In a game custom-tailored to be the first match of the season after a summer full of drama, the I-45 rivalry got going amidst, most notably, Houston fans giving Chandler Parsons a hard time.
Oh well...moving right along....
After falling to a quick 6-0 deficit the Mavs came back and stayed neck-and-neck with the Rockets for much of the first quarter before amassing a lead behind the two presumptive young offensive weapons on the Mavs roster, Chandler Parsons and Monta Ellis. While Dirk took the night off nursing a sore hip, Parsons and Monta took control in the first half, adding a little life to an excruciatingly long two quarters that saw a whopping 49 combined fouls. Behind Parsons's 14 and Ellis's 11, the Mavs led 64-54 at halftime with the help of 7 rebounds from Al-Farouq Aminu. Aminu amassed 11 board by the end of the 3rd quarter, as many as the all the other Dallas starters put together.
The Rockets got 12 points from James Harden and some defense (including a couple of steals), but they shot poorly from the free throw line, which resulted in the bulk of the deficit and Dwight Howard fouled out long before the 3rd quarter ended. Still, with about 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter the Rockets had cut the Dallas lead to 74-71.
As the 4th quarter approached with Dwight Howard already out, Chandler Parsons, Monta, and James Harden all took a seat in favor of giving the rest of the players more of a look. By the end of the 3rd quarter Houston had trimmed the lead to 82-80 and moved ahead early in the 4th, 85-82 but continued to struggle at the free throw line, keeping it close.
Gal Mekel took over the point for most of the 4th quarter and did a little of everything while even more unlikely hero Charlie Villanueva, who finished with 13 points, caught fire and almost hit the tying shot but fouled out instead, leaving the Mavericks down 108-104. Eventually Mekel came up big on both ends with his defense and followed by tying the game with a 3 with 6.4 second left but it wasn't enough. The Rockets did get the ball back, unfortunately and the Mavs were forced to foul and ironically fell as a result of free throws, 111-108...a fitting end to a game with 81 fouls.
During a game that was very difficult to watch due to an unending stream of whistles there wasn’t much continuity or flow, so the analysis has to be limited to bits and pieces. Houston will be looking for someone to step up at power forward and/or as a backup center now that Omer Asik is gone and Donatas Motiejunas did the job tonight, shooting 7-11 for 18 points to lead the Rockets. James Harden added 17 and 3 steals while Trevor Ariza chipped in 12. Dwight Howard was out of the game early.
The offense looked a bit disjointed for much of the game and that’s not unusual at this point with so many experiments going on. Regardless, Chandler Parsons looked comfortable on offense and led the Mavs with 14 points as well as chipping in two steals and a blocked shot. Charlie Villanueva came storming out of the gate with some threes and even a drive to the hole, adding 13 points, as did Monta Ellis. Al-Farouq Aminu grabbed 11 boards, almost double the total of any other player on the floor. Mekel played solid ball on both ends of the floor in the 4th quarter and he and Villanueva almost saved the game for the Mavs. There were hints that we might see Jameer Nelson-Tyson or Devin Harris-B Wright alley-oops on a regular basis during the season, so surely the best is yet to come.
Devin has also been rumored to be working on his outside shot and it appears he has, although he only hit 1-4 at the line. Thankfully the big men overall hit their free throws and that’s always a plus.
The first preseason game is bound to be full of mediocrity and this game had its share. Unfortunately it was largely overshadowed by a great deal that appeared to be just plain rusty, which is also understandable but…
Raymond Felton hit both his shots but was 2-6 at the free throw line and had 3 turnovers in just 12 minutes.
The fouls were out of control on both sides but in particular, Greg Smith had three fouls in his first two minutes of play. Let’s hope that’s not going to be a pattern because Tyson Chandler amassed too many early as well. The Mavs are fortunate to be deep at center for a change but they need Tyson and Smith to be the muscle down low rather than on the bench. Tyson, Smith and Monta all finished with 5 fouls in limited time on the floor and Villanueva fouled out of the game.
Several Mavs couldn’t get the ball in the basket including Aminu (1-5), Jameer Nelson (1-6), Ivan Johnson (0-5) and Ricky Ledo (0-4). Overall the team shot a dismal 40.6%.
Richard Jefferson, who came into the game much later than one might have expected, looked completely out of sync. In his 12 minutes he shot 0-2 and chocked up 2 fouls, although he did grab 3 rebounds…so there’s that.
Monta also turned the ball over 6 times and Chandler Parsons thrice as well.
You can’t put too much meaning into the first preseason game, particularly when you have so many new pieces on the roster and Dirk is sitting and there’s a foul every 35 seconds. Still, the things that stood out were so bad it kinda left me with a need to see the next game where it has to get better and my mind will be at ease. In spite of everything, and make no mistake, the Rockets didn't shine too brightly either, the Mavericks came very close to winning the game.
Generally, barring something very strange happening, we are fairly certain what you’re going to get from Dirk, Tyson and Monta and likely Chandler Parsons and Brandan Wright as well. The rest is much more uncertain and subject to chemistry, getting to know each other and the top-flight coaching of one Rick Carlisle. The good news is that Parsons, Aminu and Devin Harris are looking as good or better than expected and both Villanueva and Mekel played very well in this game, making it more likely that both of them will be assets, and Carlisle as shown he is adept and putting pieces together and making his team better.
The rest simply remains to be seen.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will visit the AAC on Friday.