On "Seats for Soldiers" night in Dallas, the Mavericks finally gave their fans a reason to get up out of their seats, as they would overpower the struggling Detroit squad 50-29 in the second half en route to a 92-77 victory, snapping a three game losing streak.
Dallas, who improved to 6-3 at the American Airlines Arena, honored wounded veterans before the game in a touching gesture that had season ticket holders in the front row vacate their seats. O.J Mayo, who was a bit wounded himself after twisting his ankle earlier in the week, displayed his patriotism by putting on a show, and breaking out of a mini-slump in the process. However, the game was not quite the breeze the final score might indicate.
It began in the first quarter with Dallas unveiling their newest addition, point guard Derek Fisher. Fisher would grab a rebound in the first possession of the game, but remained largely silent after. Chris Kaman scored the Mavs' first six points, and was even asserting himself on the glass by taking advantage of the height mismatch with Detroit's frontcourt of Greg Monroe and Jason Maxiell. Kaman would also, however, pick up two early fouls and check out midway through the first. O.J Mayo, who did not come out of the gate shooting particularly well but did have a pair of nice-looking assists, also earned two fouls, as well as a technical, and would have to join Kaman on the bench. Detroit, meanwhile, gifted with 12 first quarter free throws, would stay in the game, and after 9 lead changes Detroit would end the quarter on a 9-2 run to go ahead 27-24.
The second quarter saw Dallas go cold from the field, and Brandon Knight, a day shy of his 21st birthday, would torch Dallas defenders to the tune of 18 first half points. Chris Kaman would check back in and try to stop the bleeding, but would pick up his third foul on a charge call, and return to the bench. Detroit would stretch the lead to 11 before a mini run by Dallas made the halftime score a more respectable 6 point deficit, 48-42. Dallas went to the locker room shooting 37% to Detroit's 40%, giving you the impression that a better opponent would have likely opened this game wide already.
True to form, Dallas began the second half with troublesome malaise, turning the ball over on four straight possessions. However, the fourth turnover was quickly undone by a Shawn Marion steal, who would get the ball to an open O.J Mayo just beyond the three point line. With 9:29 left, Mayo would drain the shot, cutting a 9 point lead to 6, and suddenly the light turned back on. In a five minute stretch Mayo would score 16 of Dallas' 17 points, giving Dallas their first lead since the early 2nd quarter and the only one they'd need. A pair of Vince Carter threes completed the turnaround for Dallas, who ended the third up by 8, a 17 point turnaround in the third period alone.
In a fourth, another struggling Maverick came to life, as Elton Brand would begin scoring like former All-Star Mavericks fans had envisioned, putting together easily his finest game of the season. Brand crashed the offensive glass, hit baseline jumpers, and even had a few drives to the basket, prompting Derek Harper to state it was the quickest he'd seen Brand in a Dallas uniform. Brand also did work on the defensive end, blocking four shots, stymying Greg Monroe to a 4-17 night and helping lower the Piston's shooting percentage to a meager 34%. A pair of Mayo threes added the final punch, as a cheering Dirk Nowitzki looked on.
- Derek Fisher would go just 1-8 tonight, but, although I wasn't the biggest fan of his signing, I won't be the guy to jump on him for a poor performance after just one game. I'll save that for when he's still doing this in three weeks.
- Mayo's third quarter explosion was pretty impressive, and as nice as 27 points is what I like best that nearly all his points came either from three or right at the basket. Mayo also was kind enough to turn the ball over just once.
- Mayo will likely get the headlines, but I think my player of the game is Brand. This was the performance we'd hoped to see from him all year. 17 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks, 0 turnovers. I think you could get used to that, right?
- Continuing the thought on Brand, Dallas put together a 13-0 run in the 4th that basically put the game completely out of reach, and it came with the frontcourt combination of Elton Brand and Bernard James on the floor. I don't know want to blow this out of proportion, but I see that as a huge, huge development. You heard statements from Rick Carlisle after the release of Troy Murphy that Dallas would have to adapt to not having a "space 4" on the bench. Personally, as much as I respect Carlisle, I think his long-standing insistence on having a big who spots up for three has held this team back. The combination of James and Brand dominated the Pistons, at both ends. Maybe there weren't as many driving lanes opened up because Troy Murphy wasn't standing 30 feet from the basket, but for a team that doesn't generate much dribble penetration, anyway, I think it was an acceptable tradeoff. Brand certainly looked a lot more comfortable tonight than any game previous, though perhaps that was simply a coincidence. Regardless, I hope Carlisle uses that pair more.
- Chris Kaman had kind of a weird night. Nearly a double double in 19 minutes, plus 3 blocks, but he continues to be a bit of a ballhog, and for someone with his skill level and footwork he has an odd tendency to awkwardly dribble into trouble and/or foul himself out of the game.
- Jae Crowder had his third straight start and his third straight terrible shooting performance. I think he benefits greatly when Dirk comes back and he's coming off the bench again.
- Darren Collison checked in and on his first possession gave up a blow-by to Brandon Knight. Ouch. I know people talk about his turnovers and poor shooting, but I think that's been the real problem for Collison this year. By the way, he had 8 assists and no turnovers. His shyness toward shooting(just 5 shots in 27 minutes, least among all 10 Mavs who saw the court) makes me think he's been effectively neutered by Carlisle, though.
- Roddy was in a suit, and DoJo did not see the court. Neither did Brandan Wright. Trade coming?