I’ll be honest guys. This is the first game this season that I really dreaded before hand. I don’t know exactly why. Maybe it's just because I wasn't bright enough to dread them before. But, I would guess that t has something to do with the fact that the Mavs’ last game—also against an important opponent—basically looked like my imagination of what the Mavs do every night.
I'm sorry to say this, especially after such a great night, but the best kept secret about the Mavs this year is that they’ve actually done better than they should have done. I know, I know.
But seriously. The Mavericks won 3 of 4 games when Dirk was out, for example. Last night, non-Dirk players combined for 56 points.
Not only that, of that stretch from Jan 7th to Feb 3rd when Dirk, recovering from injury, never scored higher than 21, and broke 18 just that one time, the Mavs went 11-5.
You’re going to tell me this current Mavs, with Vince Carter aging like somebody found his picture in an attic mid-season, Lamar Odom playing like he has the flu when he doesn’t, Terry throwing away as many passes as shots he hits, and Haywood occasionally dribbling the ball is going to beat anybody if Dirk doesn’t score 20? But they totes did. Like, 14 of the 20 games describe above.
So how did I feel after the Mavs confirmed my worst fears against the Clippers, when Dirk scored 19 on fifty percent shooting and we managed 75 points in total?
Dread. Dreading. Dreadful. That’s how.
How cool was that?
Here’s the thing about Memphis, right? If anybody in the West has the potential to MORPH into a contender besides the Mavericks, it’s Memphis. They’ve been good all year, they have some great scoring options and a pesky defense, and they just got their best player back. And last year, without their second best player, they took the Thunder to seven. So, yeah. I’d feel pretty good if I was them. And pretty bad if I was the Mavericks.
But….the Mavs hung around in the first half. They did it despite Dirk scoring only 11. And they didn’t get blown out, out of the gates in the 3rd. In fact, at no point did they fall behind by 10, in the second half, just to show they could.
Am I gushing? I’m sorry. I don’t mean to gush.
Here’s the truth: J0shi, our stat man, tells me that this is the 5th game that the Mavs have held the opponent to less than 100 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star game. He tells me we outrebounded an opponent for only the second time in the last 8. And that fourth?
Blocks, rebounds, made shots?
The Mavericks? Really?
Well, anyway. Tonight, Dirk played great. He hit all the easy ones, half the tough ones, and should have gone to the line 10 more times than he did. Shawn Marion played great, awesome defense, and scored a crucial 12 in the fourth. Delonte West was great, even though, for whatever reason he didn’t play much in the fourth. 6-7? 2-2 from three? Delicious. Delicious.
Even Roddy was great. He had the most athletic save of an out-of-bounds ball, to clinch the game, maybe ever. His five assists were a team high, and his two blocks were second only to Shawn Marion’s 3. This was one of those rare games where you fee like everyone earned their +/- rating---Dirk +20, Marion +10, Roddy +9, Lamar – 11.
The only exceptions are Delonte’s weird +1 (he deserved a lot better, but didn’t play enough in the second half) and Vince Carter +10 (he was….well, like I say. There’s a painting in an attic somewhere shooting a good looking turn-around J).
And the only black mark on this beautiful game for me was Jason Terry, whose decision making seems to continue to disintegrate as his time as a Maverick likely fades. I love the Jet and he will always be family, as far as people I’ll never meet and can only really imagine can be family (I guess that’s not very much). But I think his 6 turnovers (4 more than any other Mav) is a generous figure.
Since the Mavs were up by a lot, there wasn’t much more hilarious than hearing Harp say "Let’s see if the Mavs can use some clock here", late in the fourth, just as Terry launched a hilariously early three that had no hope of going in, ignoring Dirk all the while. Haywood obligingly got him the o-board and he threw it directly at the Memphis bench. It sort of summed up in miniature what Jet’s game looks like these days, despite his good shooting tonight.
But anyhow. Great, important win. They all are, from here on out. Phoenix beat Utah and the Hornets (the Hornets!) beat Denver tonight so the Mavs are now two games up on Denver and Houston, more or less tied with Memphis with another game coming up, and three games out of ninth place. They play a tanking Portland on Friday, Memphis again, perpetually tanking Sacramento and Golden State, Portland again, then wrap up with Lakers, Jazz, Rockets, Warriors, Bulls, Hawks. Basically a favorable schedule.
But no one gets to relax.