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Mavs hold off Pacers, 92-85

Another preseason game, another big lead squandered by the Dallas backups. A couple of timely jumpers helped the Mavs keep the lead, however, and beat the Indiana Pacers.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The 1-2 Mavericks took on the winless Indiana Pacers in each team's fourth preseason game.

Indiana, who rested starters Paul George, David West, Roy Hibbert and George Hill, put out a front line of newly acquired Luis Scola and former Maverick Ian Mahinmi.  As a result, Dallas was able to penetrate the interior of the Pacer defense almost at will, particularly with Monta Ellis.  Ellis racked up seven assists in the first quarter alone, most on dump-offs from inside the paint for easy shots at the rim.  Though the Mavs held the lead for most of the period, six unanswered points from Lance Stephenson in the final minute put the Pacers ahead 25-23.

As the second quarter began, it was discovered that Danny Granger had a strained calf, meaning yet another key Pacer would be absent.  Predictably, Dallas would turn the tide.  After a pair of Indiana three pointers(one the old fashioned kind, the other a long bomb) made it 31-23, Dallas would quickly score eight straight to tie it, en route to a 34-18 close to the half.  Ellis would nearly have a double-double at halftime, with 13 points and 9 assists, and Shawn Marion, fresh off his one game respite, had 12 points and 8 rebounds.  Dallas held advantages almost across the board, in shooting(51% to 38%), rebounds(24 to 21) and turnovers(6 to 8), with 18 Pacer free throws being seemingly all that was keeping the game reasonable.

In the third, Dallas would stretch their advantage, capitalizing on transition points and second chance opportunities.  Indiana, meanwhile, would go ice cold, missing their first nine shots, and managing just 11 points in the period.  The starters would leave the game at 72-52 and five minutes left in the third.  Soon after, a Wayne Ellington three would make the score 77-54, and represent the largest lead of the night.

In the fourth, an all-too-familiar refrain: Dallas would see their lead evaporate.  Indiana would start the final quarter with an 11-2 run to make the lead eight points.  Dallas would make just one of their first nine attempts, going nearly four minutes without any points at all.  A Ricky McConnell and-one bumped the lead back to ten, but once again Indiana would climb back in, getting to within three points with a minute and a half left, and the score 88-85.  That would be the last points for the home team, however, as a pair of jumpers from McConnell and Crowder put an end to the drama.

Some observations:

  • The awful last 17 minutes or so obfuscated what was another pretty dominant performance by the regulars.  Though Dallas finished at just 43% from the field and a small 48-46 rebound advantage, those numbers looked much better when Dirk, Marion, and company checked out.  Marion and Dalembert abused the Pacer interior defense, grabbing seven offensive boards and piling up what Derek Harper would call "ee-zee baskets".
  • Marion in particular was on a mission tonight.  He finished with 18-11 in 25 minutes, and helped by stifling defense.  You see just how big a difference he makes, even when he's not putting up numbers quite this gaudy.
  • Ellis was the other star of the night, dropping seven assists in the first, then scoring 10 points in the second.  His final line of 13 points, 9 assists, 3 steals in 24 minutes represents arguably his most efficient showing yet, as Ellis, by my count, took all of his shots either in the paint, or behind the three point line.  The elimination of the long two would be a huge step for the chronically jumper-prone Monta, and even though I'm not sold on his three point shooting thusfar in the preseason(one of his two makes tonight was a bank-shot prayer), I have to admit I'm thoroughly impressed by how little "hero ball" we've seen from Monta.  As much as I like Jose Calderon the player, I am almost a little afraid of what a change might do to disrupt what has been a revelation from he who hath it all.
  • Vince Carter got the game off, as Rick Carlisle continues his rotation of veteran DNP's.  In his place, we saw a little more Jae Crowder, and a little more Devin Ebanks, and the results were not particularly encouraging(though Crowder acquitted himself reasonably well, despite his -11 on the night).
  • Dalembert blocked 4 shots and grabbed 8 boards, but committed four fouls and two turnovers in 19 minutes, continuing his "good play, bad play" run this preseason.  He did help limit the Indiana starting frontcourt to a 7-21 night, but also helped them attempt 13 free throws.
  • On that subject, the story of the night is probably the Pacers horrid two point shooting.  33% from the field, and 64% from the line(on 39 tries), and it becomes clear Indiana left a lot of points on the floor.
So, Dallas moves to 2-2 on the preseason, and will look to break north of .500 Saturday against the Bobcats.  Much more importantly(as I'm sure most could care less about preseason records), that game has been tentatively projected as Jose Calderon's debut, as he returns from a hamstring injury.

What's your take, Mavs fans?  Let yourself be heard in the comments!

Also, be sure to check out Indy Cornrows for more coverage.