The NBA season is back everyone. It's back, and I'm so, so, so happy.
The Mavericks came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. Everyone was scoring all the time and everything was wonderful. Dirk had 9 points and was +7 in seven minutes. Monta had 11 and an assist and was +8. Calderon already had 5 assists, after playing the entirety of the first quarter. Everything was smooth. The Mavs ran several wing pick and rolls with Dirk and Calderon that were totally unstoppable: Calderon forced a double team, lest he be open in the corner, leading to Dirk being wide open from 3. It was glorious.
And yet, the Mavs still ended the quarter only up by 5, 33-28, which I suspect will more or less sum up the rest of the 2013-2014 season.
Everything is perfect and everyone is happy: the first 4 minutes of the 2013-2014 season.— Mavs Moneyball (@mavsmoneyball) October 31, 2013
In the second quarter, a lot of the problems started to rear their head. Bench units that were far less polished were getting much more playing time, and turnovers and mistakes and bad defense abounded.
For one, Vince is very clearly going to be an important piece of this bench as he tries to turn a Gal Mekel-Ellington-Blair lineup into something that can score and defend.
For another, as the grind started to set in, even with the starters, a lot of the defensive problems were more clear. Jeff Teague has been ruining the much-slower Calderon around screens, and the Horford-Millsap combo bullied the Mavs inside, when there was no one big enough to stop them, and where there was too much help defense moving out to the perimeter. Dalembert was spending so much time helping on D that he wasn't available to rebound, and Dirk isn't a great rebounder (though DeJuan Blair is!).
There were some things to be excited about: the first Dirk one-legged fadeaway sighting, Jose Calderon's passing was great and he showed some great hands for steals, and the Mavs continued to score a lot. Nonetheless, it was a tough quarter. The Mavericks ended the half down 55-53, trailing the Hawks.
The third was more or less the same story, the Mavericks scored and struggled to defend, except that there were also turnovers. Lots of them. Ellis had his first chance to run the point, and for the most part, it was fine. He certainly scored a lot. He, and others, turned the ball over a lot, too, making the quarter a rough affair. However, halfway through the 3rd, Vince scored on a precise alley-oop from Calderon, and the Mavs seemed to turn it up. Scoring started to come in relative bunches, and they ended the quarter up 7, 86-79.
The Mavs carried that momentum into a lot of the fourth quarter, too, and they led by as much as 13 with 6 minutes left in the 3rd. The Hawks slowed down a lot, too. More than anything, it seemed like Jeff Teague wasn't working nearly as hard to carve up and disorganize Dallas' slow perimeter defense, and so the Hawks' possessions seemed sluggish and wildly in contrast with their frantic first half.
The end of the game was just about everything that I love about Mavericks basketball condensed into one 3 minute long amaze-fest. With about 2.5 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Jose Calderon hit his first basket of the game: a clutch 3 pointer on an inside-out pass to maintain the Mavs' 10 point lead. Then, all hell broke loose. Dirk hit two super-clutch 3 pointers in a row, proving that Dirk is still Dirk, and will always be Dirk, amen. Monta Ellis, then, of course, hit a 3 pointer right in Schroder's eye, sealing the Maverick's victory and giving them a 16 point lead.
Jeff Teague would proceed to get his own and-1, Elton Brand got a basket, and other Hawks did things, but the game was already over. The Mavs won, 118-109.
Monta Ellis finished the game with 32 points on 11-17 shooting, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. Dirk had 24 points on 8-14, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds, with 4 3's. Dirk led the team in +/- with +18. Vince put in an impressive 21 point, 4 rebound effort off the bench. Calderon had a very impressive 11 assists. Jeff Teague led the Hawks with 24 points and 9 assists.
Whatever else you might want to say about this team, it's fun. So, so fun.
See you guys Friday against the Rockets!