Assigning Grades (Donuts!) For Dallas-Philly talks with the players and checks in with the coaches and after deep consultation – what, you think we're just grab-baggin' it here? -- hands out the grades for Mavs 99, Sixers 90 … in the form of Saturday Morning Mavs Donuts:

DONUT 1: Jason Terry Second man, sixth man … it hasn't mattered much this season for Jet, who came off the bench and immediately accelerated the Dallas offense, helping it shoot 59 percent for the first quarter. This is the best FG-shooting team in the West, and while that didn't hold up for Jet throughout (5-of-15 for 13 points), he accomplished some things beyond marksmanship, like four assists, three rebounds and a steal.

Grade: C+

DONUT 2: Shawn Marion – He snagged another start at the 3 (in place of the back-spasming Caron Butler) and stormed to a fine start by scoring 10 points on 5-of-5 first-half shooting before settling for 16 points, five rebounds and two assists. He's averaging 18 points per in his last two games, able to make the argument that if you give him the job … or even if you just give him the ball … he delivers.

The Matrix was one of nine players who scored and one of six Mavs in double-figures – a stat befitting coach Rick Carlisle's desire for Dallas' offense to be something more than "Nowitzki and the Dirkettes.''

Grade: B-

DONUT 3: – DeShawn Stevenson -- His job description right now is clear: Begin the game on the opponent's best scorer. Make a 3. Move the ball safely. And thicken the rotation. If we're grading according to meeting job expectations, DeShawn's 12 minutes were quality minutes.

Grade: B+

DONUT 4: Brendan Haywood – For much of the first half, Big Wood was a man among boys inside, and increasingly it is clear: It's all about want-to. Haywood grabbed 10 boards in first nine minutes, 11 boards in the first 10 minutes, and for a game in which he played 22 minutes, 17 rebounds total.

"Haywood's 17 rebounds,'' Carlisle said, "is a monster number.''

Back to the want-to: In the last two games, Big Wood has totaled 25 rebounds. In the first six games of the year, he had 26 rebounds total.

Grade: A+

DONUT 5: Dallas' bench – This is supposed to be a strength, and should be one over a Sixers team that is now 2-7. We've got fine individual grades here for most of the fellas, but I'm left with a little concern over Thaddeus Young's 17 points (Dirk's fault?) and Andres Nocioni's 14 points (everybody's fault?). Aw, let's lighten up. Young's a creator, and Nocioni is a sharpshooter – he can even throw a mouthpiece with dead-eye accuracy!

Grade: C+

DONUT 6: Dirk Nowitzki He missed his first three shots. … and then kinda kept missing. He and Jet combined to make just 10-of-30, usually a losing combo around here. But there was one bright spot:

I guess his ankle is fine inasmuch as pretty much nobody volunteered much until asked.

"It was a little stiff in warm-ups, but it loosened up a bit," Nowitzki said. "I threw in a couple of Advils before the game and it felt pretty good. … Somebody might have to wheel me around when I'm 40.''

Beyond the jokes, though, it was clear to me that Dirk was nursing the ankle and protecting it … on the defensive end. He wasn't up for many challenges down south, choosing to pick his battles. On the offensive end, and more, Monday at home against the Hornets.

Grade: C

DONUT 7: Brian Cardinal – "The Janitor'' recorded two blocks in a short span near the end of the first quarter, and that earned him one more minute … and then another minute after helping Dallas endure being outscored in both the second and third quarters ... And then there was the front-line threesome of Dirk, Haywood and Cardinal playing key minutes together in the fourth … and then when it was time to sub out one of those three with 7:29 left and Dallas up nine, the guy who came out was not Cardinal, but Dirk.

Dallas won the fourth quarter 21-15.

And I cannot believe I'm saying this but Cardinal – with a 3 and a couple of steals and a message-sending Flagrant 1 foul to prevent an easy bucket – was a tone-setter!

Grade: B

DONUT 8: Jason Kidd His 11,000th career assist came on an alley-oop lob to TC at the 9:51 mark of the first quarter. Kidd (who entered Friday's game ranked second in the NBA with an average of 10.9 assists per) finished with eight. At 11,007, Kidd trails only John Stockton (15,806) all-time.

But beyond the milestone, I also like what Kidd did defensively. Some of it was in Dallas' matchup zone. But he also took lengthy turns against offensive threats as varied as the rangy Iggy and the lightning-bold Holliday (with mixed results against the latter). And then at the end, when Dallas retreated into the zone again (though "retreated'' may be too "un-aggressive'' a term for how the Mavs do this) there was Kidd essentially playing forward on defense – and muscling inside for an important defensive rebound.

Kidd offered up a rambling quote that didn't quite do him justice. It went something like this:

"It was nice, going with a pass that I enjoy throwing a lot. Tyson came up with the catch, but he has the hardest part. All the guys that put the ball in for me always had the hardest part and that's putting the ball in the basket . . . I've just enjoyed passing the ball. It's made the game fun and easy for me."

Not crisp enough, sir.

Let's leave it to a professional, Sixers coach/broadcast veteran Doug Collins:

"A basketball genius,'' Collins called him.


Grade: B+

DONUT 9: J.J. Barea -- The lil' fella made three extremely sound decisions to close the first quarter: First he found Dirk on the left baseline, setting up The UberMan for a back-in layup. Then JJB hit a 3 in transition, doing so in a way that gave Dallas a 2-for-1 possession opportunity. Finally, he found Dirk on the right baseline, a nice distribution that led to a pair of Nowitzki FTs and Dallas' fat first-quarter lead.

He finished with a team-high 19 points -- double-digits for the third straight game after spending the first two weeks among the NBA's statistical dregs. Jrue Holiday gave him some fits, but JJB gave ‘em right back.

And here's one other cool thing: The Mavs went 15 minutes without committing a turnover to begin the game … and ended with a low-enough 13 turnovers. JJB's ball control – even as he made repeated plunges to the basket – was critical.

His explanation for the turnaround?

"I was thinking too much," JJB said. "The coach just told me to play my game. So I just went out and relaxed."

Grade: A

DONUT 10: Tyson Chandler He was again a double-double guy (11 points and 12 rebounds) for the Mavs and he might've stacked up more numbers had Haywood not continued to earn his own keep. (Both guys rendered Elton Brand invisible, by the way.)

I've been intending on letting someone else say this before me, but here goes:

Should we be re-evaluating the possibility that Dallas DID do something effective with the much-maligned "DUST Chip''?

Grade: A

DONUT 11: Caron Butler – He's doing the Hyperbaric Chamber thing this weekend to attempt to calm those back spasms. In the meantime, we contemplate this: Dirk is 5-of-15, Jet is 5-of-15 and Tuff Juice is 0-of-0 and the Mavs still scored 99 and won?!

Grade: Inc

DONUT 12: Rick Carlisle – Once again, Carlisle pushed a few unorthodox buttons along the way. He trusted Big Wood. He pulled a 6-10 bald rabbit from his hat with Cardinal. And The 3-PG Attack (the bane of my existence) was utilized against a smallish Philly lineup midway in the fourth and Rick stuck with it to great success.

And as had been the case during his Dallas career, if Carlisle and his team can get itself in good shape going to the fourth, Carlisle and his team win. The Mavs were tied 75-all with 16 seconds left in the third, and the next thing you know, the Mavs stormed out to a 13-2 run.

That's a win … and Dallas is 6-1 this year when leading after the third quarter. Last year, you will recall, Dallas was 44-3 under Rick when leading at the start of the fourth.

So when inconsistent-at-home Dallas was tied 75-75 against an NBA have-not, I wasn't worried. Much.

Grade: A

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