Watching basketball should never, ever be a chore. It's men running around in shorts and throwing balls through hoops for pete's sake. We should enjoy it!
Yet, last season, Mavericks basketball was not largely enjoyable. There were some nice moments, sure. But it was a largely forgettable, excruciating season, watching as a Mavericks franchise that had come so far stoop so low. And for goodness sakes, it wasn't even that bad! The Mavs won half their games. Can you even imagine what it must be like to watch a losing team? *shivers* There are fans out there that only know what it's like to watching losing basketball.
Which is why I was trying my hardest to stay as positive as possible about the Mavs off-season. No Dwight Howard, but hey, no more Derek Fisher and no more Mike James so WHO'S LAUGHING NOW HAHAHAHAHA.
That's been my mentality: "Hey, last year we had to watch Derek Fisher and Mike James do things." Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis weren't perfect, but they were much better. DeJuan Blair fell out of favor in San Antonio, but hey, the Spurs are going to HAVE to eventually make a bad personnel move eventually right?
I knew this team wasn't a title contender, but I knew it would also be pretty good. Better than maybe others thought. At the very least, I knew this team was going to be fun.
This is supposed to be fun. And tonight, oooh-boy. It was fantastic. Let's get to the notes so I can go fist-pump and dance in my living room.
- Twitter was ablaze after Monta Ellis tried to ice the game with an off-the-bounce, contested three when the Mavs were nursing a 1-point lead. It was the perfect Monta moment. Luckily, the rest of the game did more than enough to justify the Mavs thinking of investing three-years into Ellis. Let's see: 37 points, 8 assists, 3 turnovers, 13-of-18 shooting and 9-of-12 from the free throw line. Ellis was at his peak form tonight, working the pick and roll marvelously. He did a great job of taking advantage of James Harden's "defense" by pushing the ball in transition and never stagnating in the halfcourt. Ellis does a great job of managing the tempo in a pick and roll, changing his speed depending on how the defense is playing him. Dwight Howard a little slow coming over? Ellis charged to the hole fast and decisively. Howard comes up to trap? Ellis brought it back out and whipped it to the other side of the court. It was just a great show and Ellis continued to punish defenses who give him free room to spring off a jumper from around 15-feet. Ellis has a rep of being a bad jump shooter. That's true to a degree -- he's medicore from three and bad on 22 footers. But a 15-footer near the elbow, coming in the flow of a pick and roll? He has the green light on that all day. Ellis' dish to Marion for the game-winning three was a thing of beauty and it seems like the Mavs are more than content with Ellis having the ball in his hands late in games, with Calderon spotting up. With performances like this, hell, I agree.
- So Dirk was angry Dirk. Angry Dirk = good Dirk. Dirk was barking all night, throwing fist pumps and being the nasty Dirk we've all grown to love. He had it all working tonight -- post ups, isolations, spot ups, the three and getting to the line. The Mavs did a great job of working the offense through Dirk but not always relying to bail them out on every possession. Sometimes Dirk didn't touch the ball tonight, but he had a presence on those possessions because the Mavs really made an effort to run those pick and rolls through him instead of him spotting up while Dalembert or Blair roll to the rim. Of course, when the Mavs did need it, Dirk took over. He scored 14 in the fourth quarter. He shot a three over Terrence Jones that was so filthy, rocking Jones to sleep with a few jabs and then just lofted the ball up, with almost no legs in the shot, as it splashed in. It was like he was toying with Jones, who probably wasn't expecting Dirk to rise up. Houston had to switch a lot on the Ellis pick and rolls with Dirk and when Dirk had a smaller defender the Mavs did a good job making sure they got points -- whether on a Dirk shot or free throws. 35 points for Dirk on 20 shots, four assists and 1 turnover. Mhmmmm. It tastes so good.
- I don't know how the Mavs got stops in the fourth quarter. But they did. Houston was terrorizing Dallas all night, spreading the floor brilliant with Dwight in the middle and Dwight busting out some Orlando-era post moves. Poor Sammy didn't stand a chance. The Mavs switched up their D a few times in the fourth, trying some zone, hybrid-zone and man. They did a somewhat better job of getting more bodies around Dwight and tried to force Houston into some more pull-up jumpers instead of open, spot-up threes. Dwight was 11-of-11 from the floor at one points. He finished 12-of-16. Credit the Mavs defense for getting just enough stops.
- The first 36 minutes were really rough on defense though. The Rockets entered the fourth shooting over 60 percent. That's not good. Dallas couldn't really double Dwight because the rotations on the kick outs were just too slow -- the pains of playing defense with Dirk, Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis.
- Shawn Marion did a masterful job on James Harden. Harden had his moments, but Marion was there with him every step of the way. Harden can pretty much roll out of bed and earn 11 free throws, so limiting Harden's production outside of that was huge.
- Marion, thank you for rediscovering your three-point stroke from Phoenix. Really appreciate that.
- Regarding Shane Larkin: Hey! It's amazing what happens when a basketball team drafts a kid that knows how to play basketball.
- Regarding Terrence Jones: The Mavs will rue the day they decided to trade down in the draft and not select Jones. The kid is a stud and a perfect fit in the front court along Dwight.
- I tweeted this out, but Vince Carter so far this season is playing like the Vince Carter the haters wanted him to be last year. Carter was very good last season, don't forget. Hopefully he gets it back soon.
- Jose Calderon can shoot all the threes he wants for the rest of his life. What a pickup. Such a steady force in the lineup.