Don't let the final tally fool you: Dallas completely hammered Detroit tonight. The Mavs absorbed the Pistions' soul like a horcrux by the midway point of the third quarter and from there, it was simply coasting.
Many will be quick to point out that Detroit is really bad. Seriously bad. And the Mavs were essentially playing in a practice gym. But, believe it or not, Detroit is an NBA team with NBA players. Tonight still counts as a rather emphatic "W" and considering Dallas' up and down season so far, the team isn't in any short of shape to scoff at a win, especially one as eye-pleasing as tonight.
Regardless of oppenent, the Dallas offense was teetering between good and downright bad. The Mavs needed tonight not just for the standings, but to mentally gain some confidence in their offensive capabilities. Quite simply, all of the Mavs just needed to see the damn ball go in the hole for once this year. And boy, did it ever. Onto the bullets.
- The box score says that Dallas' offense was more efficient against OKC than it was against Detroit (114.9 to 111.1) and I while I may have added up the advanced numbers on my own, I don't need a box score or a formula to show that tonight was easily Dallas' best night of the season on offense. Detroit's rotations were mind-bogglingly slow, but the Mavs snapped the ball from corner to corner, going inside and out, allowing Vince Carter (11 points, 4-of-7 FG, 3-of-5 3PT) and Dirk Nowitzki (18 points, 9-of-10 FG) to get wide open looks. Dirk's were probably the most puzzling, as I guess the worst two-game stretch since Dirk's rookie season heading into tonight lulled the Pistions into a stupor, thinking Dirk was harmless. He wasn't. Dirk was in a catch-and-shoot mode all night (just one free throw attempt and a couple of post-ups) due to Dallas' ball-movement and penetration. The Mavs assisted on a whopping 73.6 percent of their makes, a beautiful number that was very much indicative of the Maverick's willingness to spread the rock. If not for the typical let-down once all the regulars were pulled, the Mavs might have pushed a 120-ish range in offensive efficiency.
- Oh, and Dallas had an effective field goal percentage of 57.9 – highest of the season.
- Remember that 900-word marriage proposal to Delonte West a week or so back? My hopes and dreams were finally realized as West had a brilliant game, the main contributor to Dallas' insane ball-movement. The season-high 10 assists were nice but the nature of all of West's dimes were impressive as West rarely had a "cheapie" assist. It seemed almost every one of his passes led a Maverick to the rim or landed right in a shooters' sweet spot with no defender in sight. West's penetration and craftiness on the pick and roll was in full-force and his quality decision making in the open court continued (fudged dunk attempt be damned.) By no means have the Maverick's found Jason Kidd's heir, but the difference between the two guards was highlighted in a play midway through the third quarter. West received a pass at the top of the key, wide-open for a three. He pump-faked and made a few quick-dribble moves before dropping off a one-handed pass to Shawn Marion for an easy lay in. It's hard to think of Kidd looking for his shot first, but at his age, Kidd has been more prone to launch a three then venture into the paint. Just something to watch while West fills in. It's no necessarily an inditement on Kidd, but an important reminder to Kidd's physical limitations.
- Vince Carter grows more comfortable and useful by the game. Another solid night passing the ball (five assits) as Rick Carlisle is finding the right use for Carter's skill set and size. It will be hard for the Mavs to take Carter out of the lineup when Kidd returns, as Carter and Nowitzki on the court is creating havoc for defenses. The duo play off each other nicely and Carter is a more than willing facilitator in the pick and roll. Dirk and Carter played a majority of the minutes together and were a combined +75 tonight. Zoinks. (PS, It was also nice to see Carter's jumper return with him, as his percentage was hovering in the low 30s entering tonight. )
- Another solid, well-rounded game for Lamar Odom (five points, seven rebounds, four assits) but I still can't shake the fact that Odom still isn't "there" yet, as ambiguous as that sounds. Odom still floats around during offensive sets and still forces one pass too many into the paint on a reckless drive. But there's no denying that in the open court, Odom is deadly with his size and passing touch as he displayed it tonight with a beautiful fastbreak ending with a Ian Mahinmi dunk.
- Shawn Marion is shooting under 20 percent on midrange shots this season. After tonight's 6-for-6 effort, he's shooting 90 percent on free throws so far. Beats me.
- Finally, Brendan Haywood stayed within himself on offense. Too often Haywood has taken it upon himself to create offense on his own but with disastrous results. Tonight, he ran the floor well on the break and moved to the right spaces in the half court. His nine points were a welcome boost and his free throw shooting doesn't make me want to hurt myself (as much) as I used to.
- Ian Mahinmi keeps coming. There's going to be a point where Mahinmi's scoring will dip eventually, just out of the law of nature, right? But maybe not. After all, almost all of Mahinmi's points are assisted and his shooting touch from outside the paint is highly underrated. There's really no reason why Mahinmi can't replicate tonight's 10 point, 5-of-8 shooting performance for the entire year if he keeps catching and finishing the quality looks his teammates set him up with. He's also gaining more of their trust as Mahinmi has shown off his hands with some really nice catches off wayward passes, including a few tonight.
- I'm having a hard time seeing why someone with Brandan Wright's skills gets regulated to being an 11th man. In his last three games, Wright has scored 20 points in 20 minutes played. That's efficient, folks. Per 36 minutes, Wright averages 17.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. He's really putting up some shockingly good numbers in such low minutes. The most hilarious stat of them all? After tonight, Wright has a 26.08 PER, which, if qualified, would rank higher than Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose and just a smidgen under Blake Griffin. It's baffling as to why Carlisle will favor Brian Cardinal over Wright, but that's where we are right now. There's a definite point to be made that Wright has done this in mop-up duty against lesser talent, but still, with a team as inconsistent and old as the Mavericks, how in the world can Wright not see more minutes with what he's shown so far.
- Oh, you thought I forgot, didn't you:
- The killer instinct the Maverick's showed in the third quarter knowing they needed the extra rest with Boston up tomorrow was absolutely sublime
- In that extra rest for the regulars, a mixed bag from the young talent. Rodrigue Beaubois continues to display confusion and poor decision making in running and defending a pick and roll. His jumper is still no where to be seen, and tonight just wasn't a great one in the time he had. Dominique Jones, on the other hand, practically ran over a Piston defender on each of his three buckets and, it seems, is more polished and well-rounded as a potential NBA rotational player than Beaubois is. Sad to say but that's where both players are right now. Yi Jianlin got some burn but just looked content with being on the court as he had no shot attempts. Yi has gathered some headlines with his D-League play, but make no mistake: he isn't going to make an impact anytime soon, especially with Carlisle's tight leash on younger, newer players. But still, if Brandan Wright and Yi Jianlin are your 11th and 12th men on your NBA roster, you could be much, much worse.
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