It’s the first game of the New Year for the Mavericks (11-5 away) who are wrapping up a four game road-trip against a surprisingly good home team in the Sacramento Kings (11-6 at home). Both teams are surely searching for answers after each ended up losing games that they could (maybe should) have won. Dallas lost to a Houston Rockets team that is still searching for stars to replace both Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady and Sacramento saw their win evaporate against the Los Angeles Lakers when Kobe Bryant hit a last second 3-pointer.
The spotlight for tonight’s game will be most intense on Dirk Nowitzki and Tyreke Evans as each squad looks to "right the ship" so to speak. Nowitzki is coming off of one of his worst shooting performance of the season (two early fouls didn’t help), which led to questions about whether this Dallas squad is still searching for an identity. On the flip side, rising star Tyreke Evans comes back from injury to a Kings team that looks to be aligning its pieces for a bright future.
Both teams are hungry, who wants the win more?
Game as a Whole:
At the start the Mavericks were busy sleepwalking through the first quarter while the Kings kept it competitive. When the Mavericks finally "woke up" and remembered who they were, the game was never in question. Its been about four games since Nowitzki called out his teammates and asked that they provide him with a bit more help, I think it is safe to say that the team heard him loud and clear.
Gooden brought rebounds, Howard attacked the paint, Kidd chipped in 14 points, and Barea kept the team in the game during the first quarter. The Mavericks certainly needed the rest of the team to come up big as Nowitzki continues to struggle (he needed 18 shots just to get 23 points).
To me, this isn’t a team that needs to go out and find its identity. Each Maverick is already clear on what they need to do as soon as they step on the court and it shows in the execution.
Let's look at the quarters...
- After a bad game, Dirk brings the headband back. Do we need to start looking at statistical difference with headband versus no headband?
- 11:34, Barea attacks the paint and is given foul shots as a parting gift.
- 10:43, Dampier gets a basket in close as well. His hands look better tonight as he handled a rifle pass from Jason Kidd.
- 10:05, Shawn Marion now has points in the paint as well. Three different Mavericks have all worked it into the paint for baskets.
- 8:44, Dampier makes a spin move and instead of trying to finish he tries to pass out of it. The ball goes out of bounds and Dampier shows why he is not a passer.
- 8:12, Barea is putting the Kings in foul trouble early and knocking down all of his shots. He is definitely rebounding from his game the other night; you have to have a short memory in the NBA.
- 5:46, Jason Kidd makes his first shot of the night and you know it’s a deep two.
- The Kings are trying to make sure that Dirk continues to stay out of rhythm by running a double team at him when he gets ready to turn and shoot.
- 4:39, Dirk picks up his first set of points on a quick move to the basket. He will have to continue to do that if he wants to avoid the double team.
- 3:56, On what looks like a broken play, Dirk takes it hard to the hole for a thunderous dunk. I don’t think Dirk has ever thrown it down with one hand.
- 2:53, Josh Howard travels on a great outlet pass from Kidd. He probably didn’t expect Kidd to throw him the ball so far down the floor.
- 2:34, Jason Terry takes it right into the teeth of the defense on the fast break to finish with contract.
- 2:11, Jason Kidd takes it all the way to the hoop and finishes.
- 1:01, Jason Terry throws the ball out of bounds. He is being really aggressive and looking to get into the paint but he is also making some bad decisions tonight.
- :28.4, Drew Gooden has a really nice shot fake. He gets two foul shots when Brockman fouls him.
- :01.9, 1st entry in the "WHAT WAS HE THINKING?" playbook, Jason Terry tries to throw a pass behind his head after a steal and ends up throwing it back to the Kings.
- 11:36, Josh Howard hits a transition jumper after some nice defense on an attempted layup by Evans.
- 10:46, Gooden runs the floor extremely well even as a big man. He rips an offensive rebound down on a Josh Howard miss. He gets fouled on the put back and misses both free throws.
- Gooden has been beat to the basket twice; his defense is not looking so good tonight.
- 9:42, Josh Howard makes another deep jump shot.
- 8:35, A sloppy play where both Barea and Howard bumble the ball gives the Kings another fast break bucket. Jason Terry comes back with an "and-1".
- Spencer Hawes misses a shot but then is able to hustle back and block an attempted fast break dunk by Drew Gooden.
- 7:40, Barea picks up his second travel of the night and isn’t too happy about it.
- 7:12, Shawn Marion works the high-low game with Drew Gooden under the basket.
- 6:54, Barea gets a break away layup (I thought he was going to try dunking it) thanks to a Josh Howard steal.
- Nowitzki and Kidd are still on the bench as the second unit has been playing a great game for the Mavericks.
- Out of a Kings timeout, Shawn Marion hits Josh Howard for another fast break basket.
