I kind of missed the cardiac Mavericks, didn't you?
They returned with a bang against Detroit on Saturday night, building a 13-point lead early in the third quarter until suddenly losing their intensity. Dallas had done a good job of pulling away in the third quarter along their five-game win streak before the All-Star break, but tonight they let the Pistons surge within four points on multiple occasions.
The culprit was the defense and yet another season-high from an opposing player, but at this point, those aren't exactly surprises to anyone.
LeBron had his season-high 42 on Tuesday and Thaddeus Young's 30 on Friday night was also his best this year. Like clockwork, it was Josh Smith who went for 32 tonight, channeling his best Dirk impression with mid-range jumpers and even nailing a three pointer as his team shot 48.8 percent.
(I kid. Josh Smith will never resemble Dirk in anything he does. Ever.)
But despite a defense that left quite a bit to be desired for, the offense carried the Mavericks to their 34th win to move them into a season-high 11 games over .500. With just 25 left to play (!!!), it's crucial to beat up on Eastern Conference teams like the Mavericks did.
Wayne Ellington was the surprise star in the win, replacing Jae Crowder in the rotation -- as a certain contingent of Mavs Twitter has been clamoring for -- and actually putting up some stats to the tune of seven points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal.
It was the first game that Crowder has not played in this season, and his removal comes at a strange time considering his last game wasn't too bad. But he doesn't have an NBA jump shot right now, and as we've discussed for months now, he doesn't do enough elsewhere on the court to make up for it. Ellington's shooting 38 percent from deep and is a legitimate shooter and scorer off the bench. With Carlisle, he may be right back on the end of the bench next game -- but I'd at least like to see him play out several matches in the rotation.
The other surprise came with the number two -- that is, the number of shot attempts Monta Ellis had going into the fourth quarter after an 11-assist first half. Never fear, he grabbed the executioner's ax by himself in that final frame and dealt the finishing blow to Detroit with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting and a couple more assists.
- If you had your Mavs checklist in front of you while watching, this game hit all the major notes. Big lead? Check. Fail to expand the lead/instead blow it? Check. Keep it interesting but eventually win? Check. Offense still scores 110? Check. And Dirk has more than 20? Of course.
- The other shocker of the game: Dallas, a bottom ten rebounding team, beat Detroit, a top ten rebounding ten, 50-39 on the glass.
- For some reason, the Mavericks have actually developed some semblance of rebounding competency over the past few games, and it's weird. Samuel Dalembert has discovered coffee, apparently, because he's been great as of late. He added 14 points and 11 rebounds tonight -- his third time with double-digit boards in the past eight games, after having three instances total the rest of the season.
- Calderon sat in favor of Harris in crunch time again, and it wasn't even like Devin was having a great game. It's going to be a nightly decision, and any of the three need to know that if they're on the bench down the stretch, it's nothing personal. Tonight against a handful of quick guards didn't play to Calderon's strengths.
- I can't write a recap without mentioning the brilliance of Dirk tonight. Really, he lives in a constant state of brilliance, so this shouldn't come as a surprise. But he's mastered his craft as much as a craft can be mastered. He knows how to get HIS shots -- his one-footed fade, his pump fake at the top of the key before stepping into an 18-footer -- and when he does, he shoots a very high percentage. Like, more than 60. Maybe more than 70. Seriously, he shot 47.3 percent tonight and it LOWERED his field goal percentage because he's that damn good.
- I better end this before I accidentally write 2,000 more words on why Dirk is the greatest. Knicks on the road on Monday and then the Pelicans kick off a short two-game homestand on Wednesday. Goodnight!