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1) It might be too late for the Mavericks to turn this thing around
2) Yes, only one of Memphis, Houston, Minnesota, Sacramento qualifies as a contender
3) Yes, basically all those games were with the other guys on the second night of a tough back-to-back
4) Yes, the Mavericks, a team which sometimes starts shooting so poorly you wonder if any of them are actual basketball players is not likely to have too many more games where they shoot the 60% they managed against the Wolves, or even the 49%, 60% from the starters they managed against the Grizz.
But if a 4-game winning streak after a 13/15 losing streak isn't cause for celebration, you're not doing it right. And while, as always, a huge part of it is the return of 41, now averaging 16-6 in his last five and opening up the floor for the other guys, arguably a larger part, at this point, is Carlisle's coaching.
Now---while I have always been a huge fan of Carlisle the coach, I've never been that big a fan of his personnel choices and that hasn't really changed. The only reason the Mavericks won that Kings game is because DeMarcus Cousins punched Vince in the head. Sure, the free throws and possession were important, but even more important was the fact that it got Cousins ejected as Cousins was murdering the small lineup that Rick has so often insists upon at the end of games like it was a plate of eggs. As always happens to that small lineup.
And Rick's devotion to playing literally anyone over Collison in crunch time is approaching the pathological. There aren't a lot of coaches out there who would start Roddy Beaubois over Collison in crunch time, sign Mike James, now 3-16 as a Maverick, and BENCH Roddy but play James over Collison in crunch time.
But the truth is? Rick fixed this team, to the extent it could be fixed, long before they started winning. And there aren't a whole lot of coaches who could have come close.
What do I mean? Well, if you watched any games in December, or read any columns on here, and I know you read them all, you probably noticed that the guys rebounded like particularly arthritic seniors and passed like Tim Tebow, seldom enough but erratically.
From Nov. 9th to Dec. 23rd, a span of 23 games, the Mavericks AVERAGED 16.3 turnovers a game. That would be good for 29th in the league, on the season, just behind Houston's 16.5. During that same span, the Mavericks grabbed less than 40 boards 9 times which, considering the league low for rebounds per game is Boston at 38.9 is not a good thing.
But since Dec.27th? The Mavericks have averaged just over 11 turnovers a game which would be....#1 in the league. #1. Seriously. And while they've still had some low rebounding games, including 34 against the Clips and 33 against the Wolves (buoyed, at least, by their 60% shooting in this game), they've also had 45+ in 7 of 12 games in that span.
In other words, without making a trade, without really changing rotations, Carlisle got the Mavs--who are mostly a bunch of veterans anyway--to cut turnovers from just about worst in the league to the best, and, most of them, to be a good rebounding team. I'm astounded. I really am. I wouldn't have thought you could do that.
Yes, the Mavericks have gone 5-7 in that span. But they've had fewer turnovers than their opponents in 8 games, had one game with the same, and only lost the TO battle once by more than two. They've only won the rebounding battle 4 times, but come within 2 an additional 3 times.
All that's missing is making shots. And yes, the Mavericks continue to struggle on that end, and yes it's hard to know what they'll do to improve with the exception of Dirk, who will and must. So at this point, four games out of the playoffs with OKC and the Spurs coming up, it's hard to guess the overall prospects here.
But things are looking up. And it turns out that was so, even when things looked darkest.
Good on ya, Rick.