Dallas escapes in Minnesota, 100-98

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks went into Minnesota tonight and stole one from the hometown Timberwolves.

This was a wild one.

In a bizarre, seesaw affair that saw Dallas build and then promptly lose a 21 point advantage, retake the lead in the final minutes and nearly give it away again...well, Dallas walks away winners tonight.

Shawn Marion had a turn back the clock game, with 32 points(!), including 4 three-pointers(!!!).  He equalled his season high of 21 in the first half, hitting a buzzer beater that made it 62-43 at the break.  He also hit a pair of huge triples in crunch time to put Dallas back ahead and then pad their margin.  Yes, this really happened.

Kevin Love, meanwhile, did his part with 36 points on 14-24 shooting.  With the game on the line, Love had a chance to win or tie the game, and a Shawn Marion hack/steal did not draw a whistle.  Undoubtedly, Minnesota fans won't be too happen about that.

So, on a night where Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis combine to go 10-31 from the field(and 0-7 from deep), Dallas still wins, on the road, against a quality opponent.  Let's all try to remember this one the next time we feel like the Mavs got the short end of the stick in a loss.

Of course, things started out pretty nicely for Dallas, and frankly it probably shouldn't have come down to a "did he or didn't he" foul call in the final seconds.

The Mavs led most of the game, scoring the final six points of the first quarter to take a 29-23 lead after one.  They caught fire in the second frame, using a 27-11 run to make it 62-43 at halftime.  The Dallas lead would squeak to its highest point at 21 points in the third quarter, with the score 66-45.  Then the air went out of the Maverick balloon.

We're starting to get a handle on this Dallas team, I think.  They are a high-powered bunch that can throw a lot of weapons at you and rack up points in a hurry, especially when the jumpshots are falling.  What has been the case, so far in the season, is that when the jumpshots stop going in and the momentum starts to swing in the other direction, things can snowball, fast.  This speaks to some weaknesses at both ends of the court, though the defense appears particularly susceptible to what we'll call "slumping".

Tonight's game -- where the 21 point lead disintegrated in about 3/4ths of a quarter -- feels like the latest in a long line of such occurrences.  Minnesota is a capable scoring team, to be sure.  But if it's not tonights 36-15 run, it's Saturday's 25-9 run(also in the third quarter) by the Bulls, a team that struggles to put up points.

The good news is that, in both recent examples, Dallas pulled out the victory.  Tonight's "W" required a fairly strange finish, however.

With less than half the fourth quarter remaining and Minnesota now up by 3, Dallas retook the lead thanks to back-to-back Shawn Marion threes.  Vince Carter free throws and a Dirk 19-footer made it 97-90 with just under three minutes left.

Minnesota would quickly punch back, and three times had the ball down by a single basket with a chance to tie or take the lead.  The last opportunity ended with Shawn Marion apparently stripping the ball from Kevin Love as the clock expired.

Now, initially, I thought Marion got the benefit of a pretty obvious missed call.  Subsequent examination makes it a little more of a discussion than an open and shut case.

Courtesy of Jonathan Tjarks: This gif, which does make it look like Marion could have hit the ball before Love's hand.

From my DVR(forgive the quality): This picture, which was what led me to believe Marion had fouled Love.  A similar angle here.

Hey, in the end, Mavs win, so I won't complain too much.

Some observations:

  • Without question, the gameball goes to Shawn Marion.  To be honest, I'd been starting to wonder if Marion was done as a capable offensive weapon, as his numbers across the board were hitting career lows.  Then he goes and has a night like this.  The threes are probably the big story, but in the first half he was torching Minnesota by leaking out in transition off missed shots, and in the half-court he found his way unmolested to the hole on cuts.  He didn't commit a turnover and the biggest reason why was that usually when he caught the ball he was wide open, whether it be under the basket or at the three-point line.
  • Hmm...not a whole lot else of good stuff other than Marion.  Did I mention Shawn guarded Kevin Love for large stretches of the night?  Including the final possession, when he got the aforementioned strip and sealed the win?
  • Brandan Wright: 6-8 shooting, 14 points in 18 minutes.  Yawn.  Dunks, alley-oop layups and what Teri Hatcher would probably refer to as a very real and very spectacular midrange jumper.  Big deal.  No, but seriously: I'm pretty sure Brandan Wright isn't going to shoot 70% for the season, but the fact that I'm even thinking he might is amazing.  He is fun.
  • Marion and Calderon were 6-10 from three-point range.  The rest of the team combined to go 0-14.
  • Dalembert started again, and looked OK in 20 minutes.  Perhaps a factor in Minnesota's run was that he went to the bench in the third quarter after getting his fourth foul.  At the time Dallas was up 19 with 8 minutes left in the period.  DeJuan Blair came in to replace him and Pekovic went to work.  Though Blair made all three of his shots and had a pair of steals, he finished -4 on the night.  His lack of size continues to make him a poor pairing with Dirk at center.
With this win, Dallas increases their hold on the 8th and final spot to three games, as the Timerwolves fall to a game under .500.  Dallas now sits a half-game behind Golden state for 7th place in the West, and two games behind Houston for 5th.

Dallas finishes out their three game road tilt on New Years Day in Washington against the Wizards.  They then come home for three games, against the Clippers, Knicks and Lakers.


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