The Dallas Mavericks and I apparently felt the same way this evening.
I had just finished a week's worth of travel, covering the UT Arlington basketball team in Houston and then Seattle on Tuesday night. I was in cars, planes and airports for way longer than a normal human should be. So when I finally got a chance to sleep in my own bed without setting an alarm, I cherished it, especially with March Madness starting.
I saw "Bobcats at Mavericks" on the schedule and totally pulled a Rorschach. Just wasn't feeling watching a game of "Oh yeah, you think that's ugly basketball? HOW ABOUT THIS!" faceoff between the Mavs and Bobcats.
And the Mavs played exactly how I felt in the first half – lazy defense, sloppy closeouts turning bad shooters into OK shooters, jogging in transition, awkward offensive sets. The works. The fact that Dallas had to work to be only down single digits in the first half shows really how miserable an effort this was to start out.
I'm not sure if it was Rick Carlisle ripping the team a new one in the locker room or a realization that Dallas simply can't coast against any team anymore, regardless if they're bad or not. The Mavericks need wins because they're teetering o the edge of the playoffs. In this condensed season, there is no more room for error. Every win matters, no matter the opponent. So good win. Solid win.
It's a win. Phew. Onto the bullets:
- The Bobcats shot 51 percent in the first half, almost exclusively on jumpers and that's just unacceptable. Sure, there's the random variance of luck that goes along with jump shooting, but the Mavs allowed way too many good looks and had some really sow closeouts. The legs just weren't there for Dallas early on and the Charlotte just pushed it early on. D.J. Augustine, Tyrus Thomas and Gerald Henderson all knocked down some early jumpers to put the Mavs in a hole for the entire first half.
- Dirk Nowitzki was ready to shoot. He wasn't very accurate tonight, just 9-of-21 but Dirk was more agressive than usually. Dirk missed plenty of normal, nice looks for him, missing a couple of easy midrange shots. The Mavericks are usually at their best with a balanced offensive approach, but you can't fault Dirk for trying to establish some dominance against a bad team. It didn't really work out, but considering Dallas failures in getting Dirk the ball late in close games, I don't blame Carlisle or Dirk for early shots to try to put this thing away early and get Dirk his touches.
- That said, Dirk broke the Bobcats in the third. He broke them.
- If Rodrigue Beaubois plays half as well as he did tonight in his next game against the Spurs, the city of Dallas might very well throw a parade. Beaubois' baffling and frustrating inconsistency seems to be the only thing holding back the electric third-year guard. Tonight, he showcased it all – blinding speed in transition, creative shot making in the halfcourt, athletic defensive plays and so forth. Beaubois finished with 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting in just a damn-good performance.
- As I said on Twitter: Roddy's behind the back on his transition dunk was both completely unnecessary and totally necessary in the fourth quarter.
- Please, can we bottle this Jason Terry and keep him forever? 18 points on 13 shots and while he still had his typical brain fart plays sprinkled in, this was Terry at his shot-making best. It took him a bit to get going, but once he did, he was off.
- Speaking of brain fart plays, can someone for the love of all that is holy THROW BRANDAN WRIGHT A DECENT LOB PASS.
- Brendan Haywood injured his knee in the second half and luckily Dallas was playing a team that really doesn't have much front court authority. He did grab eight rebounds in 15 minutes though, which is pretty good.
- Vince Carter was who we thought he was.
- With Haywood out, Ian Mahinmi and Wright were able to grab some minutes and the Bobcats were a perfect team for them to get some good plays. Mahinmi had a monster dunk, Wright finsihed well and both helped keep Charlotte out of the paint. (Not that it was too hard, considering how little the Bobcats tried to get into the lane.)
- Shawn Marion's offensive game has hit rock bottom. Marion's defense and rebounding are still there, but he's only to shot 50 percent or better once in the last 12 games. For someone who primarily shoots around the rim and in the paint, that's not good. The Mavericks don't have to have Marion score well for them to win, but it certainly helps and takes more pressure of Dirk in the starting and crunch time lineups.
- Bismack Biyombo shot seven shots tonight. Thank. God.
- The Mavericks had a wonderfully third quarter, outscoring the Bobcats 26-14. That usually doesn't happen for Dallas in third quarters. To make up for it, they allowed a ridiculous and awful 14-2 run that forced Carlisle to put Dirk and Terry back in for the final minute. The bench couldn't even hold water for the final three minutes, which was incredibly disappointing.
- Weird stat: Dallas only outscored Charlotte for one quarter: that third quarter.
- +/- is a flawed stat, for sure. Everyone knows this. But Mahinmi posted a +25. Jesus. Christ.
- Kemba Walker is such an interesting player. He certainly has no fear and no hesitation and will sometimes hoist ill-conceived shots. But he's fast, he pushes the ball, he rebounds pretty damn well for his size and position and he can score. I'm not sure he's going to be the savior Charlotte needs, but he can end up being a damn good contributor for a title-contending team. That's usually not the expectation of a fan base for a top-10 pick but still not a bad consolation.