DONUT 1: An obviously fired-up Dirk Nowitzki was the centerpiece of everything the Mavs did Wednesday night in Denver, contributing not only 35 points (20 of those in the first half) and not onlu 12 rebounds (nine of those in the first half) and not only ….. from the field (6-of-12 in the fourth) … but also putting on display his rare combination of cool … and fire.
Everybody else was losing it.
The Mavs? They had a grand opportunity to make this thing a blowout … a 16-6 run in the third with Jet hitting four 3's … but they turned skittish. (And in that fourth, while Dirk hit six shots, the rest of his mates combined to shoot 2-of-9.)
The Nuggets? They remain the NBA's most entertaining loony bin.
The UberMan? He flipped though an assortment of creative shots as if he was going through his Rolodex… spin-arounds and pick-and-rolls and back-ins and hook shots, the works …
With his 35 points, he's now averaging 26 through four games.
DONUT 2: But it wasn't all Dirk "dunking on their pumpkin heads.'' In fact, the one time he attempted to do so, a potential highlight stuff became blooper-reel stuff.
In what at the time felt like a game-winning moment that would lead to a game-losing sequence, Dirk swooped inside for a windmill dunk (I know! The UberMan Windmill Dunk?!) with just more than six minutes left and Dallas up three … it was going to be highlight jam … and instead it was a highlight goof.
The ball caromed off the back of the rim and way into the backcourt. Kidd retrieved it, and the Mavs set up again, this time Dirk feeding Caron nicely inside. But Butler missed the puppy – that made for two one-inch misses on one possession -- and Denver got a layin of its own in transition. That made it 91-90 with 5:55 left … when it should've been a sequence that put Dallas up five.
Which team would maintain its cool?
The team that looks to Dirk Nowitzki as its model, that's which team.
DONUT 3: Huge props to Shawn Marion here. He was a major force in the first quarter, helping Dallas run off to a powerful start with his springy interior explosiveness. And then he disappeared from Carlisle's button-pushing for a loooooong time … until a few seconds were left in the game and the Mavs were up by one and Dirk took a seat in favor of The Matrix.
Dallas' defensive closing five: TC, Kidd, Caron, Jet (!) and Shawn Marion, last year's NBA Defensive Player of the Year vote-getter and this year, a guy who needed to make one stop, one time.
It was ‘Melo on the right wing, trying to find room against Marion and instead only finding an opportunity to slingshot up a long right-wing jumper that wasn't on-line. … Thus Anthony – his non-commitment to the Nuggets the shroud that hangs over all their games – ended as he began.
And ‘Melo began the game making one of his first nine shots.
Unintentionally funny quote from Anthony after the game as he called the miss "a heartbreaker'':
"I think I hit that shot nine out of 10 times."
Son … you MISSED eight of your first nine shots!
Anyway …"When you guard Carmelo,'' Marion said, "you have to make him take tough shots. And I knew they were going to call on me once it got down to the last possession."
This work by Marion is Carlisle's "Be Ready'' policy at its most ready. A button pushed, a Matrix Reloaded, a game won.
DONUT 4: For all the "altitude'' talk from the Mavs before the game, I loved that Dallas tried to run, first and secondary break, regardless of the Mile High and regardless of the fact that smallish Denver likes to play the same way.
This was the Mavs doing what the Mavs do. … with no regard for the "fit'' against what Dallas knows/thinks/hopes is an inferior team.
The Mavs should control the pace for as long as Jason Kidd is still willing to work up a sweat.
DONUT 5: Denver was missing its big bodies, with K-Mart, Birdman and Nene (a late scratch with a groin) all sidelined. That caused Nuggets coach George Karl to dig deep into his bag of tricks, beginning with the decision to start somebody named "Gary Forbes'' … apparently of The Massachusetts Forbeses … (seriously the move was apparently designed to allow the remainder of George's rotation to go unchanged). The tricks kept coming … but none of them added up to a way to stop Dirk.
Shelden Williams tried, but he's a rebounder more than he is a stopper. Al Harrington took his turns – and forced an airball on Nowitzki's final shot – but his attempts at bullying were ineffective. And ‘Melo also tried to guard Dirk, but didn't seem very interested in making it a full-time gig.
What happened in Denver, the short version? Denver was too short. And that wasn't just about Dirk's 35 points and 12 rebounds. There was also a trickle-down effect that meant Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler and others who dared dip inside often went unchecked.
DONUT 6: The Mavs talked about needing to "steal'' a win back after Friday's home loss to Memphis. Now that they've won back-to-back road games and are 2-0 away from home, including this game in which they were four-point underdogs?
Consider the Memphis loss "stolen'' back.
Oh and by the way: The best road team in the NBA in 2009-10 (with that 28-13 mark) is now 2-0 this year. … tied for being the best road team again.
DONUT 7: The Mavs still cannot guard Ty Lawson, though JJB drew an important second-half charge on the quick guard that seemed to temporarily drain some life from the Nuggets.
Maybe it was draining because JJB stuggled in so many other ways. Barea remains a fearless offensive force (he tried to offset his three turnovers with his nine points), but his erratic performance once again makes me wonder if he should play with just a smidge of fear.
"Fear'' that he might be benched if he continues to try to do to much.
The Mavs' first-teamers keep handing leads to the Barea-led second wave, and the Barea-led second wave continues to inject uncertainty where it really should not be.
