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Dallas Mavericks defeat Houston Rockets 101-99, Keep Grip on 5th

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll probably still have a dece shooting night. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll probably still have a dece shooting night. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 31 points on 10-20 shooting, Jason Terry scored 24 on 9-16 shooting, and the Dallas Mavericks pulled out an overtime win against the Houston Rockets, 101-99. Goran Dragic led the Rockets with 24, and all five Rockets starters were in double-digits.

In a game where nothing much seemed to be going their way, the Mavs got a couple big breaks, made a couple of their own big breaks, and survived a really bad break to win a crucial game.

After a season like this one—and with the news that both Hay and Delonte might be back Tuesday—you take it.

On to the bullets.

The Mavs had to have this one. That, by the way, sucks. But they did. With the last five spots in the West separated by exactly one game, and Houston the most likely team to fight its way into playoff position if anyone stumbles, beating Houston could actually be big. Believe it or not guys, there are only 16 games left. And the rest of the season is rough.

They had to, but they didn’t play like it. Every non-Dirk Mav was terrible in the first half. Vince Carter hasn’t had an impactful game in a long time. Lamar Odom looks like he’s never held a basketball before, and it’s getting pretty late. Roddy Beaubois, possessor of one of the most beautiful looking jumpshots in the game, has been stunningly bad at hitting shots. Only an immense half by Dirk kept them in it, and it was so immense, they went into the half with a 2 point lead.

Lamar Odom and Vince Carter combined for 2-9 shooting, 0-2 from three, 2 rebounds, a steal, 2 turnovers and 6 fouls in 35 minutes. Ian Mahimni, the starting center, played only 18 minutes, missed his only shot attempt, grabbed 2 boards and committed 2 fouls. Roddy Beaubois was 2-8 for 6 points. The Mavericks won’t often survive that kind of play even with the 14 points on 7-9 shooting, 6 rebounds and 7 blocks Brandan Wright threw their way.

But then: We’ve seen games from good Dirk and games from bad Dirk. This was the first game where we got to see both. After scoring 16 points the 1st half, then another 11 in the first 8 minutes of the 3rd quarter, Dirk looked entirely gassed. He missed a couple shots, then stopped shooting them. He couldn’t rotate on defense. You can’t blame him, given how inconsistent his supporting cast has been, but—despite his 10-20 for 31 points—it wasn’t pretty.The fact that it was still 31 points on 21 shots tells you how good his first 2.5 quarters were.

But then: Crunch Time Jason Terry reappeared. The Mavs should have had this one after going up by 4 with 19 seconds left on a gorgeous Brandan Wright pull-up (after a Terry three gave them back the lead), but 1) Nobody gets scored on faster when trying not to foul than the Mavericks, who are immobile stone people and literally can’t do anything and 2) Dirk missed a free throw with 10 seconds left that would have stretched it to four again. Then Chandler Parsons, whoever that is, hit a crazy three. But this was the old Terry: driving dunk to bring it within three with 2:11 left, 3 pointer with 59 seconds to take a 2-point lead, and 6 of the Mavs’ 10 in OT. They needed every one.

As for the two good breaks and the one bad one, it’s like this: Courtney Lee hit what could have been ruled a three, with 1:30 left but it was kept a two, probably the right call. Then, in a play that must have baffled everyone sitting at home, with less than 24 left and Mavs possession, Dirk Nowitzki was confronted with a completely open hoop. His body torn between his desire to just hold on to the ball, the smart move, and put the ball into a totally open hoop, a hard to resist move, he actually missed the layup under a diving Goran Dragic and actually wasn’t (initially) fouled. He probably was fouled on the ensuing rebound attempt, but regardless he got free throws and this time made both.

In fact, the Rockets insistence on NOT fouling, either two down with 22 seconds left or two down with 11 seconds left seemed to really confuse the Mavs. About that bad break: With those 11 seconds left, and a 2 point lead, Kidd inbounded the ball to Terry, who, expecting to be fouled, and instead just pressured, almost fell out of bounds before he managed to call timeout. On the ensuing possession, the Mavs passed it around the backcourt a little bit, still expecting to be fouled, before launching it up to Roddy BUT since Terry had had 2 seconds of pre-timeout time and since they took 6 seconds to launch it up past half-court, 8 seconds was called.

Rockets ball. 2 point lead. 4 seconds left. Goran Dragic had a layup blocked by Brandan Wright, but his effort + luck got the ball to Chase Budinger for a wide-open three.

But he missed, and the Mavs won.

The Mavs have serious problems. For once, turnovers (7) weren’t a problem, but they really should have dropped this one too, and had just enough. Haywood should help their rebounding, but this was the third straight game where they were outrebounded by at least 10 (14, here), and he’s not going to help THAT much. The Dalembert-Camby-Scola front-court is a bear, sure enough, but there’s a lot of those about.

Nevertheless, this is a win, and there’s still time.

Two more reflections after thinking about it a while: If I ever see the Mavs draw up a "let's lob it towards the basket" play again, at the end of a quarter or otherwise, I'm breaking everything that you and I both love. It's maybe worked twice in the history of the world, and looked good both times, and that breeds copycats, but 1) Don't get cute, throw it to Dirk or Terry and 2) We're not exactly the strongest passers.

Reflection, the second: If someone hasn't already gotten on creating a youtube compilation of people throwing Brandan Wright hilariously bad lobs, there's still time. The guy must get the worst alley-oop passes in the world.