One of times I was most sick in my life was on a 10-hour bus ride. It was in my high school days coming back from a summer camp, and suddenly absent parent supervision, I had spent the four or five days in the Texas summer ingesting entirely too much salt and sugar while barely sleeping. My immune system came crashing down on my in that Greyhound, staring blankly ahead as every bump and rattle of the road made me question every decision of the last few days. Halfway through the trip -- and I swear I'm not making this up -- our bus's engine overheated in a tiny town along the state highway, and we waited three hours for a replacement bus.
Imagine that bus ride, but as a first half of basketball. Really, imagine that bus ride as the Mavericks last 18 quarters. That misery pretty much summarizes the feeling at halftime of Friday's game against the Heat, down 45-33 after a 13-point first quarter and less than 30 percent shooting from the floor.
That's probably as far as our analogy should take us, but I'll stretch it a bit further: I got home that afternoon, went to bed and slept until the following morning. And then, like any otherwise healthy teenaged boy, I got better. It was bound to happen eventually.
I'm not convinced Dallas has totally recovered, but damn, they looked positively robust in the second half. They were down by 12 points after a putrid 33-point quarter in one of the worst basketball displays I've ever seen and then went on a 45-6 run in the second half to win by 21 points. Yes, forty-five to six.
After a miserable four-game losing streak, it was such a relief to see them somewhat right the ship. That first half was arguably worse than any of the previous eight, yet Dallas still broke out of that by spewing red hot fire in the third and fourth quarters.
More importantly, the bench finally came to life. During the losing streak, teams had outscored almost exactly two to one (159 to 80), but the Mavericks' second unit took a decisive 47 to 26 edge over Miami. That's even without Richard Jefferson's seven points on six shots, because he was temporarily promoted to the starting lineup thanks to Chandler Parsons sitting with a stomach bug.
It's hard to say if the Mavericks have snapped out of their rut, but this was certainly a step in the right direction. Whatever happened in the visiting Miami locker room at halftime, a place that doubles as a time capsule of historic Maverick memories, needs to keep happening for Dallas to figure things out.
- Chandler Parsons' importance to the offense needs to be pointed out, and this game did the best job of it. Dallas hit 10 3-pointers in the second half because of their bench but struggled without Parsons in the first. Even those he can wildly inconsistent, Parsons is still the most reliable long-range shooter for Dallas this season, and they need him out there making defenses account for him. It's not an excuse for the horrifying sights we saw early in the game, but it explains some of it.
- We will all look back fondly on the day Charlie Villanueva saved the Mavs' season. It will go down ahead of Alexis Ajinca's crucial 3-pointer against the Thunder without Dirk but won't quite reach the status of Corey Brewer's legendary spark to lead the Mavericks over the Lakers in the 2011 playoffs. Regardless, what a night for Charlie V, who had fallen out of the rotation but came through on Friday when Carlisle went to him out of desperation, having to find some shooting. He finished with 20 points and six 3-pointers, and while he's still not a full-time rotation player, he once again proved how valuable a guy he is to have at the back of the bench.
- Quietly, Dirk shot just 4-16. Let's focus on the play where he drove from the top of the key and threw an alley oop pass to Tyson Chandler instead of his shooting, ok?
- Did I truly get across to you how horrid that first half, and specifically quarter, was? Do you understand how bad of basketball has to be played for two teams to combine for 28 points in 12 minutes?
- The basketball was so bad that Hassan Whiteside -- or HASSAN WHITESIDE!, if we're really giving him the old Larry Sanders treatment -- grabbed 12 rebounds in the first five minutes of the game. The disbelief in Mark Followill's voice as he read it off -- "that can't be right, can it!?" -- was just perfect. But truly, nothing stood out about it. All of a sudden, I looked up and there Whiteside was, already in double figures. He'd finish with 18 points and merely 24 boards.
- Devin Harris to Rajon Rondo minutes distribution: 26 to 23. Make of that what you will.
- I still can't believe one NBA team let another go on a 45-6 run.
- Thanks to the losing streak, getting one of two on this back-to-back isn't enough. The Mavericks need to earn a win tomorrow against Orlando, a game that Chandler Parsons will hopefully be able to participate in. As desperate as things seemed this morning for Dallas, they're only a game and a half back of the no. 4 seed and home court advantage again. That's the insanity of the Western Conference for you right there.