DONUT 8: Dallas' use of the zone was not only clever – more than that, it was used as a weapon of strength.
So often in the NBA, the zone is a cover-up, a mask, a sign of weakness. (Nellie certainly thought that, despite the attempts by sidekick Del Harris to teach him otherwise). And if you are playing, say, Jet and JJB in the same backcourt, you might need a little cover-up.
But this was a zone defense employed from strength – the strength of having Tyson Chandler patrolling the middle. No, the Mavs didn't hold the opponent to 40-percent shooting for the third straight game, so their league-leading numbers there will dip. But the Nuggets shooting 46.1 percent from the floor doesn't kill you when you limit Anthony to 20 points on 8-of-19.
The Thuggets are a bit prone to offensive zaniness. It often manifests itself in people like ‘Melo, J.R. Smith and now Harrington launching 26-foot jumpers. I'm so amused that ‘Melo doesn't care that every eighth-grade basketball player in America knows the way to beat the zone is NOT to shoot contested 26-foot jumpers, but that he thinks he's beyond The Rules. Carmelo Anthony is like that friend of yours who parks in a handicapped spot "Because I'm in a hurry … I'm only going to be here for a few minutes. My appointment is really important …'' … But here, one of the reasons Denver remained on the perimeter is the challenge that TC (nine rebounds and nine points) presented when the Nuggets tried to come inside.
That zone? That's Chandler's zone. He's yelling at people to get in position. He's barking at guys when they err. He's celebrating its success. This is the most vocal on-the-floor leader the Mavs have employed since, who? Jerry Stackhouse.
This is Tyson Chandler's defense.
DONUT 9: Back to Denver not enjoying venturing inside: The Mavs know as well as anyone the pitfalls of being a perimeter offensive team. Hey, Chauncey Billups is still a stud. But he came into the game shooting 27.6 percent and during the game he made 5-of-12 shots and nine of those attempts were treys. In fact, Denver shot 28 balls from the arc. …
Forcing those sort of numbers means the perimeter Mavs are doing their part. Then it comes down to Carlisle's famous 50/50 balls. How'd that go? The Mavs grabbed two offensive rebounds on one possession with 70 seconds left while protecting a 102-99 lead. On the ensuing Denver possession, Jet skidded onto the floor to almost poke away another steal.
In the end, Dallas won the rebounding battle 45-39, recorded five blocks, kept the turnovers down to 13, and matched steal-minded Denver pretty much swipe for swipe. So when balls were available to be grabbed, Dallas grabbed its share.
DONUT 10: Point guard Jason Kidd now has 47 assists in the first four games. He carried a 38-minute load here (Jet and Dirk were in the same district) but at least now Dallas gets a chance to rest up a bit before its second game of a "double-header'' with the Nuggets, who come to Dallas on Saturday … but only after having played on Friday against the Clippers, too.
Based on who did the scoring in this game, it would be almost accurate to say that The UberMan WAS Dallas' offense. Or, at least, 50 percent of it. But that would discount Kidd's role in handing the ball to Dirk so Dirk could be Dallas' offense.
I know, of course, that's kind of like applauding Joe Ferguson for handing the ball to O.J. Simpson in 1973.
DONUT 11: FISHELLANEOUS: This was Dallas' second road game but our first regular-season look at the now-standard Electric Blues. I dig ‘em …
Why the early Brian Cardinal sighting? I suppose Carlisle was trying to protect the foul-prone Chandler, but it came across like a bowing to Denver's
smallish lineup and it didn't work … If you watched this game closely and noticed Jet handling the ball on the break, you understand why Mavs coaches really don't ever want him to play PG … DoJo got his spoon-fed 3:43 of burn, but we're starting to wonder if he might not be ready to play some waterbug
defense on somebody else's point guard … The Mavs will slip from their second-in-the-NBA perch after allowing 111 points per 100 possessions … Caron Butler didn't do enough, maybe (though the boxscore of 7-of-14 for 16 points with seven rebounds looks
sweet). But he buried a contested 3 with two minutes remaining, and the Mavs – feeding off that – never relinquished the lead. So we're cool with him
for now. ... Jet scored in spurts (meaning he disappeared for a bit) but ended up with 20 … I believe we just witnessed the NBA refs easing up on the "respect-the-game'' insta-Technical foul – because ‘Melo was loudly begging for discipline and The Man would not oblige … Now that the Mavs are on the road and on TV and taking their rightful place (voided by the Rangers), people are coming out of the woodwork at me wondering if Carlisle's shaved head means he's sick. Read your DallasBasketball.com, humans! Before training camp, he shaved it himself, for laughs, and kept a razor in his office, where he offered buzzcuts to other staffers. Note that equipment man Al Whitley also wears it short. There's no illness to see here – despite the unfortunate coincidence of Rick having fainted at a practice, causing him to miss that Palm Springs trip. But he's fine. And his haircut isn't the result of ill health; it's just ugly.
DONUT 12: Via his Twitter page, Dirk Nowitzki made it clear (as clear as it can be in German) before the game that the Denver "altitude is no joke.''
"Auch mal ein tweet fuer meine deutschen tweeps. Was ist mit schalke los? 0 0 in tel aviv?'' he wrote, and whatever the heck that means, he added:
"Altitude is no joke.''
No joke. But also no excuse.
DONUT 13: "It comes down to one possession either way,'' Carlisle summarized. "You walk out of here feeling great or terrible.''
Are we taking a survey here? Then I vote for "great.''