Dallas made their first trip to the new Barclays Center to take on
homegrown hero big tease Deron Williams and Brooklyn. Don't worry: they're totally not bitter about what happened over the summer, and neither am I. In fact, I'm glad. It all worked out, for everybody involved. Hold on...
Now that I've got that nice sob out of the way, I can tell you about this basketball game! Because, believe it or not, they're still playing these!
The Mavericks got to check out the new digs for the Nets, who had just ended their own losing streak Tuesday against the New Orleans Hornets. Returning to the lineup was Joe Johnson, who had missed three games with a sore heel, as Brooklyn is preparing for the final stretch of what may be their first playoff-qualifying season in a half-decade. Dallas, meanwhile, in a reversal of roles, now looks to play a spoiler role, with the postseason a slim hope and the arrow pointing decidedly down.
Of course, as all sports-watchers should know by now, regardless of the standings, some nights can just be your night.
For Dallas, the game began in typical fashion, with a breakneck pace and each team exchanging leads while hoisting shots with reckless abandon. Chris Kaman, making another start in place of Bernard James against the big frontline of the Nets, would start hot, scoring six of the Mavs' first nine. Dirk and Darren Collison would add jumpers, and Shawn Marion a patented runner. With five minutes left in the quarter, O.J. Mayo would hit a three and as has been remarkably consistent for the team, all five starters would be in the scoring column early.
Keeping pace for the home team would be -- who else? -- but Deron Williams, who has looked much fresher and healthier since the All-Star Break. Wiliams would make a pair of threes and rack up 10 first quarter points, the 10th point briefly giving Brooklyn the lead before a Vince Carter steal would ignite a fast break for Dallas, leading to a Dirk Nowitzki layup and making the score 22-21 in favor of Dallas after one.
In the second quarter, both teams would start to get warm, and the game started to resemble a game of pickup basketball. One stretch would see the two squads score on 10 - yes, ten - consecutive possessions, over two and a half minutes without a turnover or a miss, with each side nailing jumpshots and driving layups and seesawing back in forth for the lead. If you are a fan of great defense it may not have been your cup of tea but it certainly was pretty to watch.
As the quarter wound down, the two sides cooled slightly, unable to maintain offensive perfection. Curiously, until just four minutes left until halftime, neither side had attempted a free throw, another indication that defensive hustle was optional early. The half would end with a miscue from Brooklyn, as with the shot clock off Deron Williams would throw a pass away, leading to an O.J Mayo one on one, where defender Marshon Brooks would commit a poor foul, and Gerald Wallace would commit a goaltending(or at least he would be called for one), and Dallas would get an easy three-point play going into the break. They would be down just one at 48-49.
In yet another example of how bizarre the game of basketball can be, the third quarter, typically the vessel of doom for the Mavericks, would prove to be the breakthrough tonight. Dallas would score the first two baskets of the quarter quickly, for the 15th lead change of the night, and after the Nets tied it at 52, Dallas would catch fire.
Dirk Nowitzki, who had come alive in the second quarter, would continue to connect in the third, and he would be joined by Vince Carter(still a fan favorite for the Nets, it would seem, after delivering an electrifying dunk earlier) in the time machine, as Carter had the mojo tonight. Dallas, after making 50% of their shots in the first half, would shoot 60% in the third quarter, and at one point it really seemed like they couldn't miss. If you needed further proof Lady Luck was in Mavs blue tonight, Mike James would hit a pair of threes, and Dallas would, on the strength of a 25-11 run to end the quarter, make the lead 14 going into the final frame.
In the fourth, some of the third quarter sauce would carry over early, as the lead reached as high as 20, when the inevitable comeback finally hit. Brook Lopez would score eight of his 19 in the fourth, and Dallas seemed to have no answer for him. C.J Watson would have 10 in the quarter, including a pair of threes, and Deron Williams got in the act as well, abusing O.J. Mayo on back to back drives, the second drawing a foul, as well. Unfortunately for the Nets, a few too many costly turnovers kept them from doing what so many others seem to have done this year and finish the climb. Not that they didn't still have their chances.
A C.J Watson layup with a little over a minute left would make it a five point game at 93-88. Dallas would then make just three of their next six free throws as the game slowed to a crawl with fouls to milk the clock, keeping the door every so slightly cracked for the Nets to steal it. Brooklyn would not be able to make another field goal, however, and Dallas would leave the floor with the final score 98-90.
More often than not this year it would seem that the turnover margin would decide the game, and tonight it was Brooklyn who would be snake-bitten there, committing 19 turnovers to Dallas 13. Somehow, though, the Nets managed to take the same number of shots, and how that happened I haven't the foggiest.
The 15 point third quarter advantage would prove to be all Dallas needed, and for that Dallas can thank the efficient night from Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter, who combined to go 15-26 for 40 points. Mike James once again played crucial minutes down the stretch, and for all those on the pro-tank bandwagon, that nearly worked out! Brooklyn would make a spirited effort to close the gap late. Of course, the real story there is that Darren Collison is in the midst of a slump, with four turnovers and no assists. More important than the box score is that he looks genuinely flustered out there, and watching his interaction with his teammates it does not seem to be going unnoticed.
Absent from the game tonight was Bernard James and Brandan Wright, as Carlisle elected to go with the bulkier Kaman and Brand against Brook Lopez. In street clothes was Anthony Morrow, who exchanged hugs and high-fives with his recent teammates on the other side of the court.
So, Dallas, despite themselves, win a game, though you'd be hard pressed to find a lot to take away from it other than seeing a smile on the faces of some of the older Mavs. Now they go to Houston, who they will face on a back-to-back set before a four game road trip. You'll apologize for my interjecting opinion into this objective analysis, but I'd like to see them try and go on a nice losing streak here. Let's make it happen. It's March Sadness for Dallas from here on out!
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