Yesterday the Mavericks tried to win a game against the Trail Blazers behind a horrible quarter (the third, 10-30) and lots of mistakes in crunch time. Tonight they tried using the same formula and surprisingly (like this surprising) failed again. This time the first quarter was unwatchable (10-29) and after climbing all the way back, they fell short in the fourth, scoring only two points in over three minutes of crunch time and committing three turnovers.
In the first quarter Carter and Marion had one field goal each, the Mavericks as a team had two. Add six free throws and you have those ten points. How did the quarter went for the Grizzlies? Zach Randolph hit a buzzer-beating 25-foot three pointer. Got it?
The Mavs got better into the game starting with the second quarter though. They outscored the Grizzlies 57-43 in the middle periods and we actually had a game. Then there was a 5-second turnover, another inbound turnover, two turnovers by Dirk Nowitzki, a ton of bad offense and... I really don't remember the rest that well, repression helps me a lot tonight.
Usually you get the feeling after these games that the Mavs are "pretty close." They played great defense down the stretch although individual miscues threw them out of rhythm time and time again. Dirk was completely off the whole game, yet others, namely Vince Carter, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry, stepped up and carried the team to the finish line. We had no Jason Kidd and Delonte West, Rodrigue Beaubois were pointless guards again, but the Mavs somehow turned a 20 point deficit into a close one down the stretch. There are countless reasons to claim a moral victory once again, because they are basically two or three plays away from 10+ more wins this season, wins they were able to secure last season, by the way.
Yes, the Mavs were (again) missing players, got the game close on the road after a big deficit, but the question know has to be asked whether they'll turn the corner at some point or just remain "pretty close". I think there is still no doubt that the Mavs will make the playoffs, but what looked like potential home-court in the first round now turned into an eighth seed and a possible first round matchup with the Spurs or Thunder. Whooops...
Onto the bullets:
- Dirk was lockout Dirk. He started 0-for-5 in the first and was 1-for-7 at the break, recovered a little bit in the second half, but it simply wasn't his night. Jeff Wade was convinced Dirk would go for 30 after last nights embarrassment and actually bet a lunch against Haralabos Voulgaris, who went for the under. Word is Haralabos likes sushi. Dirk also unclutched two turnovers with about a minute to go and the Mavs down five when he threw the ball away twice after a rebounded miss. The second time Carlisle wanted to call a timeout, but Dirk thought otherwise, not to the Mavs advantage. Pretty awkward.
- Vince Carter and Shawn Marion did what they could, on both ends of the floor. They combined for 11-16, two threes, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. I'd say that's the most production from the small forward spot (or sort of) we've had in a while. Another wasted performance by role players.
- Brendan Haywood played only 12 minutes, coaches decision. He didn't do particularly bad, but was part of that 10-29 first and things got a "bit" more energetic with Wright on the floor.
- Let's not talk about Lamar Odom ever again. He played four minutes in the first quarter, never saw the court again. In the second half Brian Cardinal took over his spot and rightfully so.
- Brian Cardinal, by the way, was a non-factor as well in the second half, but he tried. That's all you got to do to beat out Odom.
- Delonte West was the Mavs worst player tonight and his ability to be a true backup point has to be questioned. He had some good plays to the basket, but the offense didn't look fluid with him running the point and he can't get the ball to Dirk when it matters. But you already knew that. He was sensational on defense though, but right now he's more D-Steve than Jose Barea to be honest.
- Rodrigue Beaubois provided his mixed bag. He had a bad game as well, but was light-years ahead of West, which tells you a lot. His court vision was awful, he missed a few open players on drives and he failed to inbound the ball, which led to a 5-second call in the 4th. He continues to improve in decision making and passing, but baby steps, folks. The offense looked wild with him at the helm, but at least his energy (and Wright's) got the Mavs back into the game in the second quarter and Carlisle kept him out there the whole 12 minutes.
- Wright was another bright spot. He finished 7-for-11 and provided his usual dunks. He also defended Marc Gasol pretty well and got rewarded with 36 minutes at the center position.
- Terry led the team with eight assists. It were quiet eight assists, but shows you how desperately the Mavs need a point guard. Terry tried to fill the gap and provided a big spark to end the first half. He had his usual brainfarts and in the end didn't attempt a shot in the clutch, which is never a good sign.
- From a numbers standpoint, it's really weird the Mavs lost this one. They shot 46.6% to the Grizzlies 38.8% and outrebounded them by 5. Memphis got 11 more points from the free throw line though. That's your game.
Hang in there!