USA TODAY Sports
Three straight wins qualifies as the best basketball Dallas has played all season.
- The Mavs dominated this one from the jump, getting out to a 12-4 lead to start the game and never looking back from there. If only they could play teams coming off the second night of a back-to-back every night, they might really have something. All jokes aside, this is the kind of game you are supposed to win and they could have easily lost it 2-3 weeks ago. Small steps, people.
- The key was getting out in the open court, where the Mavs had 33 fast-break points. OJ Mayo and Darren Collison are significantly better on the break than in the half-court, where their lack of size becomes an issue. Collison's game is all about speed and transition is where that becomes most useful. And once he gets a few easy shots on the break, it seems to do wonders for his confidence and his decision-making the rest of the night.
- I don't think Collison can be as efficient as he was tonight -- 23 points on 7-11 shooting, 9 assists on 3 turnovers -- in a half-court game. I'm starting to think that he's a rich man's JJ Barea. Someone whose ideal role is as a backup PG who can change the game with his speed, but not someone I want making decisions with the ball in his hands for 35+ minutes a night.
- Minnesota didn't have Kevin Love, who can't seem to stay healthy this season, but the loss of Rick Adelman, whose away from the team dealing with a personal matter, was equally glaring. I'm really not sure what game Terry Porter was watching. Four of his five starters were at least -18, while all four of his reserves were in the + category. +/- isn't always a perfect stat, but that wasn't a coincidence. It was obvious which group had it going by the end of the first half, yet Porter stuck with his starters almost all the way through the third while Dallas essentially put the game away.
- Porter called one TO in the third quarter, keeping them in his pocket as his team was run out of the gym. They don't roll over to the next game! If you're on the road and the game is getting out of hand, you might as well empty your holster. That's something Rick Carlisle understands. One of my guilty pleasures this season is watching Carlisle as he calls the TO, storms out on to the court to compose himself and then mean mugs the hell out of the players as he walks back to the huddle.
- Here's the most important thing though: Dirk is looking better every night. He went 32 minutes on Monday and he seemed to have more of a spring in his step than normal, including a few run outs on the fast break. His presence on the floor, and the amount of defensive attention he receives, just makes the game so much easier for everyone else. A couple of times Collison and Roddy B came off a Dirk screen and were just WIDE open. Jet Terry made a career out of that play. When Dirk gets 6 assists, you know good things are happening offensively.
- All that being said, Elton Brand was probably the player of the game tonight. 20 points on 10-13 shooting, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal in 30 minutes. That doesn't even count his excellent post defense on Nikola Pekovic, whose one of the toughest covers in the league at the 5. I'd much rather have Brand in the starting line-up than Kaman. Brand's the better defender, rebounder and when the ball goes in his hands, it might actually come out again.
- Making the switch at the 5 makes sense for everybody. Kaman's size and skill is just too much for a lot of backup 5's in the NBA and you could roll him off the bench and run the offense through him for 3-4 minute stretches. A good way to steal points when he's dealing with the likes of Greg Stiemmsma. I don't want Kaman taking the ball out of Dirk's hands, but he can feel free to take it out of Roddy B's.
- It just wasn't Roddy B's night. Barea was playing in Dallas for the first time since he left and he clearly came out looking to make a statement. Part of the reason that guys can have a lot of success against their old teammates is that they're so comfortable against them after years of practice together. JJ already knew that Roddy B couldn't guard him, so he was out there gunning the second he got on the court. Though, to be fair, I guess he always kind of does that. He finished with 21 points, 5 assists and 2 fairly questionable offensive foul calls that might have him talking to the league office. I can't be mad though; there's no shame in his game.
- It certainly helped that he was playing with Ricky Rubio. Rubio still isn't 100%, but he is a fun player to watch. Even though he hardly ever looks to shoot, the Minnesota offense just flows so much better when he's in charge. He's got an incredible feel for the game; regardless of what happens with Love, the Wolves are going to be so much better when he's at 35+ minutes a night. What really impressed me tonight was his ability to hold the ball for an extra half-second and get his guys wide open shots instead of contested ones.
- One guy that Rubio really might help out is Derrick Williams, whose been miscast in his time in Minnesota. Williams is a dynamic 6'7 240 athlete, but the further he goes away from the basket, the less valuable he is. The Wolves have him playing way too much 3, where he's essentially useless because he's not a great ball-handler or perimeter defender and no one respects his shot. As a small-ball 4, he has way more room to operate and cut to the rim, where a guy like Rubio can just hit him with alley-oops all day. Part of the reason teams stay in the lottery is they draft guys without a plan for how they're going to use them. Williams is never going to live up to being a Top 5 pick at the 3.
- The Big Picture:
- The Mavs get a win against a team they are "chasing" in the playoff race. Where it gets interesting is Wednesday, when they play Houston, who will be coming off a game against the Clippers the night before. That's the kind of game they have to win if they want to get serious about doing something. The Rockets are a pretty entertaining team so it should be a fun one.