"Don't complain about wins, no matter how they come." That's my motto for this Dallas Mavericks season. I've been muttering it softly alone at my computer ever since the Mavericks beat the Timberwolves 93-87 on Sunday.
Perfect human Dirk Nowitzki aside, the Mavericks weren't sharp facing a young squad who's probably the second-worst in the NBA. They won by six, but Minnesota gave them multiple opportunities to pull away for good well before the final minute. Given the upcoming schedule -- vs. the Cavaliers then road games against the Thunder, Bulls and Spurs -- a few minutes of extra rest wouldn't have hurt anyone. Don't complain about wins. Ok, ok, I know.
The win wasn't completely without bright spots. Dirk ended up with 29 points on 12-of-22 shooting, knocking down a variety of different looks from all over the court. His and-one jumper driving across the lane plus with 1:30 left in the fourth was essentially the game's dagger, a classic shot by the legendary player. It's the fourth straight game with 20-plus points for Nowitzki, the first time he's done that since early 2014. This journey ain't over yet.
Despite the Mavericks taking a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter, Minnesota battled back, cutting their deficit to just six points, 85-81, with 1:45 left to play. Dallas had already failed to carry momentum into the second half, burning their six-point advantage by opening the quarter with four straight turnovers.
The first half just looked sluggish all around from both teams, as if the negative-four degree temperature outside the arena had slowed down everyone by a half step or so. The most interesting thing was Dallas' early strong side dominance, something Dirk capitalized on to start the second quarter with a couple of open jumpers from the left half of the court.
Mavs' shot chart skewed very heavily to the right in the first quarter. Don't see that very often.pic.twitter.com/Kh5Gar2xsg— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) January 10, 2016
This level of play from Dallas simply won't cut it when over the next four games against four of the NBA's best six (maybe seven?) teams, but it worked against the Timberwolves. Don't complain about wins. Ok, instead, let's just marvel at Dirk some more. What a marvel of a man.
Seriously, the Mavs' schedule is about to get tough
You can't emphasize that enough. Dallas has the second-toughest schedule in the NBA the rest of the way, and these upcoming four games are just a harsh reality of what's coming. Before the month is over, Dallas has to play Golden State, Oklahoma City again and Houston, so it's not like it's getting dramatically easier, either.
I can't pinpoint exactly what was missing on Sunday. Dallas' offense wasn't humming along like they typically do, it's true. Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams both missed shots, starting 0-of-14, but some of those were very difficult attempts. The 13 turnovers Dallas finished with isn't a terribly high total, but they were, by and large, bad situations where Dallas coughed up the ball. When Dallas did have one great stretch towards the end of the third quarter where they opened up a double digit lead, it was their defense generating fast break chances. In the fourth, though, they let Minnesota make too many shots again. As Carlisle likes to say, it's a 48-minute battle; this game isn't an easy one. Take this win, be content with it, but just know this level of play won't cut it against any team but the Timberwolves or 76ers.
JaVale McGee, impact man
I wrote about how Chandler Parsons and McGee connect in a way that he and Pachulia can't, despite McGee not exactly being an impressive basketball player in the long run. But it was all working in McGee's limited minutes on Sunday, scoring eight points on 4-of-6 shooting, including a couple of great alley oops.
He finished a plus-11 while Parsons -- who sat on the bench in the closing minutes in favor of Raymond Felton -- was a game-high plus-14. Those two together are generally a good thing for Dallas, but figuring out exactly how to employ them will still be a challenge for Rick with more than half a season left ot play.
Dirk Nowitzki, still an immortal deity
All hail the German Schnitzel, with another wonderful destruction of an unsuspecting team. Minnesota, in their infinite wisdom, helped off Dirk pretty much all night -- and while a couple of teams have gotten away with that this year, there was no pity from Dirk in this game, as he splashed home nearly every open look presented to him.
(Kevin Garnett played seven minutes, by the way. No, that's not a fair comparison. Yes, they're both so, so legendary. Still taking Dirk.)