LESS PLATITUDES, MORE PLAYING
We said this on the FS Southwest pregame show in response to the fact that entering the Atlanta game, the Mavs were 4-3 at home and 3-1 on the road: The Mavs need to quit concerning themselves with where they play and instead start understanding who they play.
In a 24-hour chunk, the schedule called for the Mavs to play the Bulls and the Hawks. The Bulls? They'd lost 21 of 24 to the Mavs (before winning in Dallas on Friday). These Hawks? They'd lost seven of the last 10 to the Mavs …
Make it eight of 11 now, with Dallas making a statement … after stuttering through a non-statement the night before.
This was the first back-to-back of the season, and a demanding one. Two quality clubs … a 4 a.m. arrival in Atlanta on gameday … the Bulls and the Hawks both aspiring to spent the year chasing and maybe even catching East powers Miami, Orlando and Boston.
But b2b's are on the agenda, three times over the course of these 10 days for Dallas. If the Mavs are not used to them … they are about to get used to them.
NO REASON TO BE TIRED
Besides, which Mav (besides Dirk) had any right to claim to have exhausted himself in the Chicago game?
Dirk carried the team on Friday with his 36 points, in many categories providing nearly half of his club's positive totals.
But against the Hawks? Five different Mavs – the foursome of Caron Butler 13), DeShawn Stevenson (13), Shawn Marion and Jason Terry supplementing Dirk's 21 -- scored in double-figures. And every Mav who played was part of gaining and maintaining leads, as Dallas led by double-figures in the second quarter, threatened to get the lead to 20 in the third, and still had a double-figure edge in the fourth before requiring a couple of big defensive stops (from Dirk, too!) and game-ending free throws to seal the deal.
SPEAKING OF BEING TIRED, ONE QUESTION
Beyond allowing an 18-point lead to evaporate in the midst of a 22-8 run by the Hawks spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters, one major question stands out.
Dirk finished tied with Josh Smith as the games leading scorer with 21 points, but went only 2-of-9 in the final quarter on his way to 39 minutes of action before hitting both free throws to push the lead to five in the final seconds … and this is where the previous question finds its roots.
On the second night of the team's first back-to-back, and with Caron Butler having one of his better games of the season, and with the majority of the supporting cast playing well … why did Dirk play the entire fourth quarter, while Butler left with 4:36 left in the third to not return?
We don't know that there are injury concerns … and we know that Dirk has the conditioning of a marathoner … but we saw how Carlisle pushed and pushed his luck by leaving JJB in the game while waiting on Kidd … and we wondered at the time if it was a questionable approach to not give The UberMan a similar breather.
CARON VS. MARION
This was a "rivalry'' set up in training camp, but it really never came to fruition in large part due to Roddy B's absence.
Butler played with more energy than he had the night before. But he was given 22 minutes while The Matrix – who was on the floor at the game's end – earned 28 minutes to get his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
At the same time, Caron looked far better than he has in either of the two games since returning from missing three games due to back spasms. He continually attacked the paint, moved without the ball and made himself available to passes and generally seemed to play with a bounce absent the previous two games.
"Tuff Juice'' finished with 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting, five rebounds, one steal and one assist. That's something short of "All-Star-caliber.'' But it's a start.
TYSON AT 22 FEET
Speaking of the end-game defensive lineup: Dirk and Jet were also out there. (Jason Terry has truly earned the honor, we think.) So were Jason Kidd and so was Tyson Chandler, who ranged 22 feet from the bucket to contest a potential game-changing Joe Johnson 3-point try to tie with four seconds left.
And if you are a Mavs fan, this is all you ask for: Not the result (because Joe's shot could've gone in.). But just the recognition, the hustle and the effort of the 7-1 center to sprint and stretch from his normal position in the defense to contest a huge shot.
POINTS OF EMPHASIS
So much of what seemed broken in the game against the Bulls seemed repaired from the start here. The Mavs scored 13 points in the first quarter on Friday and surrendered all those second-chance points for the game with Nowitzki performing as a one-man team.
In the first quarter in Atlanta? Dallas scored 28 points, shot 52 percent, got scoring from seven different guys, allowed zero second-chance points and held a three-point edge.
Is it really that easy?
Well, no. We suppose not. Or Dallas would've done the same thing the night before.
