THE BURDENS: Both teams came into the game with scheduling burdens. The Rockets (playing without Yao Ming and Aaron Brooks) were on the tail end of a back-to-back that began with a one-point win over OKC Sunday. Dallas was enduring its fifth game in seven days. … and, as coach Rick Carlisle noted before the game, the Mavs have their own injury issues due to the absence of Roddy Beaubois.
We mention this right up top because usually, Roddy B is an out-of-sight/out-of-mind issue for Carlisle … so we think this means that Beaubois' healing foot is … well, coming back into the coach's mind.
And before we dismiss the Rockets, we note that just as Dallas came in hoping to win a sixth straight, Houston was coming off a win at OKC. So this wasn't the Pismo Beach Panthers.
IN NEED OF REST: A big-picture issue for Dallas: Perhaps as important as how well many played – and we will detail all of that -- was the result of that play: low minutes. No Dallas player was on the court for 30 minutes or more. Dirk played 29, Jason Kidd 25, Caron Butler 27, Shawn Marion 26, and Jason Terry with only 21. In a 13-4 season that's been filled with point-differential headaches (if that's what you consider close wins), here was an outcome John Trollinger can love.
Except … Dallas didn't win by 20. (More on that in a moment).
Dallas would've won by 20 had it left Dirk or Kidd or Caron or Marion or Terry in there to play a 30th minute, a 25th minute, a 22nd minute.
Had Rick Carlisle done so – ordering DoJo to keep his long pants on – would that've meant the Mavericks are a better team than what they are this morning?
Houston took the opening quarter by a point before the Mavs put the game away with a 30-to-10 run that began late in the second and spilled into the third. … and the chance to get rest-ups and step-ups was on.
THE UBERMAN: Nowitzki, again displaying elite efficiency, was the game's leading scorer on his way to a double-double, with 20 points (10-of-16 shooting), 10 rebounds and three blocks.
We think it's silly to pay much attention to advanced stats that are out there that demonstrate that somehow The UberMan is "more important on defense than he is on offense.'' But we don't think it's silly to note that the defensive focus urged by Carlisle and enforced by Tyson Chandler is rubbing off on guys like Jet and Dirk … and Nowitzki's three blocks (quick-hand variety) prove that.
And on offense? We would like Houston to continue to assign Jordan Hill (maybe playing on a bum ankle) to the guarding of Dirk. Hill's inability … unwillingness? … ignorance? … as it regarded contesting Nowitzki's shot was amusing.
STANDING ON HIS HEAD: Carlisle pulled out the hockey reference when describing Tuff Juice's sudden groove.
"It's like a goalie in hockey," Carlisle said. "When a goalie gets hot, they can stand on their head and stop anything. So we look for hot shooters."
When Butler had the first seven points of the fourth quarter last Tuesday against Detroit, we said "it's coming. Then he had 15 on Wednesday in OKC, and we said "it's coming.'' He got off to a good start Friday in San Antonio with eight points. It was still coming.
Now, in two games against the Heat and the Rockets, he has 42 points.
"I just had to get back in basketball rhythm,'' said Caron after scoring 23 and 19 in the last two games.
Yeah, it's rhythm. And hockey. And "Duck Tales.''
You really saw it in the third, Butler putting his foot to the floor, when the Mavs pulled away to an 18-point lead, with 13 points in the quarter (his highest scoring quarter of the season) … and 11 straight Mavs points over a 2:11 span.
"Tuff Juice" had those 19 points but did it with Dirk-like efficiency, on 8-of-14 shooting, with two assists and a steal.
NO TRAP: In a game that could have easily been a "trap" against a Houston team that many would deem "better than their record," Dallas quickly showed that there would be no letdown, holding the Rockets to 34.1-percent shooting in the first half … and 35.8 percent for the game. … all part of what is suddenly an elite-level NBA defense.
A stat to confirm: Only three teams have managed to score 100 points in a game against this year's Mavs … a figure that ties for the league lead.
MORE REST-UP AND STEP-UPS: JJ Barea is a good place to begin.
He was right there in the fray when the Mavs began to assert themselves in the second quarter. For the opening half, Barea led all Mavs with a plus/minus of +10.
For the second consecutive game, Barea also finished with double digits in points with 11 points (all in the first half), six assists and three rebounds.
We had a long conversation with assistant coach Darrell Armstrong about JJB. D.A. thinks it's about confidence – or the lack thereof that is causing JJB's horrible slump. But he also believes he's help correct a flaw in Barea's long-distance shooting: a consistent lack of arc on his shot.
We are hopeful, because as Carlisle said, "we need him to play 18 effective minutes behind Kidd.''
