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Game Recap: Suns Set, Mavericks win 102-101

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Mavericks fans got a great surprise today with Josh Howard returning to the line-up (although not in a starting roll).  Howard definitely is the X-factor for this Dallas team.  Don’t believe it?  Check out the last twelve minutes of tonight’s game against Phoenix and you will see that Howard was a part of almost every major play the Mavericks had. 

The team is still suffering from some offensive woes but you can chalk those up to Howard trying to shake off the rust and get integrated back into the line-up. 

Game as a Whole:

Poor shooting aside, the Mavericks looked in control tonight.  They didn’t get flustered when they were down or when Phoenix started to make a run in the 4th quarter.  The team executed the game plan and had an answer each time Phoenix came up with a big play.

What was different?  A lot of things that had been going badly for the Mavericks all of a sudden started to go right.  Barea actually contributed quality minutes (14 points), Dirk was the scoring monster he always has been (33 points), and Howard came back and played some clutch minutes (20 points and 6 rebounds in 24 minutes).

The Mavericks played with heart tonight and it seemed like the entire team keyed off of what Josh Howard was doing on the floor.  The team, probably frustrated with its last two poor performances, seemed to play with a renewed passion and sense of urgency.  

Hustle plays, lose balls, and defensive stops were all being made at crucial points in the game.  The ball was definitely bouncing the Mavericks way tonight.  

1st Quarter
  • Marion is off to a 1 of 5 start.  He seems to be really out of sync on the offensive end.  Taking really bad shots.
  • Barea is getting the chance to prove that he deserves to start.  This is an interesting decision by Rick Carlisle.
  • Howard comes in for the first time at 5:07 while Dirk takes foul shots. 
  • Howard misses his first shot but then makes up for it on the defensive end by getting a nice block.  
  • The Mavs are still taking too many outside shots.  It would be okay if we were making them but we are currently missing everything.
  • Dirk is fighting inside tonight, 2 offensive rebounds, puts it in, and 1. 
  • Dampier shows off his terrible hands. First, can’t make a catch under the basket, then makes a bad pass. 
  • Howard seems like he has something to prove tonight.  He is driving REALLY hard to the basket. 
  • Both teams are currently perfect from the line.
2nd Quarter
  • Dirk has a nice dunk to start off the quarter. 
  • Gooden misses a point blank lay up at around the 9:07 mark.  Can’t blow easy points like that.
  • Jason Terry is arguing a lot about the foul he committed at 7:12.  Luckily the refs are being generous tonight.
  • Nice driving lay up by Barea but then he quickly picks up his second foul while tring to guard Jared Dudley.
  • 5:19 Dirk gets a great reverse under the basket and is fouled.  Just the type of action the team needs in the paint.
  • Mavericks have erased an 8-point lead that the suns had accumulated.
  • I cannot count how many times I have heard "toes were on the line" and Kidd mentioned in the same sentence.
  • Terry picks up his third foul with 56 seconds to go in the quarter.  This could mean a rocky start to the third. 
  • Marion misses at point blank range to end the quarter.  Not the kind of performance you want to put together against your old team.
3rd Quarter
  • Second half line-up.  Gooden is on the floor instead of Dampier.  Dampier is not having a good night.
  • In an interesting move by Rick Carlisle JJ is kept on the floor even though he picked up his third foul early.
  • Two dunks by Dirk in one game.  When the heck does that ever happen?
  • Kris Humphries gets put in for Drew Gooden.  Hasn’t done anything special yet.  Make those minutes count.
  • At 3:51 the Mavericks switch from a small 3-guard line-up to something more traditional with Humphries, Howard, Kidd, Nowitzki, and Terry. 
  • Great to see the classic Josh Howard floater at the 2:25 mark. Welcome back Josh.
  • Hard foul by Amare on Kris Humprhies trying to go up for the dunk. 
  • Josh Howard is starting to feel it. Hits a nice looking three-pointer and then the Mavericks force the Suns to take a timeout on the other end. 
  • Things start rolling the Mavericks way.  Dirk gets and one on a 21 footer. Mavericks currently up seven.
4th Quarter 
  • Howard gets another big three and the Mavericks seem to be feeding off of him.
  • 8:40 mark and Carlisle has to call a timeout due to poor transition defense that leads to a Jared Dudley 3-pointer.
  • Howard has scored the last 9 points for the Mavericks.  That slowed down a Phoenix run that was starting to build.
  • Dirk has scored 31 points with around 3 minutes to go in the game.  This is the Dirk we are used to seeing.
  • The Mavericks are starting to trade baskets with the suns. Kidd takes a perfect charge on Richardson to stop another Phoenix run. 
  • The quintessential Dirk fade away on the base line puts the Mavericks up by 7 with a 1:39 to go.  The Mavs then have an excellent defensive sequence to force a shot clock violation. 
  • Kidd hits a 2 (to make it a two possession game) with 26 seconds left.
  • Steve Nash has drilled two threes for the Suns (making it a three point game). Mavs decide to play the foul game on his next trip so that Nash cannot take another 3. 
  • Terry saves the game.  Intentional miss on a foul shot (to start the clock) after missing his first. 
  • Mavericks get the win 102-101. 

Some Choice Statistics

  • Josh Howard has been out of the line-up since November 11th (went out in a loss to the Spurs).
  • The Mavericks went 33-19 with Josh Howard in the line-up and 17-13 without him last season.
  • Dirk has a two game streak of wearing the headband.
  • Continuing the Josh Howard theme:  Howard is the second player after Shane Battier to attain 1000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists, 200 steals, 100 blocks, and 100 three-pointer. 

Closing Thoughts:

Everyone has already said this but I will say it again.  Josh Howard needs to stay healthy for the Mavericks to reach their true potential in the West.  I am excited to think what this team will look like in a couple of weeks once Howard is fully back into form.  We will still have some growing pains ahead (as we integrate Howard back into the line-up) and the team tries to figure out its defensive identity.  It’s a long season and we are all along for the ride.