This win breaks a two-game losing streak. … Dallas (now 8-4) outrebounded the Hawks 40-37. … As we've mentioned before, it's a good thing to get this one in your pocket because after hosting Detroit on Tuesday, the Mavs are at Oklahoma City on Wednesday, at San Antonio on Friday) and come home to play Miami on Saturday. … Centers Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood only combined for 10 rebounds, but we won't be roasting them in this space. They both were active, athletic and even a bit physical on both ends, providing Dallas with interior contributions that Atlanta could only try to match with power forward Al Horford (who worked hard for his post-up points and his 20/20) … The Mavs did allow the Hawks to take a 20-15 rebounding advantage in the second half. But who's counting? … We love to note that we can make numbers dance any way we wish, and here goes: Butler and DeShawn Stevenson combined for 26 points! Sounds pretty damned impressive, eh? … The Mavs bench? Thumbs-up. Dallas' subs jumped out of the gates to outscore Atlanta's bench 21-2 in the first half, and 38-19 for the game. … Is the Dallas zone as confusing to the opponent as it once again appeared? … Only one Mav missed a shot from the free-throw line: Dirk! (?) He went 5-of-7 from the line. The rest of the team took and made all nine of its attempts. … Dallas has won four of five on the road – and geographically concerns aside, big props to the Mavs for winning in a place where the home team lost only seven times all last season.
Eventually it was Jason Terry who seemed to take personally his matchup with fellow Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford. But for a nifty moment in the third, it was JJ Barea who took on Crawford and won, drawing a charge and recording a steal-and-assist against Crawford on consecutive possessions …
Barea was 2-of-8. (Yellow light, Rick!) But he made a 3-pointer.
Seriously, JJB finished as the Mavs leader in plus/minus with a plus-15.
So shut up.
RICK'S HEADSCRATCHING DECISION WITH JET
Other than a poor turnover with15 seconds left in the game that allowed the Hawks to crawl within one point (94-93), Jason Terry added his own support with 15 points and seven assists.
But about that turnover …
The Mavs were nursing a three-point edge. They were down to one possession. Kidd was on the floor, of course … yet Carlisle designed a play that had Jason Terry as the triggerman.
Was the idea to have Jet in control of the ball so Atlanta would foul him? Sound … until Terry butterfingered the ball in what tennis players would call an "unforced error.''
Unnecessarily risky, we say. Just let Kidd be the quarterback, OK?
DeShawn Stevenson makes us "crazy-happy.''
It's hard to not be impressed by what DeShawn Stevenson has been able to contribute as a starter. Saturday night against the Hawks, any of those not already clued in to his notable play must have had their eyes pried open. Stevenson finished with 13 points, three rebounds and one turnover. Two factors leap out in the bones of these stats:
One, that turnover was his first of the season.
Two, he didn't miss a shot of any kind.
He was 4-of-4 from the floor, 3-of-3 behind the arc and hit 2-of-2 free-throw attempts. … so good on offense that, combined with his rep as a defensive stopper, we half-wonder whether he should've been on the floor to play Dallas defense at the end.
COMBINING FOR 20/20? NAH …
Chandler finished with eight points, five rebounds and one block.
Haywood clocked in with six points and five rebounds.
Let's see … that's not 20/20. That's 14/10.
With TC's late stop and Big Wood's funny salute to the bench after finishing on a fancy inside move, we'll take 14/10.
WHO HAS THE ‘WANT-TO'?
We hesitate to question the effort of professional athletes … but then after hesitating, we sometimes go ahead and do it, anyway.
Honestly, we try to be careful when we use the "want-to'' phrase, as we did after Friday's loss to the Bulls. An observer is really hitting an athlete where it hurts when such an accusation is made … though again, when somebody like Taj Gibson is outrebounding and outscoring everybody on Team X, Team X deserves to be hit where it hurts.
But the fact it, is happens. Guys cruise. "Save'' themselves. "Chill,'' as Chris Bosh puts it.
Has Caron Butler been cruising, chilling, saving? Saving for what?
The beauty of the Dallas roster is supposed to be depth. The idea: The first wave of Mavs can go 100 MPH because if somebody gets at all gassed, there is a second wave to take over.
This isn't the Wizards, where the talent base is limited and therefore the top players feel obliged to "keep something in the tank.''
You wanna coast, cruise and chill?
Do it on somebody else's time and somebody else's dime.
Do it on somebody else's time and somebody else's team.
THE FINAL WORD
"Great win,'' Shawn Marion tweeted as night turned into morning. "Way to respond, Mavs. That's what's up.''