Thursday's buzzer beating loss was an awful way to lose. It was not awful that we lost. We've survived several games during that ten game winning streak by luck, and in this game, Denver was the one who got it all. Bryan said something to me that was sums this game up perfectly: I'd take Dirk at the line and Shawn Marion defending every time. The best thing to do is forget about this game, at least until April 6th, when the Mavericks face Denver for the last regular season match-up.
I do want to go back to it briefly, though, for this article. Not the game itself, or its excruciating ending, but to the overall performance on offense by the Mavericks. Scoring 120? Sure, it happens. With Dirk Nowitzki as a limited factor? That's even rarer, but yes, there's been a few games that Dirk's been off but the rest of the Mavericks stepped up around him. But how many games have there been that Dirk was not even a focal point of the offense?
Well, that's what happened Thursday night. Dirk got some shots, he obviously was a big part of the offense by just being on the floor, but it never seemed like the Mavericks established him. He got a few low post possessions here and there, he got passed to when open in for a transition three, and then late, when it mattered, the Mavericks pounded the ball into him. I know...what's up with that? How could they? Dirk's the superstar? They cost them the game, right?
Maybe it did, but I don't care. I'm fine with it.
Let's think back to the oh-so-common cliche...the regular season is just 82 practice games before the real season starts. Yeah, that one. Its easy to become two-faced during the season, to call for Dirk to play 40 minutes because everyone else is playing terribly, to insist he gets fed the ball every possession. But...this is just practice, right? And despite the fact that Dirk is averaging the fewest number of shot attempts since his third year in the league, the fewest points in eight years, there's not question of what he can do. So why not let him play decoy? Actually, why haven't the Mavericks been doing this for years? Why haven't the Mavericks been saving him?
Well, because he's had to so that the Mavericks would make the playoffs. Past teams have needed him in MVP mode for the entire year. But Thursday night against Denver, the bench scored 72 points, best in the NBA this season. Tyson Chandler, the best center in Mavericks history, stepped up and put forth yet another monster night. And Dirk didn't need to be the focal point. Just like the previous game in Sacramento. Just like the one before that in Cleveland. Just like other similar games throughout this year, where Dirk has played but has not been asked to carry the team.
Oh, I can hear the counter argument right now: the rest of this team are chokers! you haven't seen playoff Jason Terry yet! JJ Barea will have cooled off and will be sucking again!
OK. That's fine. Because Dirk, who we've already determined isn't playing at all cylinders, is right there to pick it up. And though this way of playing may not win him MVP, it may not get us 60 wins, it may be ugly at times and infuriating at others, it also may get us deeper in the playoffs that the Mavericks have been in years. And that's what its all about, not these eighty-two practice games that they have to endure until its time.
(author's note: I'd like to apologize for my relative absence in past several weeks. I'm not going anywhere, I promise, just been dealing with a crazy schedule. This week is the busiest I think I have ever had. No excuses though, I'm just learning how to fit in writing in on top of my schedule. I don't ever think I can do what Bryan does, but I should be around a lot more in the coming weeks. Thanks guys for understanding and reading.)