This is what happens when there isn't a player that steps up.
Several tried - they really did, and give them credit. Rick Carlisle got himself ejected, arguing a questionable call but in reality expending three and a half quarters of frustration. Darren Collison got it going late, but twice when the lane opened up down the middle, he failed to finish. O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman shot horribly from outside, but then made a palpable effort to work the ball inside.
Unfortunately, late in the fourth quarter with a ten point deficit is just too late. We all know Dirk Nowitzki is usually the man in Dallas who steps up night in and night out, but with his injury, the Mavericks still started the season strong when they got a player, or players, to step up.
Tonight, it just wasn't happening. The Mavericks looked sluggish for virtually the entire game, and despite a strong effort by Minnesota to give the game away with unforced turnovers and poor shots, they could never find any rhythm.
The first half just felt miserable. Minnesota only lead 45-39, but it felt like they just dominated the Mavericks. Dallas actually surged with a nice rally late in the second quarter, but a pointless foul on Luke Ridnour as he raced down the court gave him two free throws and throttled the momentum the Mavericks were trying to muster up to take into halftime.
The second half was more of the same, until it seemed to click with the Mavericks that they were in grave danger of losing a game to the Timberwolves, missing their stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.
Carlisle got ejected, surely a strategic gambit for him. Collison looked determine to drive the ball, as did Mayo. But once again, it's just not reasonable to start playing for real late in a game trailing by ten, and we saw why as the Mavs let it slip away.
This team is really missing Dirk, and Marion's absence doesn't help either. However, don't give up on these next couple weeks just yet. The cycle will come full circle, and the all of a sudden, this team will roll over someone when four or five players all click at the same time, like the opener against the Lakers.
- Like I mentioned above, I saw an effort by Kaman and Mayo to take the ball inside after their jumpers didn't drop. It didn't end up helping much, but it's got to be a good sign.
- Vince Carter was a focus of the offense tonight, and since this isn't 2004, it's no real surprise that the Mavericks offense struggled.
- Still, on a game-to-game basis, he always does a few things I just absolutely love. He's the only Mavericks consistently drawing charges on this team, and picked up another one tonight. Once, when Dahntay Jones had a mismatch in the post but hesitated and threw the ball back out to Cater, he immediately gave the ball right back and Jones hit a face-up jumper. He'll take some dumb shots, but he is also one of the smartest players in the game.
- Roddy Beaubois scored zero points on 0-3 shooting, but I actually thought he had a very good game. He had seven assists, three rebounds and a couple steals, looked comfortable handling the ball and with his drive-and-kick game. Had the Mavericks offense been on point tonight, that assist number could easily have been even more impressive.
- Random thought: why doesn't the NBA or any of the many stat sites track "possible assists". It'd be the same as assists, but would apply to both misses and makes. An NBA can dish out half a dozen perfect passes to open shooters, and the number assists he receives boils down to whether or not the players shooting are in a groove or not.
- Bernard James: ten minutes, six points, four rebounds. Meanwhile, Troy Murphy had three rebounds in 22 minutes to go with more missed shots from the outside. I like Murphy, and think it's just a matter of time before he comes around, but right now, James is playing his way to more minutes.