Rose had 7 points. Nothing more need be said.
It’s a pity because Dirk was pretty spectacular, especially as the Mavs tried to claw their way back into this game in the fourth. He finished with 28 points on 21 shots, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists — a team high in assists, a high among starters in rebounds, and more points than the four other starters combined. Jason Terry (20 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals) seemed to be the only one willing to share the offensive load, and he was already showing glimpses of the old JET despite appearing in just his 2nd game since his return from injury. He was curling off screens well, and even popped a signature JET pull-up transition three. Unfortunately all was for naught, and the Mavs regressed a few months in Josh Howard’s absence. Should we be surprised that the scoring finally tapered off when Howard went out of the game due to a sore left ankle? The Mavs’ offense played out exactly as it did during Howard’s extended absence: Dirk trying to do everything, Terry doing his best to help, and the rest of the team blowing it.
That’s all I’ve got for you. The Mavs are still up to their teasing ways, flirting with legitimacy before the inevitable meltdown. I’m still holding onto playoff hope, but right now I just want to go chew on some tin foil.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: Shut up.
The Dallas Mavericks visit the Oklahoma City Thunder
I love the home-and-home. It’s one of the regular season’s greatest creations, and what it lacks in variety it makes up for in intrigue. It’s almost like a mini-playoff, usually against a team that you would never, ever, under any circumstances play in the playoffs. Which is cool.
The Mavs and the Thunder are practically playing a home-and-home, although not entirely. The Mavs played the Raps and the Thunder played the Grizzlies, but the overtimer in Dallas is still fresh on everyone’s minds.
The game’s in OKC this time around, and the Thunder are still decidedly lacking in the Durantula department. Again, a pity. In his absence, though, the Thunder are playing like wounded tigers with laser eyes and rabies, pushing the Mavs to the limit and taking down the Grizz. They don’t need the best small forward in the West, apparently. KD is expected to miss out on tonight’s game with the same ankle troubles, meaning OKC gets another crack at the Mavs. This is where it gets tricky. On one hand, you’d expect the better equipped team to take care of business in the second game. They know what to expect from Green and Westbrook, and don’t have their gameplan scrambled around by planning for Durant. On the other, a previously hungry OKC team may now be nothing short of ravenous, and could feast on a the Mavs if they show up even the least bit lacksidasical. Or will a team with few offensive options outside of Kevin Durant snap out of it and realize what they really are? SO MANY VARIABLES, PEOPLE.
Regardless of the turnout, last week’s preface provided a backdrop to an otherwise meaningless game. No offense to the Thunder, but without Durant they’re small fries. But, armed with the knowledge that this team is capable of getting all up in their biznass, the Mavs should be able to respond in ways that capitalize on the differential in talent and the fairly transparent strategy the Thunder will no doubt employ. Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook are both awesome, but can they really beat the Mavs on their own when Dallas knows what’s coming?
EDIT: Thanks for the heads up from commenter Marrrkus – Jeff Green will not play tonight (back spasms). Source.