After two fairly sloppy, foul-plagued games to the start the pre-season, the Mavs stepped up their level of play on Sunday in a 106-98 victory over the Pacers. Dirk made his pre-season debut and the extra rest seemed to do him good, as he was locked in from the jump, with 16 points on 7-11 shooting, all in the first half. He was knocking down jumpers with no airspace, hitting transition 3's and busting out his trademarked fade-away out of the post.
A couple of things jumped out to me watching Dirk and the new guys. With Roy Hibbert out of the game, Dirk essentially got to take the night off on defense, guarding Lavoy Allen. To be sure, he would have taken the night off anyway, but it's nice when he's going up against someone who can't take advantage of it. That's the benefit of playing next to Tyson Chandler, who can cross-switch over to PF's like David West and protect Dirk on that side of the ball.
Two other line-ups I found interesting - the Dirk and Brandan Wright combination with Chandler Parsons playing as a point-forward, which should be able to score all the points, especially against second units, as well as the five-man group of Jameer Nelson-Devin Harris-Parsons-Dirk-Chandler. That's five guys who are threats to score, four who can shoot the 3 and all of them move the ball. They can play some fun basketball.
On the whole, the Mavs just seemed a lot sharper tonight - their offensive sets were crisper and they were zipping the ball around the court, with 27 assists on 12 turnovers. Carlisle played a much tighter rotation in the first half before opening things up in the fourth quarter. Everyone got in on the action, as 13 players scored while Doron Lamb and Eric Griffin got a pair of trillions.
Of course, it makes things a lot easier when the other team brings a skeleton unit in town. Along with Hibbert, George Hill and Rodney Stuckey had the night off for the Pacers. With Paul George in rehab and Lance Stephenson in Charlotte, they were playing a lot of guys that even hardcore NBA fans wouldn't recognize. Their leading scorer was CJ Miles, one of two Dallas-area players, along with Donald Sloan, to get a start in their home-town.
Dallas pulled away in the fourth quarter, thanks mostly to the hot shooting of Charlie Villanueva, who continued to make his case for a spot on the roster. If Charlie V touched the ball, he was putting up a shot and when a guy goes 6-8 in 11 minutes, it's hard to blame him. It was like something out of NBA Jam and it's the type of shooting performance that should get him an opportunity somewhere, if not Dallas.
A lot of guys played well, but the other notable performance came from Richard Jefferson, who looked very comfortable playing with the starters. He had 13 points and he seemed to understand his role on the team, spotting up, moving without the ball and using the threat of the jumper to create driving lanes. He even turned back the clock for a dunk in traffic and Carlisle was very complimentary of him in the post-game press conference.
The Mavs don't have another pre-season game until Friday, when they travel to Cleveland to face the new look Cavs, including old friend Shawn Marion.
And before I forget - how bout them Cowboys?