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Game Recap: Dallas Mavericks defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves 104-97

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The Dallas Mavericks beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 104-97. Dirk Nowitzki scored 33 points on 11 of 19 shooting, and Kevin Love led the Timberwolves with 32 on 9-18.

This was an exciting game, and a sloppy game. Each team threw a number of passes right out of bounds, not apparently in the vicinity of a player, earning them a safety for intentional grounding. The Mavericks can’t stop throwing crazy alley-oops for Brandan Wright which are nevertheless not humanly possible because they’re not that good at throwing alley-oops.

The lead shrank to five points twice in the second half, in which the Mavs lost a 73-56 lead, with 4 minutes left in the third, to make a 78-73 lead at the end; and watched an 81-75 lead with 10:15 to go shrink to an 83-77 lead with 8: 51 to go. Given that the Mavs have lost to the Wolves, so far this season, by 17 and 15 points, it may surprise some of you to recall that the Mavs came within 2 points with 5:00 left in the first game, and the second game was tied 70-70 with 2:00 left to go in the third. I don’t know about you, but I was nervous.

But there was a big, big difference between this game and the last two, which is that whatever is ailing Dirk Nowitzki is gone. He came out looking for his three-pointer, which I’ve never seen him do, and hit everything else besides. Only an uncharacteristic night at the free-throw line and going cold when the game was out of reach kept him from scoring 40 points on roughly 20 shots. Try that, Kobe.

The Wolves had no answer.

On to the bullets.

The first bullet is that I have longed promised a friend of mine (Paul Robertson) that I would confess, publicly, that Rubio is legit. Rubio, obviously, is legit. We all knew he was a great passer, but I had some doubts relating to his ability to shoot, but he has, actually, a deadly three-point shot. It didn’t much show up tonight, and he’s not going to be the highest scoring guard, but obviously the kid will be a fine NBA player for years to come.

In terms of the Mavericks, nothing could make me as happy as Dirk’s return to health. I can’t help reflecting, these days, on how much I’ll miss Dirk when he’s gone but there’s just nothing like seeing the defense failing to shade Dirk with a second defender.I know the shot’s going in and it usually does. He was unusually aggressive with the three-ball, something he has not shot wel lthis season, and it paid off. 4-7 from three. And other places as well. God, I love it.

Jason Kidd is back? Between Jason’s two injuries he was just horrible. I mean his shot was not going near the basket. Tonight he hit two huge threes, and though his 10 assists were marred by 8 relatively dumb Tos, his +23 in an ultimately 7 point game tells you what an impact the man had.

On that note, the Mavs who had a positive +/- were the starters, Dirk (+22), Kidd (+23), Carter (+24), Haywood (+16), and Marion (+8). Among bench players, only Brandan Wright (+8) and Yi Jianlian (+1) had anything approaching a positive here. And it felt like that. It felt like every time Dirk went out, the team turned to crud. Terry, who somehow managed 16 points and somehow, even more surprisingly, took more shots than anyone on either team (21) was -7. Lamar Odom was -17 and it felt like that. The worst news was that Mahimni is -19 and it might be true that his successes were a flash in the pan. The Mavs were once again outrebonded, 47-36.

Roddy Beaubois didn’t play , even when the Mavs pulled the starters with a few minutes left. Yi Jianlian did. Just another day in the life of Rick Carlisle.

The Mavs centers combined for 3-10, on the strength of Brandan Wright’s 2-6. Oops. Brandan again topped the Mavs centers in minutes, 18, to 14(Mahimni), to 16(Hay).

Of Mavs players who shot more than 4 shots, only Dirk and Marion shot over 50%. Since the Mavs won handily, I can’t tell if this is good or bad news.

The Mavs once again had a dominant first half (56-45) and a less-than-stellar second (48-52). What gives?

Dirk was great. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him miss both free throws before, but he was just great. Because leaguepass is cursed and I keep getting stuck with the other guy’s announcers (yes, okay, it probably has to do with the Mavs recent slate of away games), I heard the announcer opine that Love should start the All-Star Game over Griffin because though Griffin gets the press for his dunks, Love is better. I then saw Dirk outplay Love, as everyone seems to have forgotten he could and probably would.

The Mavs move to 16-11, and get back to 4th place in the West (tied with….Houston? Really?). They play Portland, the Clips, the Nuggets, the 76ers, the Knicks, the Celtics and the Lakers next. So it’s time to see what they’re made of, eh?