Something about Jason Terry and Brandan Wright just seems to click. Last year, those two paired up for several incredible, high-flying alley-oops. Terry, now in a Celtics uniform, wasn't throwing any alley-oops this time around, so maybe it was just his presence alone that spurred Wright's standout night.
Over the past couple of months, Rick Carlisle's theory has been to plug a "placeholder" center into the starting rotation, be it Bernard James or Chris Kaman. Tonight, his decision to go with Wright paid off huge.
"I didn't really change my mindset [because I was starting], but that team is long and athletic with a lot of switching out there," Wright said. "Before every game we have to be optimistic and go after the boards and hit them hard, especially in the second half."
Wright led the Mavs in scoring with 23 points, while chipping in eight rebounds and a block. His 30 minutes were second-most this season -- only his 32 minute run on 3/12 against Milwaukee beats tonight. After many flashes and teases over the past couple of years, Wright finally seems to have found a steady place in the Mavericks rotation.
"There's a lot of small guys out there, that's why he started," Carlisle said. "That's when he plays well, when there's not a lot of bruisers."
Carlisle is right -- Wright isn't over his struggles against bigger and stronger opponents. However, Wright has been making steps all season, which is why he's now a rotation player after playing inconsistently before. A free agent after this season, it's hard to tell where exactly Wright's value is right now. It'd be great to see him return, but it'll all depend on what sort of market he gets.
Meanwhile, Jason Terry returned to the American Airlines Center in an opponent's uniform for the first time since 2004, but he was held to a quiet performance: 3/9 for eight points while committing three turnovers. He received a lengthy and deserved standing ovation when he checked in mid-way through the first quarter.
Terry seemed pretty nonchalant about the ovation, for what it's worth: "It was nothing out of the ordinary. It was a good feeling, but again I was solely locked in on the game. It was good to see everyone, but again, I'm a Celtic now."
We still love you, JET. Don't go all hipster on us like Steve Nash.
+ A somewhat ugly trend this year has been the Mavericks inability to close out quarters. Tonight, the worst was the first quarter (although the second and third weren't stellar finishes, either). Carlisle went with mass defensive subs, but somehow left both Collison and Mike James (and Mayo) on the court when the Celtics had the ball with 6 seconds. Worse: Collison was assigned/somehow was on Jeff Green. Exactly what you think would happen, happened. With 6.6 seconds, Green took the ball at the other free throw line and drove for an easy layup. There's no excuse for that.
+ And I didn't even mention the Mavericks had the ball with 11 seconds and Collison botched a pick-and-roll with Dirk to let the Celtics get the last shot. I don't care that he missed, but you CANNOT leave that much time on the clock when you have possession and the shot clock is turned off.
+ Elton Brand received a DNP-CD tonight, and looking at his recent game log, it's likely Carlisle sending a message. Brand's rebounding has fallen way off recently and he's having a few more off-nights shooting the basketball as well. With Wright exploding like he did, it was the right opportunity to get his attention. Plus, the guy's old. I'm sure he's a little bit grateful for the brief rest.
+ It wasn't all bad news. Dirk took 15 shots, scoring 22, and was much more involved in the offense even when he wasn't shooting. Marion returned and grabbed 13 rebounds to help the Mavericks smash the Celtics on the glass (The C's have the 29th worse defensive rebounding margin, but it's still nice to see).
+ A note on Mayo: his production has fallen way off (10 points, 9 assists, 2 turnovers) but he's playing tons of minutes out there for the guys in blue. His role as #2 scorer has slowly morphed in #2 glue guy (behind Marion). Nice to see him hit a big time 4th quarter three pointer.
+ When Wright finished the game off with a highflying alley-oop, all I could think of was, "SHUT IT DOWN, LET'S GO HOME." And we went home.