Too much pride.
There was once a time when a matchup between Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki was a matchup between two of the best, unique and explosive power forwards the game had seen in some time. A battle of polar opposites, as the national media made it a fight between finesse and strength and (the more ignorant types) a showdown of soft versus tough.
And how ignorant they were. Onto the bullets.
- Funny, in my head, I almost thought Dirk needed to sit for a few extra minutes in the fourth. His jumper was wonky and he displayed little to no effort on the defensive end. How silly I am. Dirk is still scoring at the lowest rate since his rookie year but those veins remain frosty with nine clutch points in the fourth quarter. On the last basket, Garnett was absolutely insane to pick up Dirk that close to the three-point line. Call it foolish, old pride as the 25-year-old KG might have been able to hang with Dirk on the perimeter but not anymore. Dirk blew by Garnett and his 17 handcheck and body fouls before finishing a circus shot and-1 over former Maverick Brandon Bass. Dirk has the reputation of plenty heroic fades and jumpers but the German has quietly complied quite the list of game-winning and game-tying layups, dating back to his legendary layup against the Spurs in Game 7 in 2006. Basically, Dirk is just the best and no one should ever doubt his immortality.
- If we're speaking of clutch, let's not forget Jason Terry. Seven points for JET in the fourth, including a personal 5-0 spurt late in the quarter that gave Dallas temporary breathing room. Terry's jumper wasn't always there, but the effort definitely was. Terry was routinely one of the only Mavs tonight that looked like he actually benefited from the extra rest from the Detroit blow out, being an absolute bugger on defense. Terry ended up with four steals, a majority of those happening in the backcourt, taking advantage of a Celtic guard falling asleep while bringing the ball up the floor.
- Speaking of steals, the Mavs had 11, another impressive showing in the theft department. Dallas' steals on the year are way up, which deserve a more microscopic look, but as Rob Mahoney at The Two Man Game has said earlier, the Mavs' guards need to play more agressive than before since Tyson Chandler won't be there to make up for any potential lapses. Dallas won't get the ball back as frequently with the stops or blocks that Chandler helped provide, so the Mavericks are doing it another way. Pretty impressive philosophic switch from the coaching staff and players.
- Rebounding has always been a thorn in the side of Mavericks teams of the past (including this one at times) but Dallas completely owned the boards tonight. A 43-35 advantage was bolstered by a 12-2 offensive rebounding advantage, leading to Dallas owning the second-chance points 17-0. The Maverick's offense was curtailed by sloppy execution and the Celtic's guards pressuring the ball. Those offensive rebounds were key in salvaging some points off broken plays and wayward jumpers. The front court did it all, as Dirk, Brendan Haywood, Ian Mahinmi and Shawn Marion collected 11 of the 12 offensive boards.
- At times, the pick and roll defense was superb. The Mavericks bigs hedged and recovered successfully and the guards made the correct rotations as the Celtics had trouble swinging the ball to an open man on the weak side. Rajon Rondo was able to exploit the Mavs a few times in the half court when Dirk or another big failed to help out, but by in large, Dallas passed with flying colors on defending the pick and roll.
- Rodrigue Beaubois. Floater. More please.
- Not sure why Lamar Odom couldn't build more on his six point, two rebound, two assist night. Dallas' offense wasn't anywhere near working properly and Odom seemed to be having it going, knocking down a three and taking advantage of Boston's thin bench. That combined with the back-to-back made his 15 minute limit puzzling.
- Boston won't win very many games when its big three goes a combined 9-for-24 from the floor. Kudos to the Dallas defense, but clearly, Boston's best wasn't anywhere near that level tonight.
- Delonte West's past solid seven quarters of basketball (including tonight) was almost ruined by a poor-decision filled fourth quarter. West had the keys to the Maverick's offense down the stretch and failed to grasp certain situations, sometimes giving the ball to Haywood or Marion off the pick and roll instead of slowing down to isolate Dirk on the wing. He also forced too many shots in the paint, only shooting 5-of-14 from the field, a majority of those misses on awkward flings at the rim in the fourth. West is an incredible player, especially for the price, but nights like tonight gives us all a big reminder on why Jason Kidd is still so important to this team's success.
- 6-5 never sounded so good.