It was 80's night in the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Pistons waxed nostalgic on the days of the Bad Boys, even though several members of the Pistons rotations were not alive in that decade. The Mavericks, of course, felt right at home in this setting: they are practically a walking flashback montage.
On the eve of Rick Carlisle's, uh, "colorful" reaction to the mention of his ever-changing starting lineup...Dallas boasted yet another different starting lineup! With Shawn Marion out with a calf injury, this time it was:
Chris "Acid Wash Jeans" Kaman
Dirk "Klaus Nomi" Nowitzki
Jae "Atari fan" Crowder
O.J. "Rubik's Cube" Mayo
Mike "Wasn't I playing back in the 80's?" James
Someday I think all these lineups are going to be a great trivia question for a Mavs fans. And we're probably all going to think back and go "did they really start Mike James AND Derek Fisher in the same season?"
So, anyway, it was Mavs/Pistons tonight in a battle of teams that had recently won a single title and were now doing their best to make everyone forget it.
O.J. Mayo would hit his first shot of the game, and the first points of the game, taking off from his 24-point second half performance against Detroit the last time the two teams played, back on December 1st. Jae Crowder would follow by making his first shot, and then in George Constanza-like fashion he would go out on a high note and not bother making another one all night.
After a short Piston run for a small lead, the Mavericks would end the quarter strong with tight defense and a back-to-back pair of bombs from Mayo to untie the game and put Dallas ahead. Dallas would lead 22-17 at the end of the first.
Mayo kept up the three point attack in the second, hitting his third and fourth bombs of the half, and Dallas continued to build their advantage, though Detroit would not let the game get out of hand. If Dallas was finding success from the outside, the Pistons would do their damage inside, making seven layup or dunks in the second quarter alone and adding eight free throw attempts, as well. Detroit would remain fairly cold on their jump shots, but managed to keep the margin within reason, and a Calderon layup made it 50-42 heading into the break.
During halftime, Debbie Gibson performed, by the way. I barely know who that is.
The second half would begin with six straight points on Chris Kaman baskets to put Dallas back up by double-digits. The Michigan native would have trouble stopping the dribble penetration for Detroit, but did display some nice footwork down low in exploiting the recently-returned from injury Greg Monroe.
At the other end, young Piston guard Brandon Knight would carry his team with 12 points in the quarter, and showing off a pretty slick inside-outside game with a three-point stroke and the quickness to slash to the basket. Formerly red hot O.J. Mayo seemed to slow a bit in this quarter, as Knight would make him work on the defensive end.
In the final two minutes of the third both teams really began to heat up, setting the tone for a high-octane final quarter. Dallas and Detroit would trade baskets on the last seven possessions. Darren Collison would make a layup and-one with three seconds left, putting Dallas up 76-69, but Kyle Singler would draw a poor foul on a last-second heave, and make two of three at the line going into the final period.
The fourth quarter would prove to be dramatic, but it began with Dallas seemingly putting the contest out of reach. Mike James would hit a pair of threes to start, and Vince Carter would respond by hitting a pair of his own, and a little over two minutes into the 4th Dallas had turned a five point lead to 15, at 88-73. The Pistons would call a timeout, dejected and down for the count.
No, wait, I forgot: this is the Mavericks.
I'm going to need a shortcut on my keyboard to paste the phrase "and then the comeback started", for all the times Dallas has allowed a big lead to be erased, often quickly. This time it would be the Pistons, not a playoff caliber squad like Memphis, who would prove up to the task, starting with a layup from Brandon Knight and then starting to go to work in exploiting the slow Maverick rotations.
I would need to go back and rewatch to be sure, but Dallas seemed to really struggle in their zone tonight. They seemed to start trying to overplay the ballhandler on high pick and rolls, presumably to take away all the easy layups, but would leave spot up shooters wide open as a result. Charlie Villanueva and A&M's Khris Middleton burned Dallas several times on completely uncontested threes. Charlie V would be especially deadly, scoring 9 of his 12 points in the fourth despite playing just 14 minutes overall. Middleton, playing in just his seventh game as a pro, would score a career high 14, and his three with two and a half minutes left would give Detroit their first lead since the first quarter at 97-96.
Dirk Nowitzki would respond with a pair of jumpers, back-to-back, to put Dallas at the century mark, and it would prove to be all the points they needed, as they would stifle the Detroit offense from that point out, allowing only a Villanueva put back attempt with six seconds left to close out the game. A pair of Collison free throws(and yes, he would play the final two minutes, not James) made the final score 102-99.
The story of the game was the hot hand Dallas took to the floor tonight from three. They made 11-22 from distance, including five from Mayo(game high 22 points), and four from Mike James(season high 12), who Detroit fans know from his time there on the Pistons championship squad in
Dirk would start this contest 4-6 but went 2-8 from that point on to finish 6-14 for 12 points. One of the Pistons commentators made the astute observation that Dirk seemed to play relaxed and just sort of let things come to him in a "I'll be here if you need me" role. Dirk did not made a three or a free throw, which is rare, but did hit two big baskets late after Detroit had retaken the lead.
After a pretty forgettable month of February, O.J. Mayo has been hot again lately, making 14 out of 20 threes the last four games. You wonder if Carlisle's "some of these games are auditioning to stay" comment wasn't directed precisely at Mayo. Just as notable as the sharp shooting is the turnover column for O.J, which for the third straight game read "zero".
Dallas travels to Minnesota next to take on the Timberwolves Sunday. Enjoy your weekend, all!
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