I am really struggling to figure out what to say about this game. We can start here: this was an ugly game. At the end of the half, the teams were a combined 22% from beyond the arc. After three quarters, Dallas and Houston were a combined 27-69 from the field. It was UGLY. Unfortunately, what happened to the Mavs in the fourth quarter was even uglier.
Somehow Dallas was in it for so much of the game. It legitimately felt like Dallas was consistently down by double digits, and yet they generally stayed within 4 or 5 points of Houston, and even led for hefty portions of the game. Alas, it was all for naught, as the wheels really just fell of of this thing there at the end.
The Mavs' starting backcourt was bad. Monta got a little better as the game went along, but Rondo did not. Let's start with the 8 second violation. I honestly can't recall seeing anything like that in a playoff game, ever. Dude straight up just decided to walk as slowly as he could up the court, like he thought he would look cooler in slow motion or something. He was lackluster at best tonight, and justifiably spent a ton of time on the bench. Then when he was in the game, he was fouling Harden constantly, as if he just wanted out of the game. It was absolutely bizarre. If you need any bigger indictment of Rondo in this game, I'll leave you with this: JJ Barea and Ray Felton were better than him tonight, on both ends of the court.
Through some sort of sorcery, Dallas was only down by 2 at half, and then again by only 1 at the end of the third. The defense was decent, but the offense was terrible, and yet somehow the Mavs just dug in and stuck with it.
Then Josh Smith went off, with some help from Dwight Howard. It started in the third quarter, but didn't really get going until Rick Carlisle insisted on sticking with a Dirk-Amar'e backcourt in the fourth. Depressingly, Dirk couldn't hit a shot to save his life, and Josh Smith and Dwight Howard faced absolutely no resistance in absolutely demolishing Dallas in the fourth. Rick did some amazing work in this game, but absolutely blew it with this pairing. Especially considering how well Aminu played tonight.
Houston's lead grew and grew and grew the longer the quarter went on. And yet still no Aminu. The lead slowly ballooned as Houston continued to throw down dunk after dunk after dunk AFTER DUNK AFTER DUNK (seriously you guys what the hell at some point you have to adjust). Tyson wasn't great tonight, but he had absolutely no help trying to stop the constant parade to the basket in the fourth.
- Despite his godawful shooting, Dirk had a fantastic night on the boards. He had 10 rebounds in the first half before cooling off to finish with 13 for the game. It was just a bizarre night for the big German.
- Tyson Chandler was bad tonight. I have no idea why. Dirk was a minus 14 tonight, but Tyson was a staggering minus 25. He had 11 points and 8 rebounds, and despite some chippiness early, didn't really do much to slow down Dwight Howard, who finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds and seemingly a million alley oop dunks (admittedly some of those were on Amar'e).
- Seriously, I cannot fathom Rick Carlisle's reasoning for playing Al-Farouq Aminu so few minutes tonight. He was easily, far and away the Mavs' best player, and he played only 22 minutes. As I mentioned before, this was especially jarring when the Amar'e-Dirk backcourt was getting absolutely abused by Josh Smith and Dwight Howard. Aminu finished with 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 blocks.
- Monta was confusing tonight. He was seemingly pretty bad all night, getting lost on defense and chucking bad shots, as has been his trend lately. Yet he also had some good moments of defense on James Harden, hit a remarkable three at the end of the third quarter, and led Dallas in scoring with 24 points. He also had 5 rebounds and 3 assists. I am really at a loss trying to talk about Monta in this game.
- Rondo. It really feels like Dallas is done with this guy. I legitimately found myself thinking about how awesome it would have been if, instead of trading for Rondo, Dallas had just decided to start Felton over Jameer. That's where my head is at now. Go ahead and try to convince me otherwise.
- The fourth quarter was demoralizing, but somehow the Mavs stayed in the game for three quarters despite the fact that they played fairly poorly, with terrible mistakes, bad effort, and no Chandler Parsons or Devin Harris against a much more talented team. I have no idea where this team goes in the offseason, but there may be at least one more fun basketball game left here. I hope.