- 6:07, The Kings can’t even play for a full minute before Paul Westphal has to take another timeout due back-to-back fast break basket by the Mavericks. Drew Gooden throws what looks like a shuffle pass to Barea for the finish.
- 4:56, Howard gives Omri Casspi a little shake and bake with a shoulder fake and then throws a floater over him.
- 3:59, Jason Kidd looks like he is playing for the Mavericks in his rookie season on a fast break finish. Kidd gives the Kings a nasty pass fake before finishing at the rim.
- 2:26, Howard is taking it stronger to the rim than he ever has. He draws another foul on the Kings.
- 1:57, Dirk misses another shot while looking for his rhythm. Paul Westphal gives Nowitzki an extra shot on a technical. Nowtizki makes all three baskets.
- 1:06, Dallas immediately comes back and tries to get Nowitzki going. He hits a basket in the post off a feed from Kidd (wasn’t a pretty basket but it rolled in).
- :05.0, After Dirk gives up a touch foul on the defensive end that leads to an "and-1", he comes back and pushes it straight into the paint (drawing the foul).
- 11:32, Nowitzki may be back, he finally hit a jumper in transition. (Scratch that as he misses a second follow up jumper)
- 10:15, Kidd hits his third layup of the night and it comes off of a steal by Nowitzki, talk about a role reversal.
- 9:37, Marion hits the scoop while coming off of a curl. Has to be one of the weirdest shots I have ever seen.
- 8:38, Barea and Nowitzki have formed their own "two man game" where Nowitzki sets the screen and Barea comes around to hit the jumper. This is starting to become a Maverick staple play.
- 7:26, Dirk shoots a jump shot over single coverage when he only has Jason Thompson step out.
- 6:40, Evans tries to muscle past Kidd on his way to the rim but he isn’t able to get the ball above his waist due to the smothering defense.
- 6:20, Second pass fake from Kidd, this time it leads to a three pointer.
- 5:46, Dirk has finally made consecutive jump shots.
- 4:31, After Evans gets into the paint for layup, Terry and Howard come back in.
- 4:09, Kidd may just be the second best three-point shooter on the Mavericks (when his toe is not on the line). He is 2 for 2 tonight.
- 1:51, Gooden gets his second steal on the night after being quick on his feet. He also comes back on the offensive end and gets a dunk.
- :22.9, Another hustle play from Gooden (he back-taps a rebound) and Jason Terry gets a trip to the line (he is fouled as he tries to secure the rebound). That could have been disastrous.
- 11:40, Terry comes out and misses his first jump shot of the quarter. Nowitzki and Terry are both going through shooting slumps.
- 11:07, Howard, on the other hand, his jump shot couldn’t be better.
- 9:38, Showing some maturity in his game, Howard fakes a three and drives it to pick up a foul.
- 8:41, I hope Gooden’s nickname in the locker room is "hustle", he just got the Mavericks another possession by being active on the boards. He is one of the better Mavericks acquisitions this year.
- 8:31, Josh Howard picks up another bucket in the paint. Wonder when Carlisle will start him again?
- 7:12, Barea with another jumper off of a screen. He puts the Mavericks up by 12.
- 6:30, The Mavericks have played almost the whole quarter without picking p a foul. First foul on Gooden and first foul of the quarter.
- 5:36, Terry turns down the assist to Gooden and flips it up for two. Mavericks lead swells to 14.
- The Mavericks are demonstrating a balanced scoring attack tonight (even as two of their stars slump).
- 5:03, The Kings came out of the timeout looking to clog up the paint a bit more. Dirk hits a jumper from the top of the key.
- 4:17, Dallas will be going to the line the rest of the way tonight.
- 3:40, Dirk takes it to the bank and comes up with two.
- 2:57, Humphries after not playing for the last two games gets some time. Don’t blow it Hump.
- 1:02, Gooden gets a block to secure the win for the Mavericks.
- :04.8, Nowitzki actually secures the win for the Mavericks on a pair of free throws (he has to come back as the Mavericks see the Kings pick up the scoring late).
- Mavs win 99-91
Some Choice Statistics:
- Dirk Nowitzki’s highest scoring season was 05-06. He added 2,151 to his career point total.
- Free throw shooting leader this season is former Maverick Steve Nash (94%). Dirk is currently resting at #6 on the list (88%).
- From a +/- standpoint the Mavericks best lineup is Terry/Nowitzki/Kidd/Dampier/Marion. Wonder if we should try starting Terry more?
This isn’t a team that Mavericks fans need to start worrying about when a game gets close. Stars slumping, injuries, or bad nights on the floor aren’t going to stop this squad from gutting out a win when it matters. Sure, execution can always be better but we haven’t even gotten to the All-Star break yet. Look out Lakers!