The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Toronto Raptors 99-86, at home, to notch their first win of the season. Ian Mahimni led the Mavs with 19 points, Dirk had 18, Terry had 17, Marion had 12, and Carter had 10. The Mavs especially shined in the fourth-quarter, which they won 22-16.
The quest ion we all want to know is, can we unpanic now.
The answer is yes, of course, if you were panicking ,but also a little bit no.
Let’s say that this was a fine offensive effort, that at times the passing looked almost like it looked last year, that this was, in my opinion, the best complete game Roddy has played as a Mav (despite a pedestrian twelve points), and hey, how about Ian Mahimni?
Let’s also say that even though the Raptors shooting percentage fell off a cliff starting in the middle of the third, as the Mavs' started to rise, the Raps nevertheless never had a worse FG % than the Mavs, for a lot of the game were besting it by nearly 20%, and continued the Mavs’ opponents' habit, this year, of barbecuing them from three.
Let’s get to that recap.
After the most pathetic tip-off effort that the building has seen in some time, it was the old guard that got the Mavs started, with a Shawn Marion layup, a J-Kidd three, two Dirk jumpers and two Dirk free throws. In fact, the only new Mav to score in the first was Lamar Odom, who hit two free throws.
While, in the second, it was only Vince Carter’s two-point jumper that came from the new Mavs, it certainly seems worth pointing out that that Ian Mahimni and Rodrigue Beaubois combined for 13 first-half points. Brendan Haywood had some fine offensive rebounds, and even swished his first two free throws of the game, before donking the third and then missing the fourth so far right that Pat Robertson got nervous.
They left the half leading 50 to 46, and while they clearly seemed to have more firepower than the Raps, it was hard to feel comfortable, especially given how the season had gone to that point. More than that, the bad guys were shooting comfortably over 50% and the Mavs were slightly below 40—the same old song, in other words.
From the second quarter through essentially the fourth, the Raptors employed a fairly simple strategy. Their playbook centered around getting Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon jumpshots. Since Carlisle left Dirk on Bargnani for a good portion of the game (baffling, in my opinion, but they pay him a lot of money and me none), it turned out to be a pretty good strategy.
Calderon, who shortly thereafter flopped so hard he looked to give himself a concussion, started out the third with a three that brought it within one, and though Dirk and Haywood’s (miraculous) free throws, as well as a Shawn Marion hook brought the Mavs' lead to 8, a Calderon, Bargnani, Barbosa flurry gave the Raptors a seven-point lead with 3:56 left in the third.
Oh no, said Mavs fans everywhere. Seriously? The Raptors?
Oh yes, said Vince Carter, apparently still smarting from having his moment of glory taken away last night. He hit a dead on three,and a curling 14-footer to bring the Mavs within two. Give this to Vince—he can still hit a tough jumper, and he still has all the guts in the world.
When Kidd hit a three pointer on a fine Terry assist, a minute later, it put the Mavs up for good. By the fourth quarter, the sprightly Raptor attack had run out of gas, and the Mavs put the thing away.
In my mind, what really stood out in the fourth was how self-possessed Roddy Beaubois was. It’s always seemed to me that that particular youngster is always going for 40 points or nothing. Tonight he played the point admirably, played defense with a surprising scrappiness, and basically looked like an actual NBA player—despite the fact that he didn’t light up the score board. That was encouraging.
We’d also be very remiss not to point out the superb offensive play of Ian Mahimni mentioned above, who not only dunked, but looked smooth and polished on a couple of jumpers and moved very well within the offense. He was also 7-11 from the line which is not only not too bad for a center, but is a sign of how far his game seems to have come, since last year 11 free throws was inevitably something Ian would gift the other team with rather than take, personally.
The Mavs walked away with a 13-point win, are in the W column in general, and can feel a little bit better. However, there’s still a long way to go, and it’s especially apparent that Carlisle still isn’t sure who he wants to put out there. Lamar Odom continued his poor play, going 0-3 in 12 minutes of action, perhaps to be expected at this point, but more mysteriously, Delonte West after a very decent game against the Thunder, got only 16 minutes.
Dominique Jones did not make an appearance. Sean Williams, who’s done nothing but hit 5 of his 6 shots, for 14 points, grabbed 5 boards, three of them O-boards and blocked a couple of shots in exactly 15 minutes of play despite the fact that the Mavs—and here, despite the strong offensive play of both Mahimni and Haywood over the last two—have had some truly terrible defense through 11 quarters, at least, also hasn’t gotten off the bench since.
And yes, I know it may be hard for me to make you believe that holding the Raptors to 86 still looked horrible defensively, but to mine eyes, it did. Is Sean Williams the answer? No idea, but it’s pretty impossible to say the Mavs have presented any defensive answers so far, despite, again, the Raptors’ low-score. It would be nice to see.
One last note is that we did get an interesting sign of how the Mavs will be adapting to this frantic season. Carlisle again sat Kidd to start the fourth, and again tried to play Dirk the entire fourth-- and Dirk again clearly ran out of gas, but rather than take Dirk out for a possession then put him back in, and rather than put Kidd in at all in a game that was not out of reach but under control, Carlisle kept them both on the bench.
In the end, the Mavs should feel good about themselves, but not good enough to feel they’ll beat the Thunder on the 2nd with this kind of effort, or even necessarily Minnesota on Sunday (who just gave the Heat quite a test). There’s a lot still up in the air, and they’re a long way from being what they could be or should be. But for now, they remember what winning feels like and that's good enough for me.
For the record, my favorite moment of this game, which I had the pleasure of watching in the actual AAC, though from so far up we had to duck some low-flying aircraft, came when, after Bargnani had fried the mostly-Dirk defense the Mavs tried on him for 3.5 quarters, Carlisle finally called Cardinal’s number. "At least," I said to my father, "Bargnani’s life is not going to be easy for the next few. Even if he gets the same number of points from the free throw line."
"He’ll be picking splinters out of his face," my father answered.
Bargnani, may it be said, had one point the rest of the game.
On to Minnesota.