Oh, hello there Dallas Mavericks.
It took six games, but the basketball world finally saw what the 2011-2012 Dallas Mavericks are capable of – a deep, versatile offensive team with interchanging parts and multiple attack points – in a somewhat convincing 100-87 victory over what is easily considered the best team in the West.
A 1-5 start wouldn't be the end, but it would be horrible and the Mavs desperately needed to salvage some good basketball tonight after collapsing against the Timberwolves last night. A well-rounded response on offense and defensive catapulted the Mavs to their second win of the season. Onto the bullets
- Would it be too formulaic to lead with Vince Carter? Doesn't matter. Carter only finished 3-of-9 from the field but was bullish in charging his way to the rim in the second quarter. Dallas' offense was teetering closer to the bad side of the scale throughout the first quarter and Carter helped stabilized the Maverick's sputtering ship. Carter has obviously lost much of the explosiveness that made him a perennial All-Star, but still has the skill set to make him a quality offensive option. Carter missed a few shots around the rim, but the effort was there and all of his 15 points were well earned. Kudos to Rick Carlisle for changing how Carter was being used and giving him more iso and post possessions, which Carter also used to display his passing skills to dish out assists from the low block.
- Carter's emergence was part of a well-oiled Dallas offensive machine. Much was talked about the Mavs offensive firepower heading into the year and the results had been lacking to say the least. After having trouble against Minnesota's mediocre at-best defense, Dallas worked OKC over in almost every way. Sharp passing, well-executed pick and roll sets and just overall better shotmaking contributed. Lamar Odom (8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists) didn't necessarily shine, but fit in nicely, which is a lot better than Odom had been doing. It's easy to get excited for the Mavs offensive capabilities when all of the skill players are as in sync as they were tonight.
- Jason Terry was phenomenal. His decision-making has always been called into question in the past but this season he's totally killed it, especially in pick and roll plays. Terry has been methodical and deadly when driving off a screen, and tonight was no different. His ability to knock down the little floater/tear drip around the free throw line area has been exceptional, as Terry hasn't been reduced to just a jumpshooter so far this season. His play has also helped rise Ian Mahinmi's effectiveness as the two have seemingly clicked for whatever reason. Mahinmi had another solid offensive game (10 points on 5-of-8 shooting), much of it thanks to Terry's steady bounce pass after driving off a Mahinmi screen.
- Speaking of Mavs centers, Brendan Haywood easily had his best contributions to date this season. Lampooned by his ability to be practically invisible in long stretches this year, Haywood was heard loud and clear. He made himself a target on offense (six points), finally boxed out and helped create extra possessions (eight boards, three offensive) and more importantly, played his best pick and roll defense so far this year. The only way the Mavericks can even the odds against prolific offensive options like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden is having a center capable of stepping in and challenging drives. It wasn't always working with Haywood hedging on pick and roll ball handlers, but he was definitely a presence most of the time and help force Durant, Westbrook and Harden into mere human efforts.
- If it weren't for a no-good, downright awful first quarter, Shawn Marion might have made a case for player of the game. Marion's missed anything he tossed up at the rim, including an easy breakaway layup and then made matters worse by wasting possessions by taking some ill-advised jump shots. But once the second quarter started, Marion (8-of-17, 17 points, 8 rebounds) found his way into the paint and converted more frequently, helping to make sure Durant didn't have a night off on the defensive end. He also had a quality effort on Durant, forcing KD outside of his comfort zone and keeping him away from the rim, evoking memories of some of his defensive efforts in Game 4 and 5 of their Western Conference Finals matchup in May.
- Russell Westbrook owes the rim an apology.
- Jason Kidd, future Hall of Famer, second all-time in assits in NBA history and league-leader in "0-for-1 shooting, zero point" quality games.
- After I wrote a 900-word marriage proposal to Delonte West this afternoon, West only played the opening minutes of the first and third quarter in turn to 17 minutes and just four points and zero assists. It might not have been needed tonight, but West still displays the best individual defensive capabilities against a Westbrook/Harden backcourt and his name will certainly be called down the road.
- As much as been made of the Mavs new additions and the offensive potential of all the new parts clicking together, the Mavs only go as far as Dirk Nowitkzi goes and tonight, Dirk went well. Everything the Mavericks want to do trickles down from how well Dirk operates on the low block and hit of pick and pops. Dirk looked like the 2011 playoff hero, hitting those silly fades and getting to the rim when needed and looked like, well, Dirk. His slow start might have worried some of those of little faith, but rest assured: Dirk is getting ever so closer to being the All-NBA force that we all know and love.