Obvious news flash: the Mavericks will struggle to score without Dirk Nowitzki.
Even more obvious news flash: the Mavericks will struggle to score and compete without Dirk, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter.
Dallas fell into the latter scenario Wednesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and somehow the game wasn't a total embarrassment. Yes, the Mavericks only scored 76 points and shot 37.3 percent and the Thunder got pushed around in the paint at times. But what to expect against one of the NBA's best without your team's best scorer, two of your top rebounders and best defender?
There was fight, there was effort. Sadly, that's all we can expect from the Mavericks sans Dirk and two more key rotation players. It wasn't a win. It wasn't all that close but it was close enough. Dallas was within eight to 10 points throughout most of the first three quarters.
In my mind, that makes this preseason loss much more appealing than even the win against the Hornets or the closer loss to the Suns. Call me crazy. Just don't call me maybe.
I'll see myself out. Before I go, BULLETS!
- As I watched this game with a group of friends at a local drinking establishment, one asked if it would be possible to buy a Jae Crowder jersey shirt. Yes, Crowder-mania might be a little over the top, but the dude has been great so far. 21 points, 10 of 19 from the floor, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. Crowder showed off his entire game tonight: he ran the floor well, was a pest on defense and battled on the boards. He even looked surprisingly competent taking the ball up the floor on a fastbreak. With Shawn Marion and Vince Carter ahead of him in the rotation, I doubt Crowder will ever be able to stay on the floor long enough to keep putting up even half of these numbers, but Rick Carlisle just HAS to find some minutes for this guy once the regular season starts.
- One of my favorite lineups of the night hand Brandan Wright and Elton Brand at the four and five spots (or five and four, whatever.) Carlisle has always insisted that Wright is a five in the Mavericks system and he's always played with either Dirk or Shawn Marion or Vince Carter at the four. Whether he's a four or a five playing with Brand, I never expected Carlisle to play both together, but it worked tonight. Wright's offensive game looks so much more polished and his mid-range jumper isn't great, but decent from 10 feet out. Wright rebounded well and looked much better on help side defense, registering only one block but plenty of altered shot attempts.
- Unfortunately, Brand just can't seem to find it this preseason. I'm very alarmed at his failings to convert at the rim, which plagued him again tonight. He was 3 of 8 from the field but it should have been much more.
- I'm not really sure what Darren Collison is waiting for. Only seven shot attempts and that's not going to be a good amount even when Dirk is back. I really hoped Collison would be more aggressive in Dirk's absence but he's been trigger-shy. Some of it is lack of aggression but he's also had trouble getting open, as the Thunder played him well in the pick roll. O.J. Mayo was in the same boat as well (4 of 9 from the field, nine points) and it's definitely concerning that Mayo and Collison don't look like they want to be the options while Dirk is gone.
- Bernard James grabbed five offensive rebounds in 22 minutes. The rest of the team grabbed FOUR. I was really confused at the selection of James this summer, a nice story but a seemingly low ceiling for a second round pick. The more I watch James the more confident I am in thinking he can definitely be a third-string center in this league. That might not sound impressive, but hey, he's a 27-year-old second round pick. That's pretty good.
- Rick Carlisle finally released Dominique Jones and wow. Other than a nice transition dunk, Jones did some nice things to get into the paint but couldn't do anything once he got there. He finished 3 of 11, his jumpshot still looks as awful as it was in South Florida and he had four assists to three turnovers. I think his time is running out.
- Jared Cunningham: 0 for 5 from the floor, zero points, no rebounds, no assists in 12 minutes. Your first-round pick, Mavericks fans!
- I kid above, but seriously: the Mavericks draft history gives them no favors with Cunningham's preseason play.
- Only 12 minutes for Rodrigue Beaubois, I assume, because Carlisle wanted to get another look at Jones before destroying him once and for all.
- Dahntay Jones started in place of Marion and decided to get seven shots off. The ball was in his hands a lot tonight when the shot-clock was winding down and he threw up some awkward attempts because of it.
- Two straight games having fewer turnovers then the opposition. Hooray!