The Dallas Mavericks lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 99-82, losing the 4th quarter 25-13. Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 21 points, including a personal 7-point run to bring the game within 2 with 5:35 left, but was outshone by Minnesota’s Kevin Love, who had 25 points, 17 rebounds and hit 5 of 6 for long range.
There is, above all, not too much to say about this game. There’s no point in talking about bases for hope—though these existed—because we just don’t know when this team will be what. There’s no point in getting too down about a loss against a young, talented team that shot 46% from three, except that the Mavs now have a PRETTY good chance of starting the season 1-5, after tomorrow’s game against the Thunder.
So far this season, the Mavs have not shot well. That will come. Their defense has not been terrible. Although this game sort of felt like a blowout, and eventually was, in fact these guys scored 100 points against the Thunder and 101 against Miami’s super-tough D.
This game had flashes of the passing and smart play that characterized the Mavs last season. Even more importantly, Dirk—who’s scored a pretty good amount each game, but hasn’t been himself—finally showed signs of life. After shooting 2-10 in the first half, and missing his first two shots of the third, Dirk made his next 4 shots and a technical free throw to personally turn a 63-55 deficit into a four-point game, then made 3 of his next 4 (in the fourth) to turn an 84-77 deficit into and 84-82 game.
The Mavs remain a team that’s shooting too poorly and playing too stupidly for those flashes of brilliance to be enough against a team that’s playing well, even when that team is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are talented, but who are also a team in the sense that Frankenstein’s Monster is a physical ideal of classical proportions.
To me, the two plays that epitomize how the Mavs played so far came right after Dirk completed his one-man fourth quarter comeback. As happened so many times last year, following a Dirk jumper to bring it within two with 5:35 left, the Wolves missed and somehow the ball ended up in Jason Kidd’s hands.
The ball came to Dirk, who was shooting a three to take the lead. You could feel the air in the stadium.
Then Vince Carter, who’s really played well as a Mav, laid out Kevin Love with a pick that, completely unnecessarily, looked like a tight-end block. The refs called the easiest foul in the world.
On the ensuing possession, the ball came to Kevin Love, who by this point in the game as hunting threes so obviously, Sarah Palin’s helicopter crew was jealous, somehow faked whoever his defender was into thinking he was planning to drive the lane, then—shocking all people who had never heard of Kevin Love or been watching the game for even a few minutes—stepped back instead and hit a three.
The next play he hit another three, then Anthony Tolliver did, and for all intents and purposes, that did it.
It was just two plays. If the Mavs hadn’t shot poorly all game, it wouldn’t have mattered, if they’d played well after that—it was still only a four-point deficit after Love’s first three, and a seven-point, with 4:07 left to go after his second—it wouldn’t have mattered.
But you can’t count on the Anthony Tollivers of the world to not hit the next three (and then another shortly after that), every time, and you can’t play dumb if you’re also going to play every game so close.
The Mavs need what they don’t have—training camp, time to gel. They still have time to figure it out, but Mavs fans will remember the difference between Shawn Marion and Caron Butler’s contributions in year 1 vs. year 2, and take caution that the idea of gelling on the fly isn’t exactly a certainty.
Which doesn’t have to mean anything. Delonte West had another fine game. Dirk looks to be shaping up. Vince has had his moments. Hay and Mahimni have had their moments. If Lamar Odom ever shapes up, this will be a team with a lot of firepower regardless of how it plays TOGETHER.
Bottom line is, if this loss didn’t make the Mavs 1-4, with a really tough game tomorrow night, you and I wouldn’t think any more about it. The future is, as always, a foreign country. Be bold and pure of heart.