THE KILLER B's: Joining Barea and Butler among the Mavs who had struggled in the recent past, Brendan Haywood had his most impactful game since grabbing 17 rebounds against Philadelphia. He was active in the paint, showed a healthy amount of hustle and other than a couple of poor early fouls (including a foul on Chase Budinger on a 3 attempt), "Big Wood" filled the precise role he is being asked to.
He was active on the glass, and was there protecting the rim with a couple of big blocks.
Haywood finished with six points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 21 minutes of action.
Sound work … the kind of things that fans want to see, lest they/we use his one-game suspension in The Alamo City as something we all want to remember.
And no, it does not bother us that a bunch of Big Wood's nine rebounds were slap-back attempts after his own misses. Beats just friggin' standing there.
MARION'S BABY HOOK: Nobody on the Mavs does more with less than The Matrix.
Joining Dirk in the double-double club for this game was Shawn Marion, who has continued to excel as he adjusts to his role of coming off the bench, with 14 points and ten rebounds. He did all that with no plays called for him, as near as we could tell. It's all cuts across the lane, entry passes, baby hooks … and results.
We think it's fair to say Marion is buying in to the "Role Acceptance'' mantra of his coach. Listen in:
"Everybody is coming into their own a little bit right now, and we're really supporting each other and holding each other accountable when we need to," Marion said. "We're playing as a complete team right now and we're competing at a high level."
That's a four-time All-Star who is now the No. 7 man in the rotation saying that.
KIDD'S ‘NIGHT OFF': This constitutes that, for him. Twenty-five minutes? The old man almost didn't have to break a sweat. Yet …
Had Jason Kidd put in one more basket, he would have added a third to the Dallas double-double club. Kidd finished with eight points and 11 assists. He was probably happy to see Aaron Brooks absent. But at the same time, the Rockets – who with guys like Shane Battier leading the way have a great understanding of the science of basketball – probably hate seeing Kidd active.
Example: Who do you think was in charge of orchestrating Butler's big quarter and his big night?
"Kidd was doing a good job of calling the plays,'' Dirk said. "And if a guy (like Butler) is hot like that, you've got to milk it. So, it was definitely fun to watch.''
A new pet play that is working: Butler off a curl, a trademark catch-and-shoot play for Jet.
HOME SWEET HOME: It's is cured?
Is 7-3 good enough?
Dallas is now 7-3 at home, and have taken three consecutive wins at the AAC. Yes, the Mavs have won six games overall in a row – the top active streak in the NBA. That's the big number. But the psychological bugaboo of "Dallas doesn't win enough at home'' needs to go away. And by the way, it's not the fault of the AAC audience, if there is a problem. This was a Monday nighter – Carlisle says Monday night big crowds are tough to come by in the NBA in the early season – and the crowd was good. Dallas has had three of these Monday nighters so far, I think. Crowd's not the problem.
And at 7-3, neither is the record.
MORE ON CARON: Butler started the game by missing two quick 3-point attempts; he then went 8-of-12 for the rest of the game.
That's not only the "hockey-goalie'' mentality; it's also the "football-cornerback'' mentality, in which the player is going to get beat deep once in a while and needs to put it out of his mind and get ready for the next play.
After a slow start to the season, Butler is coming on strong. Over the last four games, he is shooting 51 percent. And his problems seem out of his mind.
‘FIVE GUYS IN DOUBLE-DIGIT SCORING': That's always Carlisle's goal.
Did he mean for DeShawn Stevenson to be one of them?
Stevenson again played very well as the starting shooting guard. Encapsulated in that performance was scoring seven of the first 14 points for the Mavs to open the second half.
Stevenson finished with 10 points and was one of five Mavs to score in double digits, along with Dirk (20), Butler (19), Marion (14) and Barea (11).
Jet had just six points, but he's forgiven just because of the way he started the fourth quarter, with a flying one-handed dunk, a posterization of Chase Budinger.
ENTER THE DOJO: We noticed at shootaround that when the other Mavs gathered ‘round for the Half-Court HORSE game, DoJo wasn't really participating in their reindeer games.
Maybe he knew.
After six games without seeing the court, Dominique Jones did get some action with mixed results. On his first offensive play, he made a nice cut to draw a foul at the rim and convert both free throws. From there, things weren't as pretty. DoJo gave away three turnovers, and looked hesitant at times.
And late into the night, it was announced that the rookie is being shipped up 75 to Frisco to join the D-League Texas Legends.
Maybe he knew. But eventually, when it was official, he didn't seem to like it much.
"It's not what I want to do,'' said DoJo, expected to be in uniform tonight in Frisco for the Legends' first-ever home game (and maybe for a total of three games). "I want to stay here and learn from these guys. But I feel like Coach Carlisle and Donnie, they know what's best. I'll make the best out of it . . . I'm just going to keep grinding and keep working my way up.''
Good. That means that along with the rest-ups and the step-ups, we'll get a call-up.