The Dallas Mavericks survived a tough one against a talented Rockets team to climb their way back to .500. OJ Mayo led the Mavericks with 40 points (and 8 rebounds), and James Harden led the Rockets with 39.
This game had a little bit of everything. The start was like a flashback to one of the early season games, as the Mavericks lead ballooned, at one point, to 36-17. The second quarter was like a lot of other games this season, as the Mavericks allowed the Rockets to score 42 points, many from James Harden. It’s not easy to lead the first quarter 39-24 and be down entering half-time, but the Mavericks accomplished.
Then again, without that lead, it wouldn’t have been close.
It’s hard to say in a game where the other team scored 109 that the Mavericks really turned on the defense ever, but as a matter of fact they did, allowing a Houston team that had averaged 116+ in their last four games only 43 points in the second half, including only 20 in the fourth quarter.
And the Rockets young superstar gave the Mavericks everything they could have expected, especially lacking Shawn Marion, their best defender, but on this night, the Mavericks young superstar was better.
I’ve always hated James Harden. I’m not asking you to condone that, I’m just asking you not to get on me about it. We live in a sports media world that is increasingly hyper-rational, increasingly all-appreciative, and there are good things about that. But if you can’t irrationally hate a player on another team, I say, what’s the point of sports?
It doesn’t help that he is one of the most egregious floppers in the NBA, who nevertheless had the cojones to say about the new flopping rule, "Good. Guys can’t be flopping and getting away with it anymore." That quote sort of defines his on-court persona for me, a kind of "who, me?" that emerges in spurts but seems comfortable sinking back when it seems like he’s proved his point.
Can you tell I really hate James Harden? He’s an extremely gifted offensive player, whom the Mavericks would be lucky to have gotten, had he ever been a free agent. I hate him.
And so it was a delicious, delicious pleasure to see, in an absolutely crucial possession, after two Mayo free throws had put the Mavs up three with 3:17 to go, to see Harden, instead of trying a shot, do that thing where he flings his body in the air like he’s been pierced by a minie ball and throw the ball out of the bounds, and have it go down in the record books only as a turnover. I literally licked my lips.
The next play down, Mayo hit a three-pointer to make it a 6 point game, and though Harden followed that up with a 3-point play of his own, there were two minutes left, it was clear the Mavericks were ready to win this one.
It all came down to this: OJ hit a beautiful two, Toney Douglas answered with a three, and with 1:00 minute left it was a one-possession game. The Mavs brought it down the court and fed it to Mayo, but he didn’t have a clear look and the play broke, with Collison missing a closer jumper badly. But the ball bounced off a Rockets player with a foot out of bounds, and with a 2 point lead, 40 seconds left, and 2 seconds left on the shot clock, the Mavericks had time for only the quickest of inbounds plays.
OJ Mayo broke from the mass of players waiting for the ball and showed up at the three-point line completely unguarded. Bingo-bango, 5 point lead, 38 seconds to go.
The Rockets did run a fine play on the ensuing position, ultimately getting a wide up Patrick Patterson layup, making it once again a one possession game. But rather than run the clock down, or work the ball, OJ Mayo saw the Rockets, expecting that, had left the drawbridge down.
With nearly 20 seconds left on the shot clock, OJ drove it from the free throw line and, with a nice lefty finish, more or less sealed the game.
It was tied for the highest scoring output of OJ’s career, his 2nd 40 point game, and it was a brilliant performance start to finish. And unlike those godawful, those ridiculously dumb and bad Vince Carter isos at crucial moments, this approach was a good plan, for the Mavericks. Hopefully, until Dirk comes back, it will be the way it goes.
The only other notes I have is that Chris Kaman again went to the locker room, after a brilliant 20 points in 19 minutes (and 7 boards), and Brandan Wright and Dahntay Jones both started and performed well. Wright was especially impressive in the early going, but had a clutch shot late, and a clutch block, as well as 6 boards. Dahntay Jones had 8, his highest scoring output of the season. I thought Wright was especially good, active and efficient, and he tipped a number of rebounds to other players with his mad hops in addition to the ones he grabbed himself.
Elton Brand, Jae Crowder, Dom Jones were, to a certain degree, missing in action, though Crowder is making an obvious effort to move his game closer to the basket, as he should. Darren Collison’s 3-9, with 5 assists and 2 turnovers doesn’t impress you that much (though it was better than Fisher’s 1-5, 5 assist, 1 turnover performance), but his clutch free-throw shooting did.
One of the first games I’ve enjoyed nearly all parts of in a while.
P.S. It was my bad we didn't have an official game thread. Thanks for putting one up anyhow. Won't happen again. Well, it might, but probably not.
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