Welll I didn't think I'd be writing that tonight.
Holy crap that was fun. I mean, that first half though. Dallas consistently dominated the TWENTY-NINE AND ONE REIGNING NBA CHAMPION GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS for almost the entire first half. Dallas went into halftime with the biggest lead over the Dubs any team has held this season while also restricting Golden State to their lowest scoring first half of the season. Just take a moment and let that wash over you.
***Obvious caveat--human fireball and basketball god incarnate Steph Curry (along with a few other important Warriors rotation guys) wasn't playing tonight. Okay back to the fun.
Dallas followed up that insane first half by holding off a mini-run by Golden State, never allowing the champs to narrow the lead to single digits. So how did this happen (other than the obvious point I just made)? Well let's take a look.
The Mavs' best is better than the (Curry-less) Dubs' worst
Okay okay okay, I'll get to all of the insanely fun stuff in just a minute. But let's talk about what this game really means, which is (honestly) not much. Steph Curry didn't play. And without him, the NBA's best team looked completely disinterested in this game. Other than that one stretch in the 3rd quarter, the Warriors just looked shell-shocked. Like they weren't even really here tonight.
But that shouldn't take anything away from what Dallas did tonight. Please don't let me kill all of your well-earned joy. Your Mavs played their asses off tonight. Several Mavs had their best game of the season. And this was (mostly) fun all damn night. I'm sure the crowd at the AAC found that the exorbitant prices they paid to watch the spectacle that was supposed to be the Warriors were well worth it, albeit for very different reasons than any of us assumed. The crowd might not have gotten to see the NBA's golden boy (okay, someone laughed at this pun, right?), but they got to watch their hometown team absolutely throttle maybe the NBA's best team in a generation.
And let's be completely honest, when you stop thinking about all the (justifiable) hype that is the Warriors, is really any surprise that Rick Carlisle's team beat Luke Walton's?
J.J. Barea and Zaza Pachulia owned the first half
At half, J.J. Barea was 6 for 8 with 15 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals. Zaza was 4 for 6, with 12 points and 10 rebounds. IN THE FIRST HALF. I'm usually pretty critical of Barea. But tonight. I don't know what sorcery was performed tonight, but J.J. Barea was playing as if Steph Curry was possessing him from the opposing bench. Beyond just the stat line, dude had some crazy awesome passes tonight. Like pre-and-post-Dallas Rondo sort of passes. And even beyond the crazy stuff, he was just really running the offense well. I give him a lot of credit for dialing back on the over-dribbling and just using the Force tonight.
Just to show you the literal wizardry that Barea performed tonight, look at this. Everyone knows Dwight Powell is prone to some derp-tastic misses on easy layups, but look at the feat J.J. allowed Mr. Powell to achieve:
What the hell is happening. https://t.co/z62m9eDOcS— Kirk (@KirkSeriousFace) December 31, 2015
And Zaza! Late in the 2nd quarter, the Fox Sports Southwest crew was making a joke about how clean the glass must be at Zaza's house. It wasn't like haha funny, but it was so joyful and amazing because of how applicable it was. Dude had SIX OFFENSIVE BOARDS in the first half. Which, as everyone knows, is just about the only way to beat the Warriors. Zaza's determination tonight was just insane.
Dirk looked ... youthful?
So I mean Dirk didn't have the greatest game, but dammit if he wasn't out there just balling out and having fun. I mean 18 points and 8 rebounds ain't nothing, but it's a fairly bland line for the NBA's 6th all-time leading scorer. BUT HE HAD FUN! Trash-talking refs, swiping steals from Mo Speights, and oh yeah DRIBBLING AROUND AND DUNKING ON YOUNG FELLAS (RIP Brandon Rush).
DIRK DUNK. RIP Brandon Rush https://t.co/umRazD7OWy— Kirk (@KirkSeriousFace) December 31, 2015
Okay so maybe this point was solely so I could include the best Dirk dunk of the season. But seriously, even better than the dunk was how seven-foot, 37-year-old, slow-ass Dirk "Dunkenstein" Nowitzki dribbled around a 30-year-old wing player.
If the Mavs had been blown out tonight, it would've been worth it solely for this play.
Devin Harris had a quietly fantastic game
Devin only scored 13 points, with an assist and a rebound. But he was so good tonight. I'm really baffled at how unimpressive his stat line, because it felt like he was constantly making plays while he was in the game. (Well except for that time that he tried to defend Draymond in the post, but we all knew how that would end.)
J.J. was the obvious hero of this story, but Devin was that guy that was doing all the little things that you don't necessarily notice, but which are vital to the hero achieving the victory. If you watched the game, you know what I'm talking about. If you didn't, I'm not really sure I can explain it. Dude handled it.
And his most exciting play of the night didn't even count.
Devin Harris gets the 3/4 heave to go. Is it late? Yes. Crap. https://t.co/7ZrkraIA0i— Kirk (@KirkSeriousFace) December 31, 2015
Seriously though, this was the game of J.J.'s career
Unlike Zaza, Jose Juan Barea kept going in the second half (sorry Zaza!!). The little guy became one with the Force tonight. It was just absurd -- he could do no wrong. J.J. was 5 for 7 from beyond the arc. He led the Mavs in scoring with 23 points, to go with 6 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals. He was +23 in this game, for those who care about the NBA's +/- stat. The offense that he and Dirk put together in the third was really key to staving off the only run in the game where the Dubs looked like themselves.
And the defense! Look, I'm not saying Barea was good on defense tonight. But I was honestly expecting the Shaun Livingston, who started at point guard and is about a foot taller than J.J., to just absolutely torch Barea tonight. And other than one obvious play, he really didn't. Barea was an absurd whirling dervish on offense and not a complete liability on defense. In other words, peak Barea.
I really can't put in to words how much it felt like Barea was completely in control of this game. I have no idea why, but tonight, J.J. Barea was like Rey, Finn, and Poe all rolled together into one tiny ball of gloriousness. (Sorry for the non-Star Wars fans in our readership--I just can't help myself).
Basketball will continue after tonight, but do yourselves a favor. Let this one sink in. Enjoy it. Everyone revel in the happiness and joy and pure fun that basketball can be every now and then.