Horses play birds, but it's the horse that lays the egg: Atlanta 110-94 over Dallas

Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Dallas faced the Atlanta Hawks tonight at the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, losing 110-94. Dallas falls to 2-3 in the preseason, but will get a chance to redeem themselves(hopefully with another healthy body in tow) Monday against the Hornets.

It was over soon after it started for the Mavericks, who went in shorthanded and looked either demoralized or disinterested against Atlanta.

As bad as the final score, 110-94, might have indicated it was, it actually looked like it might end up worse in the first half. With 5 and a half minutes left in the second quarter Dallas trailed 46-29. Playing the game practically even from that point was something of an accomplishment(as was reaching 90 points), though as usual there were more ebbs and flows than that.

One theme of this preseason has been sloppy play. Turnovers once agan plagued the Mavs, who had 11 in the first half and 18 for the game, many of which were of the "bad high school game in Idaho" variety. Not to be outdone, Atlanta had 20 miscues of their own. Both teams also fouled like crazy, as we saw a whopping 82 free throw attempts.

The difference maker, obviously, was that if Dallas wasn't getting to the free throw line, they had a pretty miserable time putting points on the board. The team shot 37% from the field to Atlanta's 45%, and despite all those extra bricks Dallas also couldn't gain the advantage in offensive rebounding, as they were outboarded 50-41 overall and 15-12 on the offensive glass.

Certainly, optimists will point to the absence of Dallas' projected starting frontcourt as an excuse. The lack of depth here was made apparent when Elton Brand was left in the game despite early foul trouble, and fouled out with several minutes left in the third quarter. Both Bernard James and Brandan Wright saw the most game action of the preseason so far.

Atlanta's lead was as high as 29 points with 6 minutes left in the game before a run saw Jared Cunningham and Jae Crowder combine to score 17 of the Mavs' final 22 points. This made the game merely a blowout and not an absolute embarrassment.

Individual impressions:

Elton Brand: Missed his first seven shots before getting a offensive rebound putback to avoid the bagel. Then he fouled out. A rough game for Elton, who did snag 10 rebounds, and competed on his individual defensive matchups, but looked not completely comfortable in the post, and was one of many guys who doesn't seem to know where to operate in Carlisle's "flow offense" that had just one returning starter. That returning starter was...

Shawn Marion: We've seen the Shawn Marion post-up or the Shawn Marion iso work in spite of logic and reason in the past, but Dallas went to the well a time too many tonight. Marion, who never was the most adept creator off the dribble, struggled as a focal point of the offense tonight, going 3-8 and committing 5 turnovers without an assist or a free throw attempt. The Matrix is best as a cutter, garbage basket, hustle play guy. He can still have games where he scores some points, but at 34 he, like Brand, needs to be playing off of better offensive weapons at this point in his career.

O.J Mayo: I admit a lot of the time it is out of context and probably not terribly informative, but I always look for how the players and coaches interact in the games to get an idea of who isn't doing their job and who the coaches trust. I noticed an interesting exchange between Mayo and new assistant coach Jim O'Brien, after Mayo had, on back-to back plays, committed an offensive foul while driving to the basket. O'Brien seemed to get in Mayo's face a little, and Mayo reacted by sarcastically(or seemingly so) rubbing O'Brien's shoulders. LIke I said, we likely can't draw great insight from this, but I found it interesting. Mayo needs to have guys getting in his face when he makes poor basketball decisions(the kind a five year vet shouldn't make), and I hope, however he behaves during timeouts, that in practice he takes these criticisms to heart and respects the advice. You like the aggressiveness on those drives, though.

Darren Collison: After a couple of very solid games to start the preseason, Collison has had a string of less than stellar ones. What I find curious is that Collison and Mayo, who were billed as scoring guards who thought shoot first and pass second, had fewer field goal attempts than the three other members of the starting lineup, despite playing the most minutes. Collison has not shot the ball from the outside very effectively(1-7 on threes), and you wonder if this has perhaps affected his confidence. Collison probably would have had more than five assists if anyone bothered to make a shot early on.

