We’re at the end of 2010 and the Mavericks have the second-best record in the NBA (tied with Boston) and a three-game lead over the Lakers in the West. Anybody have that coming into the season? If so, you’re coming with me to Vegas.
That said, it’s time for this week’s installment of Mavericks Hot and Cold, covering the Mavs’ two-game trouncing of the Sunshine State.
1) Jason Terry in the clutch
Last week was vintage Jason Terry, fourth-quarter aficionado. Against the Miami Heat on Monday night, JET entered the final frame with zero points on 0-of-5 shooting and a turnover. JET was such a nonfactor in the first half, Coach Rick Carlisle jokingly proclaimed he was "still at the hotel." Needless to say, JET found his way to the American Airlines Arena for the fourth quarter. He scored all 19 of his points in the fourth, including two ice-cold three-pointers in the final minutes to put the Mavs up 86-81 and 89-85. While his numbers weren’t nearly as impressive, JET also came through in crunch-time the following night in Orlando, tallying 6 points and 3 assists during the fourth. Most importantly, JET drained a long jumper with :39 seconds left to push the Mavs’ lead to 99-94 after a late barrage of Magic three-balls had cut a double-digit Mavs lead to just 3.
2) First-quarter starts
Maybe it’s something about Florida (great weather, beautiful women?), but in both games last week, the Mavs came out the gate with a purpose. Against Miami, the Mavs opened the game with a 14-2 lead, eventually stretching that margin to 23-10 with 3:14 left in the quarter. The fast start was fueled by Dirk Nowitzki, who hit the ground running with 8 points in those first nine minutes. The following night, the Mavs jumped out to a 24-12 lead against Orlando, with Dirk again contributing 8 points. By starting off each game so well, the Mavs accomplished the important task of setting the tone early against quality competition on the road, although neither lead would last very long (see below).
3) Game-clinching free throws
To sweep their Florida road trip, the Mavs were required to make several game-clinching free throws in the waning seconds of close games, notwithstanding hostile(-ish) crowds. They came through. The Mavs went 9-of-10 from the line in the final minute against Miami (Terry 2-of-2, Marion 3-of-4, Dirk 4-of-4) and 6-of-6 in the final 27 seconds against Orlando (Marion, Dirk, and Terry all 2-of-2). Of course, the Mavs would prefer to win by margins such that game-icing free throws are unnecessary, but this sort of late-game foul-line performance has become typical of the Mavs and is one of the primary reasons for their astounding success in close games over the past several seasons.
1) Dirk Nowitzki’s shooting
As gifted a shooter as Dirk is, it was hard to believe he could shoot 56% from the field for an entire season. He came back down to earth a bit this past week, going 8-of-21 (38%) against Miami and 4-of-13 (31%) against Orlando. The Big German is bound to come back with a nonchalant 13-of-14 (or some-such) performance any day now, but at least for one week, Dirk actually looked human. His season average is now down to 54.4%, which we can all agree is entirely unacceptable.
2) First-quarter finishes
As noted above, the Mavs enjoyed early double-digit leads in both games last week. Unfortunately, those leads vanished quickly. After leading 23-10 against Miami, the Mavs gave up a 17-0 run in just over three minutes. The following night at Orlando, the Mavs’ 24-12 lead was decimated by a 21-5 Magic run spanning about seven minutes. The Mavs have shown a penchant for blowing leads so far this year, but perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect them to hold an early double-digit lead on the road against quality opponents like Miami and Orlando. Are you concerned with the Mavs’ tendency to lose double-digit leads? Do you chalk it up to the NBA just being a game of runs? Let us know in the comments.
3) NBA holiday scheduling
Mavs players and coaches surely welcomed the holiday layoff between the Orlando game and tonight’s matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder. For the fans, however, it was a cold and lonely Mavs-less Christmas. Hopefully you all enjoyed some of the marquee matchups on Christmas Saturday. But once the last game rolled around (a fairly meaningless Trailblazers-Warriors matchup), I found myself pining for a Mavs fix in the stylings of their 2008-2009 Christmas-night comeback win over the Blazers. Some of you were probably watching the Cowboys, in which case, I’m sorry.
We've got a great slate of games this week for the Mavs. See you next Monday.