6.1 seconds remaining. Down one.
That's Dirk time. He's clutch. He's deadly. He had been locked in the entire game with an 11/15 night and seemed completely ready to work his magic once again.
But he can't shoot without the ball. Jason Terry makes a poor entry pass, the ball squirts away, and even though he recovered with 2.9 left, it cost us the game.
This is the mistake that will be remembered the most, because it was in the final seconds of the game, but earlier in that final minute, Butler carelessly threw the ball away after a huge block by Chandler, allowing Conley to shoot free throws, making one to tie the game. And after great defense by Marion on Gay, who forced up a 19 footer over his outstretched arms, Chandler allows Gasol to corral a long rebound and commits a loose ball foul in the process, sending Marc to the line to ultimately hit the game winning free throw.
For a veteran team, these mistakes should not happen. Now, every team is allowed some poor games, and let's remember, this is only game 2 of 82. So should this game be a reason to worry? No, definitely not. But as fans, we have every right to expect this team, who claims to be serious and ready for something special, to execute better than they did, especially in winning time (to borrow from an excellent 30 for 30). And despite what some might say, there's no reason to think that they won't the next time they are down one with six tics left.
Let's not bury one of the key stories to this game, though. After a horrendous outing in the opener, where the blew huge leads created by the starters, the bench played much better. Though JJ Barea had just looked ugly while playing the 2 guard with the starters (I'm not going to go in depth on his problems), he looked much better running the second team, especially towards the end of the 3rd quarter. He and the bench closed the 3rd with a 10-2 run, including a big Barea three giving Dallas the lead back and a breakaway by Terry with 0.2 remaining.
Marion, though his stat line marred by his 4/11 shooting night, also showed his usual skill set of making plays without plays called for him, and also hit a three from the corner, something that I've heard is going to become a bigger part of the offense this year. That would be a big advantage for the second unit, having one more guy to space the floor and threaten teams at the three point line, even if he only hits 25 or 35 for the season (ideally shooting at least 33-34%).
And some quick-fire observations.
- Ignoring his awful turnover, Caron Butler had a pretty good night. Shot just under 50% and scored 18 by heating up in the 3rd quarter. His and-1 with 3 minutes to go in the 4th was huge, and I would love to see more of that: pump faking to set up a strong drive and finish, even if all he does is earn a couple of free throws. However, I am puzzled why there aren't more plays ran for Butler other than baseline iso. When they were trying to get him going, he got the ball on a slip screen cut and a handoff from Dirk, and earned points each time. Early in the game and when he's playing with the second unit, though, it seems like all his shots come from the iso or off of natural offensive movement. I would like to see him utilized more in plays.
- Dirk's consecutive streak of made free throws stops at 82, third longest streak ever in the NBA. While I'm disappointed he didn't make it all the way, it really makes you stop and think. 82 in a row. That's a really, really big number. Plus, I have no doubt that Dirk will be back in the vicinity pretty soon. Towards the end of the season, his free throw shooting just becomes automatic (that's when he compiled most of the 82, and I believe he had a 50 streak going at some point before it got snapped).
- I have to mention Jason Kidd's newest toy: the touch pass. Those are just sick. He had one in the opener, and he had another today, this one even more difficult.
- Dominique Jones didn't play much, but he did play. So...has Carlisle actually changed!? Stay tuned for my next piece about this topic.