The Mavericks opened this game with some stuff that was fairly typical of the disasters of this season. They ended it with a much needed and convincing win.
If you didn't watch the game, and you're wondering how bad it got, I'm happy to tell you that with 2:55 left in the first, the Mavericks were down 26-12. I'm happy to report that because Lamar Odom, Vince Carter, Brandan Wright and Roddy Beaubois scored 9 points before the end of the quarter to bring the lead down to a manageable 11 and had scored an I-don't-NEED-to-tear-my-eyes-out-at-least 19 for the quarter.
I'm happy to tell you that because though the Rockets scored 21 points in just over 6 minutes, to start, they didn't break 21 in any other quarter of the game and the Mavericks--despite a 5-17 game from Dirk and 5-14 game from Terry--never scored less.
Oh, and Lamar Odom played great!
The lack of certainty I have this season when Dirk Nowitzki shoots a jumper is a profound shock to me. I realize that this is actually how fans of every other team feel all the time. There are superstars that score more than Dirk. There aren't any that are more efficient. When he gets a good look it's going in--but not this year. That sucks. But if that's the cost of last year's ring, believe me I will pay it. He did get to the line 12 times, did end up leading the Mavs with twenty-one, did have 6 rebounds and 3 assists, and was +5. Still just fine.
This is the kind of win the Mavs management dreamt about when they started this season. They knew the team wasn't going to be as dependable as last year's team, but they didn't stand pat and they did make a good-faith effort to fill the team with talent within constraints. The Mavs beating one of their prime competitors by 10 points despite a combined 10 for 31 from Dirk and Terry? Come on. I doubt that happens LAST year. Without Delonte, too?
Before I go on to the good things, let me say that the only guy I need to talk trash about tonight is Ian Mahimni. It feels like forever since he's had a good game, and this wasn't it either. Believe me when I say that because of how I currently have my computer screen, the box score is minimized such that I can't see the names to go with the box scores, but I don't need to to identify Mahmini's line because I watched the game. 18 minutes, 4 points, 3 defensive rebounds, -4. It's not clear what's wrong with him, but his offensive game has evaporated. Too nice a guy?
That being said, if Haywood's injury has been good for anything it's the emergence of Brandan Wright who continues to amaze. He didn't have 7 blocks this game---matter of fact he didn't have any--but he was 6-7 for 13, he grabbed 7 boards, and he only committed 2 fouls in 30 minutes. He is far from a terrific rebounder or defender. But the Mavs did outrebound the Rockets tonight, and he was a big reason why. If Hay comes back and keeps performing well, the Mavs might have two fine centers after all. Let the record show that Josh was right.
I can't say enough about the play of Lamar Odom tonight. I didn't get to watch the whole game with my eyes because I'm currently vacationing in a basement, but I did get the whole thing on gamecast and it did not lie. He not only went 4-5 for 9, grabbed 4 rebounds, dished 3 assists and had a steal and a block, but he seemed to do all those things at crucial times. The Mavs did not make a jumpshot from 7;26 in the first quarter to 3:58, as the Rockets lead ballooned from 15-6 to 21-8. It was Lam-Lam's rebound, driving layup, and dunk that got the Mavericks offense rolling tonight. Possibly, he read Josh's column.
Jason Terry did not have a great game, by the numbers, and Roddy Beaubois did.Jason's 12 points came on some seriously bad shooting, he grabbed one rebound and turned the ball over twice. Roddy scored 14 on 5-9 shooting, Grabbed three rebounds, including an o-board, dished 5 assists and had a steal. Yet it is Terry who leads the Mavericks with a +/- literally 8 points better than anyone else's, and 14 more than anyone but Brandan Wright's. +/- isn't a great stat, of course, but what Terry has that Roddy does not is a sense of moment. After DIrk cut the Rockets lead to 1 to open the third quarter, the Mavericks didn't score again till there was 6:24 left and they're extremely lucky the Rockets couldn't take advantage. When they did score, though, it was Terry making a layup to bring it within three, Terry making a layup to bring it within 1, and Terry making a three to give the Mavs their first lead of the game.
If Terry can teach Roddy that, that young man might become something after all.
Last but not least, your man Marion looks to have been invigorated by his rest. Granted his scoring is still pretty gruesome. But with 11 rebounds tonight, he has 26 in the last two and was the Mavs leading rebounder in each. Given strengths and weaknesses, that's the best good that 'Trix can provide this team, for sure.
The Mavs are in Florida later this week, at Miami and Orlando, a couple of tough ones. They've got the Clips, the Griz, the Blazers, and the Griz again after that. It's, in many ways, the toughest and most important stretch the Mavs have left. Thanks to a little-bit-lucky effort a few nights ago and a resilient one tonight, they go into that stretch with two wins against an important opponent, and an important tiebreaker in their back pocket. Nicely done.