Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Houston Rockets 117-110. Dirk led all scorers with 35, 30 of which came in the second half, where he also shot 8-11. Vince Carter had his highest scoring night of the season with 23, Terry chipped in twelve, and Kidd and Delonte were each in double figures as well. Goran Dragic led the Rockets with 20.
Any team can have a bad season. Most teams have a lot. The only team that never has is an imaginary team that lives in my brain. Don’t worry about it.
But there are seasons that give you more psychic scars than others, and it’s not always your 2006s or 2007s. Sometimes they’re scarring, not because of high expectations, but because of the birth of low ones. Because of the destruction of old certainties.
Like Dirk, singled. Like Terry open on the wing for a potentially tying or winning three pointer. Situations that used to make me count the points before they happened.
Yes, it still happens this year. But certainty, our most treasured possession, has taken some lumps.
The Mavericks needed this. It wasn’t do or die, but it was close. And despite what they could do, or more properly because of what they couldn’t do, Houston kept inching farther and farther ahead. They couldn’t miss from three. Goran Dragic, for a while, literally didn’t miss. Someone named Chandler Parsons is apparently still successfully impersonating an NBA player.
And they turned to the one guy that they have always turned to, for the whole time the Mavs have been a relevant planet in the NBA solar system, and boy did that guy deliver.
Having watched the Mavs all season, like most of you, I’ve gained a bit of a sixth sense for a typical Mavericks game. This one was not without its ups and downs, but the Mavs did avoid their two biggest failings which, mostly, boil down to starting halves. In the last Houston game, for example, they were down 30-19 after one.
It didn’t look great, but Terry and Carter alternated putting on one man shows in the first half and it was, in a word, fine. Tie game at half, and after each quarter. So, catastrophe point #1 successfully avoided.
Catastrophe #2 not quite as much. Possibly, we all felt it coming, with the way Houston had been shooting in the first half. It opened with a Scola jumper and a Dragic layup, and if it had been me, I would have already called the time out. One more thing was going on, at the time, that would prove to be pretty decisive (Dirk and-1, Dirk 18-footer), but with 6 minutes left in the third, a Chandler Bing (Parsons? Parson?) shot gave the Rockets a 9-point lead. Dirk hit a three. Goran Dragic hit his 9 millionth layup against the Mavericks this season. Dirk hit a layup. Courtney Lee hit a runner. Lead still at 8. Vince scored a bunch, but it was still a 6 point lead going in to the 4th.
Where the hell was the cavalry?
At this poiint, Dirk had scored 10 points in the 3rd, and Vince had already made most of his 23 on the night—and their team was still well down. It could have been worse. But a six point lead, shooting lights-out from three, can turn into a 15 pointer pretty darn fast.
That lead technically survived the first four and a half minutes of the third. But it didn’t really have a chance. You know why?
Jason Terry two. (VC two). Dirk Nowitzki three. Dirk Nowitzki three. (Brandan Wright two). Jason Terry three. And there it went. The old Mavericks. The Mavericks who, if they were within striking distance in the fourth, would kill you with Dirk and Terry. And you would die.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 in the quarter. And when it was time to put the lead out of reach, just like 30 times last season, just like in the playoffs, it was Jason Kidd swishing a three to put the Mavericks up 9 with 2:03 left. And I relaxed.
I stayed relaxed, even though Dragic made a three, and Jason Terry gave Kyle Lowry a four point play with 55 seconds left, to make it a four point game, the most Jason Terry thing to do in the history of Jason Terry’s. But the Jet also had a gorgeous assist to Dirk on the very next play that made it a six-pointer with :36 to go.
And the Mavs won the win they had to win, in the way they always used to.
We don’t know what’s coming. It’ll be a tough first round matchup, provided again that disaster doesn’t strike over the next three, but then again, given how much trouble we’ve had with the Memphis’ and Rockets’ of the world, it’s not like being the third seed and having to play one of them sounds all that appetizing. Games like these—which combined the same lamentable defensive execution we’ve been seeing with 23 from Vince, 19 from Carter and 35 from Dirk—have been rare. We don’t know which Mavs we’re going to see.
What we do know, after this comeback, after four OTs in the last two games, is that the Mavs do want this, they are together, and they haven’t forgotten anything. They may not respond the way they want to, they may not execute the way we’re used to. But they are fighting hard, and that’s how you get games like tonight. There’s no other way. You don’t luck into them.
It doesn’t matter that Houston, despite the way their guards prey on Dallas’ vulnerabilities, isn’t all that good a team and that the Mavs were still playing from behind most of the night. All that matters is they got the win they needed against a tough and spirited team that shot the lights out. And if they win on Friday, against a depleted Warriors team, they will clinch and get some rest and you and I, at long last, can relax.
For just a little while. The Nuggets lost, so the Mavs are back in 6th, for the moment. See y'all Friday.