Jae Crowder: It is the preseason, but the one thing you take away when watching Crowder is that he is not afraid of the stage he's on. He's not afraid of any stage, any moment, any one. The three point shooting wasn't there tonight, as he went 1-5, but his activity was once again impossible to miss. Getting the starting nod for the first time, Crowder had a team high 15 points, and was a terror on defense with 4 steals(after getting 5 in the previous game). Once the varsity squads start playing in the regular season, you'd expect Crowder's steal rate to come back down to earth, but I think he'll still be able to create turnovers, which is going to be a major weapon for Rick Carlisle's defense. Crowder was the only Mavs starter with a positive +/-.

Vince Carter: Vinsanity couldn't make the outside shot tonight(probably peer pressure; he wanted to fit in), but he was the second leading scorer thanks to seven free throw attempts. He was also one of the few Mavs to not make a turnover, so we'll take the absence of negatives here as a positive. I admit I thought Carter was going to get the start instead of Crowder, but Carlisle must like Vince as "the spark" off the bench guy, much as Terry was in recent years.

Brandan Wright: Had his best game of the preseason, with 9 points, 4 boards, a pair of blocks, and a great alley-oop finish from Vince Carter. Wright continues to shoot from midrange, and hasn't made many of them yet, but that's what preseason is for, right? Brandan's defense is still a major work in progress, and if Kaman is going to miss much time(as he has almost every year in recent memory), I hope it improves. Rookie Mike Scott had 17 points and was a perfect 6-6 from the field, and when it wasn't Scott it was Devin Harris or Lou Williams abusing Wright on pick and roll plays.

Dahntay Jones: Another Mav who saw a preseason high in playing time. Jones had a hard foul to prevent an easy basket with under 2 minutes left and the game well past decided. Derek Harper astutely(and yes, I'll put Harper and "astutely" in the same sentence) pointed out that this is the kind of player Jones is. A veteran who does his job 100% of the time. Jones has been a bit-player most of his career, but he's exactly the type of guy I think Carlisle trusts and likes to put out there.

Rodrigue Beaubois: Roddy's return from a third quarter injury in the first game of the year...nearly ended with Roddy injuring himself. Beaubois seemed to get his finger caught in an opponents' jersey, and had to leave the court, but would return. Otherwise it was fairly uneventful. His lone basket was a three, which he took four of, and he also had four assists against two TO's.

Delonte West: Speaking of returns, West played 17 minutes tonight after being reinstated to the team, following a brief and(as is usual with all things Delonte West) strange suspension period. West nearly fouled out in his 17 minutes, and also had five free throws of his own. Did I mention this game had a lot of fouls?

Bernard James: The answer to the trivia question of "who had the best +/- in this game" is Bernard James, who was +17 even as most everyone else around was in the negative teens. Of course, this is largely because when James came in the game was already a blowout, and the Hawks clearly took the foot off the gas pedal a bit. James had a couple of nice hook shot finishes, which if he continues to develop could make him something slightly better than a non-entity on offense. One thing about the Mavs: small ball or not, they passed it into the post plenty.

Jared Cunningham: If I'm not mistaken had all three of his baskets on dunks, including a terrific alley-oop from Delonte West on a backdoor cut. He also had four steals and several free throws, all in just 9 minutes. He is a ball of electricity that desperately needs to be shaped into a basketball player. He is better finisher and already a better shooter than DoJo, and if he can acquire some basic ball skills, his size will make him more useful than Roddy. I have no idea if he's ever going to be anything even remotely close to a point guard, but I'm starting to at least consider the possibility that the third time's a charm for Dallas and their 1st round combo guard experiment.

Dominique Jones: Checked in with just three minutes to play. Is this the end, or just game-to-game tinkering from Carlisle? I mean no ill will towards the guy, but given how much Dallas may be in need of a big body for depth purposes, DoJo is my choice for the discard bin. With Collison, West and Beaubois, Dallas doesn't need another point(ish) guard. I think it's time for him to go.

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