I'm going to do these a little bit differently than usual. The game deserved more than a few words per player. I'll also admit that my ratings for this game are kind of odd. I mean Dirk and Barea with the same score? Really? Yeah, it was a weird game. A game that left me jaded and wanting to avoid Mavs stuff for a day. It left me with the same feeling as the Finals did (and I'm not talking about the officiating).
Dirk Nowitzki | 7 (8.5): Obviously all the talk today has revolved around his worthiness as an MVP candidate. Plenty of writers have said he can't be counted on in the clutch, apparently ignoring the December 28th game against Phoenix and game seven against San Antonio last year. Others, are focusing not on Nowitzki, but on Nash's undeniably great performance. And some, like Lang Whitaker, aren't sure what to think.
Speaking of Dirk, last night's game might have actually emphasized his claim on the MVP award. The Mavericks' overall performance was so directly and uniquely tied to how well Dirk was playing that it's hard to argue his value to his team. Just as Nash is the engine that drives the Suns, Dirk is Dallas' rock. Dirk has to make those midrange fadeaway shots for Dallas to be successful. He missed too many of them last night.And there were those who wrote about it rationally too, like Mike Fisher.Nash, essentially, made one more shot than Dirk made. If Dirk hits a free throw at the end of regulation, Dallas wins. And then what? HE'S suddenly the MVP? Because he made a free throw?
Nah. Dirk's body of work will be 82 games long. You can't give an MVP based on one game, just because the two candidates went head-to-head! What if Nash plays poorly this weekend? Do we get to retract our pronouncements? On April 1, they play again. Should Dirk not show up because two-time MVP Nash is an "amazing, MVP-clinching'' 1-2 against him this year? If the Mavs win that game, you know, they will be 3-1 this year against Nash's Suns -- but Nash deserves the MVP because he played one point better than Dirk in THE ONE GAME OUT OF FOUR PHOENIX WON?
In the overtimes it really didn't get much better. By the end of the game it seemed as though he was mentally exhausted as well. His technical foul with two minutes left was inexcusable and he came close to getting a second about a minute later. Still, I never lost faith in him. I was glad he kept the ball for the final shot, and I honestly expected him to make it.
So he didn't make the shot, and his gaudy line of 30/16/6 (in 57 minutes) ultimately wasn't good enough. Does that mean he can't be the MVP? Of course not. That won't be decided until at least April 1st.
Jason Terry | 8 (7.4) I'll start with defense which was hard to judge. Because Dallas was switching on the pick-and-roll almost the entire game, it often left Terry following Amare to the basket. Not entirely his fault, most teams have trouble guarding that play against Phoenix -- Nash and Amare make an OK combination. Terry did well anticipating the pass at times , which is how he had 5 steals, but it also seemed like he quit trying to actually guard and just focused on the steal. He also couldn't keep up with Barbosa.
Ultimately the 8 comes from 'the shot'. The three at the end of the first OT. The three from the exact spot that he missed in game six of the NBA Finals. The three with Nash's hand in his face. And honestly, the three that I didn't think was going in.
- Jerry Stackhouse | 9 (6.8): At the end of regulation, he had scored 28 points in 32 minutes. More importantly, he scored those 28 points with an eFG% of 78%. By the end of the game, his 33 points led the team and were his most in a Dallas uniform. It's why David Moore started off his latest mailbag touting Stackhouse as a worthy sixth man of the year.
- Josh Howard | 7 (7.9): His game was a parallel of Dirk's. Quiet in the first quarter before scoring 16 of his 19 points and grabbing 6 of his nine rebounds in the second and third. He scored one point the rest of the game and made some errors of his own in the 4th. A missed free throw with 18 seconds left followed by the dumb foul on Nash four seconds later. I bet it's a mistake he never makes again, but last night Dallas needed more from Howard.
- Devin Harris | 7 (7.2): He picked up two fouls in his six minutes so it's hard to know if he would have been able to play significant minutes in the game. It's easy to know Dallas would have been better of if he had. If I had to pick one player on the Mavs to defend Nash or Barbosa, I pick Devin Harris -- without hesitation. He also could have livened up the Mavs pace when it came to a crawl in the 4th.
- Erick Dampier | 8 (6.9): Even against the worst offensive rebounding team in the NBA, 11 offensive rebounds in 26 minutes is impressive. Amazingly, he also did a great job defending Nash one-on-one whenever he was switched onto him. Nash was never able to take advantage of that mismatch. On the negative side he fouled out on a stupid touch foul. You can debate whether or not a foul should have been called, but Dampier had no business even beginning to put a hand on Amare when he had no chance of disrupting the shot. You have to make your fouls count.
- J.J. Barea | 7 (5.8): He ran the exact same play twice, starting on the right outside the three point line, getting penetration to the free throw line, and finding Jerry Stackhouse open in the left corner. It resulted in six points. He also didn't prove to be a liability on defense. Led both teams in +/- at +9. I'm at 500 words and have probably lost some people.
- DeSagana Diop | 7 (6.2):Avery says he prefers Diop in games played at a faster pace, which happens to be when Dallas was at their best last night. But Diop played just 16 minutes and wouldn't have appeared in OT at all if Dampier hadn't fouled out. His rebounding was great, about one every two minutes, and he scored 5 points too. But Dampier was far better on the defensive end of the floor.
- Austin Croshere | 6 (6): He didn't bring much to the game. He just stood and watched on offense, and I would have rather seen Diop play the final 150 seconds of the game over him.
- Greg Buckner | 6 (6.2) He really didn't do enough at either end of the floor to stay on the court, but the absence of Devin and Devean didn't leave Avery another choice. I didn't think the experiment of having him guard Nash worked at all. He's much better when he's getting in the face of a larger opponent than trying to stay glued to someone smaller and faster.