"HOW ABOUT FORTYYYYYYY??!!!!" - the Great Mark Followill.
Holy shit this game. And Dirk "One Trick Pony" Nowitzki. Ah. That was thrilling and fun and worrisome and then loads of pure awesome.
Despite Chandler Parsons sitting with a sore hammy, this was a surprisingly fun game. The Mavs returned to a more traditional starting lineup, with Dirk at the 4 and Zaza at the 5. Wes looked a little hampered from whatever he did to his leg in the last game, and seemed to exacerbate the issue early in the game. He went to he locker room early, but got his ankle retaped and returned to contribute.
While it was nice to see Wes bounce back from some adversity to do well against his old team, the biggest takeway is that we got another vintage Dirk night. I don't know how many more of these we will get, but this one was absolutely breath-taking.
Zaza Pachulia is a liability
Zaza started this game, and it quickly became clear why he hasn't been playing much (much less starting lately). He still gets rebounds, but he is an absolute liability on offense. He missed a couple of easy shots in the pain (both were painfully short), and the defense completely ignored him while he was on the court.
It really hurts me to say this given that he was an energetic double-double machine earlier this season, but if Zaza can't knock down the open jumpers the defense is giving him, he simply can't stay on the floor. 4-on-5 is no way to run an offense, and defenses take Charlie V more seriously than they do Zaza at this point. (Yes I know, I cringed writing that just now, but it's true.)
Rick Carlisle seems to have noticed this as well. Salah Mejri started the second half, and Zaza didn't see the floor. Given how well Mejri played today, I would seriously consider shutting Zaza down until he figures his jumper out in practice. Zaza was always an odd fit at center for this offense (which works better with a roll man than another floor-spacer), and Mejri just makes more sense if Zaza can't play at the same level he did earlier this season.
Deron Williams was on fire today
I'll get to the big man in a minute, but first let me just say a few nice things about D-Will. He ran the offense brilliantly today. He was around for almost all of the best offensive plays. He hit difficult jumpers, drove the ball at all the right times, tossed some gorgeous assists, and just generally made sure that the ball kept moving.
He had 31 points and 16 assists and continuously made his teammates better. And then, as usual, he was lights out at the end of the game. He threw a move for a great elbow jumper, dropped a couple of amazing dimes (including one that made Charlie V look like an honest to god basketball player), and then banked in a 3-pointer to retake the lead with under 2 minutes left.
And of course he hit the first shot of the overtime, with a ballsy 3-pointer coming off a Salah block that got the AAC just so fired up. The story of the day is Dirk, but I wanted to give Deron his due first. Now to the big fella.
Dirk wasn't too bad either
I don't know a lot of 37-year-olds who can drop 40+ points on an energetic young playoff team like Dirk did today. Not to mention closing out the overtime like that. I may or may not have jumped and shouted after that trailing 3 to go up 121-113. And again when he repeated it to hit the 40-point mark, joining a hallowed list of dudes 37-years-old or older to score 40 points in the NBA. Michael Jordan. Karl Malone. Kareem Abdul Jabar. Dirk Nowitzki.
40 points. 8 rebounds. 4 assists. 2 steals. 16-26 shooting. And a standing ovation as he left the game with 40.4 left in overtime and a 7-point lead.
Did I mention this was Dirk's 8th straight 20+ point game? I mean. I can't even put into words what this man means to me, to all of us. He is a basketball god among basketball men. This may well be his last 40-point game (though it wouldn't shock me if we got another one or two), and I'm beyond happy to have witnessed it.
How about that bench?
I mentioned Salah Mejri earlier. You may have heard that he played pretty well today. I'm talking 11 points, 14 rebounds, and SIX BLOCKS good. Yes. Six. Mejri made some mistakes, sure. But he had some incredible blocks and challenges against arguably the best-driving backcourt in the NBA. The Tunisian rookie played some killer defense on McCollum and Lillard at multiple points in this game. (Those guys finished with 22 and 26 points, respectively).
JJ Barea was also good today. While his defense against CJ McCollum was anything but, he did a great job of running the offense while Deron Williams was on the bench. He had some great drives to the basket and did a good job of keeping the ball moving and avoiding the over-dribbling that I often get so frustrated with him for.
Devin Harris played some good defense. David Lee had one of his worst games as a Mav but still pulled down 8 rebounds. Hell, even Charlie V had a couple of quality plays.
The bench has been Dallas's achilles heel this season, but tonight they did just enough to help the blazing hot starters finish off a pesky Portland team in a hard-fought game. We need more of this down the stretch.