After two back-breaking losses, this will do. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't fun to watch for a majority of the second half. But somehow, the Mavericks left Salt Lake City with a win, the first for the franchise in Utah on the second night of a back-to-back, breaking an 0-16 streak.
The game was bizarre, frustrating and downright baffling. Onto the bullets:
- Quietly, Shawn Marion has been the Mavericks best and most consistent player all season long, tonight was just a showcase of everything he's done all year. A typical Marion night, dive-cutting to open spots and flashing off the sneaky-effective post game (which he never really used until he came to Dallas). 22 points, seven rebounds, three assits on 17 shots for the Matrix with the typical pesky defense. Utah doesn't employ much firepower from the wing, but whatever talent the Jazz have out there, Marion made sure to keep it contained when he was out on the floor. Gordon Hayward and C.J. Miles were nullified when they shared the court with Marion. The Mavericks won't need to rely on his offense like this very often, but it was nice to see from a player that is as consistently under-appreciated and undervalued like Marion is.
- For example, Charles Barkley on the post game said DeShawn Stevenson was the Mavericks second-best defender behind Tyson Chandler. Puh. Lease.
- The Mavericks offense, as a whole, was almost sublime. Keyword, almost. In the first half, Dallas sliced and diced the Utah defense with excellent pick and roll sets and great passing. Marion found himself at the rim, Dirk was getting open 18-footers and Brendan Haywood hit not one, not two, not three but four free throws...in a row. Jason Kidd was absolutely delightful in the first 24 minutes, orchestrating the Dallas offense to almost 60 percent shooting. But...that third quarter. Seven turnovers and sub-40 percent shooting almost ruined any forward progress the Mavericks made. It seemed inexplicable as Kidd and the rest of the Mavs fumbled the lead away, but the Jazz clearly made changes. They showed hard on the pick and roll and trapped more, especially in the corners. It wasn't anything remarkable and certainly not anything the Mavericks haven't seen before, which makes it a little concerning that such a veteran team can be so overmatched by a simple halftime adjustment.
- Jason Terry was absolutely brutal. He missed plenty of open opportunities and threw away way too many possessions. Terry's playmaking was on the rise in the first few games of the year, one of the few bright spots when Dallas was getting blown out by 30 almost routinely. It's hard to watch Terry endure a 3-for-14, one assist night while Delonte West was looking lively and great with eight points on five shots in 15 minutes. Carlisle seems to be giving West the same amount of leash that he gave DeShawn Stevenson last year. But make no mistake: West is far and away the superior player to Stevenson in almost every way. Hopefully Carlisle realizes that.
- Dallas second ranked defense continues to hold water. Many (including myself) wondered if this turnover-creating defense the Mavs had would be able to last once the schedule wained. It seems to be holding up quite well, for now. The Jazz shot 38.8 percent and honestly, it could have been worse if not for the points the Mavericks gift-wrapped the Jazz with their second half turnovers. Utah's only consistent offense was on the break and in a half-court, tight fourth quarter game, that means the defense is working. Only four steals tonight for Dallas, which makes the effort even more impressive. The Mavericks rotated well and didn't let any of the Jazz's sub-par wing players do much damage, while Haywood and Ian Mahinmi did damage control on Al Jefferson after Jefferson's efficient first half. Haywood deserves a ton of credit: Jefferson was toying him with a variety of post moves and Haywood clearly adjusted accordingly in the third and fourth quarters. He contested better of Jefferson's outside game while staying down on his ball fakes and spins.
- Rodrigue Beaubois. Hi. Nice to see you. Beaubois' advanced numbers have been screaming for the third-year guard to get some more burn from Carlisle and tonight it finally paid off. Beaubois saved the Mavericks when the ship appeared to start sinking in the second half by attacking off the pick and roll and using that freaky athleticism to make some defensive plays. His block shot on Paul Millsap followed by a three point make help show off the difference Roddy can be when given appropriate minutes. It's been three years. It's time for Carlise (and Beaubois) to figure it out and get the results. Tonight's result needs to be a stepping stone, not a blip on the radar.