DONUT 1: I don't think we can overemphasize the big-picture of The Mavs After 25 Games. This is as good as it gets … or rather, one tick off as good as it gets.
The 2002 team won 60 games after getting off to a 22-3 start. This year's Mavericks are 20-5.
You wish this wouldn't have lost this game or that … and you'd like them to make yet another fat lead hold up instead of having to labor late to register wins like Wednesday's 103-98 victory over Portland.
But we're not shooting for perfection here. We're shooting for wins that set up postseason success.
That is being achieved.
DONUT 2: Must I take you back to middle school basketball to explain why Dallas sometimes allows offensive rebounds? Have we not covered this?
Portland is the second-best offensive rebounding team in the league. Dallas plays a zone defense, so when a Blazers shot goes up, a Maverick had a difficult time finding "his man'' … because he doesn't have a "man.'' He has an area.
Rick Carlisle was pissed in the first quarter last night when Portland quickly grabbed six offensive rebounds, but …
Yes, effort and intensity and stuff can help. But something's gotta give with every strategy. And offensive rebounds are sometimes what you give when you play a zone.
DONUT 3: Quote of the Night, from Caron Butler:
"This personnel that we have on this basketball club is second to none. We have so many guys -- perennial All-Stars, two Hall-of-Famers, guys that can step up on a major level on any given night. It's a lot of sacrifice and a lot of things going on, but we've just got to stay with it and we did a great job of doing that tonight.''
Tuff Juice gets to talk like that after a night when Dirk was a bit off, so Butler carried a 23-point load (on 10-of-19 shooting, with seven rebounds and four assists).
Coming up, the second part of David Lord's Amateur GM piece, his analysis of Andre Iguodala as a Mavericks trade target.
DONUT 5: Do you want your "The UberMan'' shirt in time for Christmas? Then order it today in the DB.com Store
DONUT 6: This was a Dirk Drought.
The UberMan scored a field goal at the 9:24 mark of the first quarter.
He scored his second field goal at the 6:40 mark of the fourth quarter.
"I kind of settled for some threes there that just weren't going my way and I never really got a good rhythm," said Nowitzki, who added that in the fourth quarter, "I was able to get to the high post, make a move there and get a layup. Then, I got two free throws in the fourth quarter and that definitely helped me to get going and I was able to knock some big shots down. Sometimes, all a shooter needs is a layup and two free throws … and that was great."
Respect from Aldridge in regard to Nowitzki:
"We had a chance there at the end. Dirk made two really tough shots. That's what he does.''
DONUT 7: I'm always happy for LaMarcus Aldridge when he asserts himself like this (as long as his team doesn't win here in his native North Texas). He seems like a nice kid. They say he asserts himself like this too rarely, but that was a manly showing, with 20 points in the fourth and 35 in the game.
I didn't quite see that coming … but maybe we should've, given what Andrew Bogut did on Monday.
Bogut scored 21 points on 12 shots. He and the Bucks found a way to move the ball inside the Dallas zone to get him easy shots (eight of them at the rim).
Along comes LaMarcus, making 14 of 26 shots, feasting at the rim as well … and who to blame? The centers? Dirk? The zone?
I'm not quite as happy for Brandon Roy. A year ago, he seemed Dwyane Wade-like … a wingman who could play on both ends, who was a finisher, and clutch, and a leader, and he'd move to point and run the whole team. …
But that knee problem must be nasty. Without knowing the details, the outside observer is forced to wonder why he doesn't shut it down. He might
be hurting himself, and he's not really much helping his team.
DONUT 8: Tyson Chandler has an X's-and-O'sy theory on Dallas' dips.
"I think a lot of it has to do with schemes and rotations," T.Y. told the media. "We're getting mixed up a little bit, not understanding where our help is supposed to come from, and different plays we're over-helping and out of position and out of position for rebounds. I wouldn't say it's a lack of effort on the defensive end, but just miscommunication.
"And that can be fixed."
DONUT 10: Is the Portland ghost exorcized yet?
Dallas has won 20 of the last 25 meetings between the teams, so why do I still shudder at the matchup issues here?
Maybe I'm right to shudder, given what Aldridge did. Or maybe it is the fact that Portland won twice in Dallas last season. Or maybe it's Andre Miller's 52.
But Miller had just nine points Wednesday night. And now it's 20 of the last 25. And while the Mavs are on pace to contend for 60 wins, Portland (largely due to injuries) is yet another of the many Western Contenders That Never Were.
DONUT 11: This season – as usual -- Dallas is 8-4 in games decided by five points or fewer.
Carlisle calls it. Kidd triggers it. Dirk shoots it.
Oh, and now they play "Night-Night Defense'' on the other end, too.
DONUT 12: Two sporting celebs took in the game and then hung around near the locker room for a moment. Rangers pitcher Derek Holland (guided by Skin) got himself a Dirk jersey and a Jet jersey and an autograph or two. … And I visited for a while after the game with DB.commer Troy Aikman, who was escorting a pack of little Aikman girls to the late-night game.
DONUT 13: So the Mavs can get up by 25 or 20 or 17, but can't stay up by 25 or 20 or 17.
And I'm still not certain how concerned to be.
At first glance, losing those leads is absorbed into the brain as if Dallas FELL BEHIND by 20. And it certainly feels as if Dallas lost opportunities (to get rest for starters, to play the kids, and the like). But what if the Mavs never get up by 20? What if they only get up by eight? Or what if they spend most of the game behind by two?
And then what if they win? Would that be better than getting up by 20 and then winning?
And then there is this: If Dallas gets ahead by 17 over Portland … and then wins by 17, thus inflating the supposedly all-important point differential, does that really equate to, say, a second-round playoff win over the Jazz?