The last game before the All-Star break is like the NBA's version of the last day of school and tonight's game was the perfect example of that. A drowsy Mavs team without Tyson Chandler beat out a Jazz team that was already on vacation, winning 87-82 in a game that really shouldn't have been as close as the final score indicated, as Dallas was in complete control for most of the game before letting Utah crawl back into in the final moments. The Jazz even had a chance down 3 with less than 10 seconds before Gordon Hayward inexplicably tried to thread a pass through traffic to Derrick Favors which ended up as a turnover that iced the game.
There really isn't too much to say about this one other than it was the type of win the Mavs couldn't afford to give away in the Western Conference playoff race. They got just enough from the two-headed combination of Greg Smith and Bernard "Sarge" James at C and Carlisle was able to piece together the rest of the rotation around his two offensively-limited big men.
On the other end of the floor, they did a good job of closing off the paint against a Utah team that doesn't do a good job of spreading the floor without Alec Burks, who is out for the season. Chandler's absence also allowed Dirk to grab 14 rebounds, which may never happen again in his career.
A few quick bullet points:
- From an individual standpoint, the most notable part of the game was the return of Bernard "Sarge" James, who had 9 points, 3 boards and 3 blocks in 22 minutes of action. It didn't look there was any transition time at all, as he seemed right at home in the Mavs rotation playing in a similar role as Tyson Chandler as a shot-blocker/rim-roller. Carlisle even went with Sarge late, which shows you how low Greg Smith is on the totem pole. At this point, Smith may be the guy who gets cut if they end up signing Jermaine O'Neal or Amar'e Stoudemire. What say you commenters? Sarge or Smith?
- J.J. Barea was the only Dallas player who had much going on offense, as they desperately needed all 22 of his points tonight. It appeared that Barea and Trey Burke signed a mutual non-aggression pact before the game, as both pint-sized guards were able to take advantage of each other and pad their respective stat lines.
- Rudy Gobert only had 2 points but he still managed 4 blocks, including 3 on poor Sarge James, who probably hasn't seen that type of length in China. Gobert is one of those guys whose worth the price of admission just to see in person. I would buy a photo album of Gobert posing with different normal-sized objects.
Rudy Gobert waits in line in media dining. It's fajita night. pic.twitter.com/sYWSz5u7xl— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) February 12, 2015
- With such a skeleton crew on hand for the Mavs, the limited minutes for Richard Jefferson, Ray Felton and Dwight Powell say it all about how Carlisle views them. As far as Ricky Ledo goes, it seems that only an act of God will get him in the floor in a meaningful game this season.
Let's hope the Mavs get some rest over the next week because the schedule gets real tough real fast. The All-Star break is upon us, the dog days of the season are over and it's about to get real serious.