After getting out to a fast start, it looked like the same old story for the Mavericks tonight. The difference was Shane Larkin, who had by far the best game of his young NBA career. With Jose Calderon and Gal Mekel out, Larkin got as many minutes as he could handle and he more than delivered.
In 26 minutes, Shane had 18 points and 5 assists on 6-8 shooting. At the end of the game, he was the one making all the big plays -- coming up with loose balls, running the offense and using his speed to get buckets. As a result, Dallas outlasted Phoenix, 110-107.
Of course, it wouldn't be the Mavs if they didn't do everything in their power to cough up 47 minutes of good basketball with a bizarre sequence of events in the final seconds. Everything about those last 11 seconds was just awful, most notably the missed connection on the inbounds play between Vince and Shane.
Dallas got out to a fast start, as their offense was clicking from the jump. Without Eric Bledsoe, the Suns perimeter D is pretty porous and the ball doesn't move in their first unit. You could say the Mavs were taking advantage of a wounded opponent, but hey, Gal was out!
On a serious note, Gal's absence night have been the best thing that could have happened to Shane. A young guy can play more free when he doesn't have to worry about getting pulled from the game. With the Mavs PG situation what it was, they needed 25 minutes from Shane regardless tonight.
His performance was what Dallas envisioned when they took him in the first round. He's very fast, he knows how to play the game and he showed he could shoot in college. As long as he can connect on 3's and hit the floater, he will be an effective player in the NBA. I see a lot of Isaiah Thomas in his game.
The question now is how the PG position looks going forward. Calderon left in the 3Q with a knee bruise and Devin Harris is expected to make his first appearance of the season on Saturday. All I know for sure is that the Mavs need to see what Shane can do. Nothing wrong with a little player development for a team with the ceiling of a 7-8 seed.
The schedule gets no easier from here. Portland comes into the AAC tomorrow before Dallas begins what is suddenly looking like a much tougher road trip through the middle of the Eastern Conference. Cleveland, Toronto and Brooklyn are all playing much better than they were earlier in the season.
I'm on record as one of the most pessimistic writers on the MMB staff, so I'm not sure I would favor the Mavs in any of the next four games. Maybe adding Harris and Shane to the rotation can change that, though. At the very least, taking Gal and The Beast out can't hurt.
What did y'all think? Should we be optimistic about pulling out a road win against a playoff team or pessimistic because the Mavs barely survived a game against a team struggling without their best player? Sound off in the comments.