12 Survival Tactics In Cleveland In 'Donuts'

It takes a certain amount of audacity to think you are going to win an NBA game because you employ Jason Kidd and a collection of D-League grads, overexposed veterans, one-dimensional 2-guards and alabaster towel-wavers. The Mavs have a certain amount of audacity. Let's do Donuts!

DONUT 1: You gotta like Tuff Juice's style.

Last night on Twitter, Caron communicated with the fans: "Thanks for all the prayers,'' he tweeted. "Huge win for us tonight. God bless!


DONUT 2: Dallas followed up three straight defeats with a 104-95 victory in Cleveland on Sunday, and did so with a heavy heart – and a light lineup.

In addition to Dirk Nowitzki missing a third straight full game while nursing a knee sprain (he hopes to return this week), the Mavs are without Caron Butler, who may have a serious knee injury as the result of play in Milwaukee on Saturday.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle spent his pregame media session chastising anybody who would dare speculate about the nature of Caron's injury. I will get into this later today (expanding on "Caron Ramifications''), but let me say for the moment that I am going respectfully defend myself by pointing out that Carlisle and I are in different businesses here, and that the Mavs are already releasing whispers about future plans that are sugar-coated in politeness … which is nice and all, but the sugar-coating must eventually melt.

Again, I'll explain further later today. … And the results of Caron's MRI will be released later today as well.

DONUT 3: To the game.

Carlisle has long preached about his roster depth, and here he pulled a lot of levers and unraveled a lot of duct tape to make it work. Nine guys played, nine guys scored. With Dirk, Rick hopes three or four other guys are double-figure-worthy. Here, with no UberMan, all five starters were in double-figures, and a sixth, D-League rookie call-up Dominique Jones, scored nine.

The Mavs record when six players have 10-plus points? It's 8-0.

I saw some folks on DB.com Boards laughing as Dallas' "lack of depth'' after the Saturday loss in Milwaukee. I must have a shitty sense of humor. I hated the loss … but hey, you're really not going to cut a little slack to a team missing a Dirk, a Butler and a Marion?

And you're really not going to give any credit to that same team re-jiggering everything 24 hours later to win a second game of a b2b on the road … digging way down in its pockets to find something – a Swiss Army Knife, some lint-covered cough drops, That One Key That Doesn't Go To Anything – to help it win?

OK, if you say so.

DONUT 4: Shawn Marion (who also missed the loss in Milwaukee due to injury) moved from the bench to the starting frontcourt and scored 22 points.


This almost felt like his bid, his submission, that whatever happens with Tuff Juice, the Mavs have another guy who can thrive as a starter in that spot.

"He's going to be a real key guy for us,'' said Carlisle, who then re-shifted his analysis. "As he always is."

In some lineup confusion coming out of Cleveland, some boxscores this morning have The Matrix listed as the starting "SF'' (small forward). But he was a 4 – the spot at which he is most difficult to match up with, even after all these years.

And again, he was a starter – and when he starts, he shoots well. He was 11-of-16 here, and he's pretty much a 60-percent shooter as a starter. He's below 50 percent as a backup. Still impressive … but a difference significant enough to note.

DONUT 5: The struggling Jason Terry was counting as "overexposed,'' right? Is that too harsh?


Well, Rick had to expose him some more here.

Instead of serving as the sixth man, Jet was the starting 2 (for the first time since Nov. 6). And maybe that got him untracked, to the tune of 18 points. Jet's promotion seemed a psychological ploy – "I need my horses,'' one of those things – and Jet seemed to get the message that he was to be ridden.

Jason Terry had shot 19 percent in the previous two games. His struggles were such – because most of us are Jet fans – that every time he shoots, we lean toward the TV screen in hopes that our body language can help magically guide the thing into the basket.

That's not the way a supposedly "pure shooter'' should have to be watched. This was easier, 8-of-14 (including 2-of-4 from the arc), and the 18 points.

Temporarily, anyway, starting him (or inserting him early?) may be the way to rid Terry of his "wait-‘til-the-fourth'' groove/rut; if he's starting, there's no time to wait. They'll need him from the opening tip.Or, even if he doesn't start, from the opening quarter.

Dear Jet: Start raising ONE figure instead of four. … as a psychological ploy played on yourself.

DONUT 6: Once upon a time, DeShawn Stevenson was a defensive ace, a hated figure in Cleveland due to his street-fighter rivalry with LeBron James. Once upon another time, DeShawn was a guy with a bad back and a back reputation. Most recently, he's a starting 2-guard in Dallas and when he starts, the Mavs almost never lose.

On Sunday, DeShawn was kind of a "Jet'' … except that in this twisted situation, he was also the starting 3.


DeShawn made five 3-pointers and scored a season-high 21. Overall, he was strong enough to be a +25.

It's easy to make the argument that DeShawn should remain a starter, in some capacity … He starts, Dallas wins. But is HE going to be Caron? That's too much to ask, right?

By the way: DeShawn has taken to wearing a Caucasian-skin-colored round Band-Aid on his Adam's Apple, right where his Abe Lincoln tattoo also has its Adam's Apple. A cut? A style? Johnson & Johnson don't make African-American-shaded round Band-Aids? Abe Lincoln's throat hurts?

I'll ask around.

P.S.: You know it's nutty in Cleveland when, because DeShawn was always a LeBron nemesis, the locals now cheer for Stevenson. Any enemy of LeBron's is a friend of theirs, I guess.

DONUT 7: There's a fine line between being "feisty'' and being "dangerously out of control.''

Tyson Chandler was feisty. Brian Cardinal was feisty.

Former Mavs center Ryan Hollins was "dangerously out of control.''

Hollins seems to do this on a regular basis when he gets a chance to strut his stuff against the Mavs, who two years ago opted to let him go to Minnesota without engaging in a mini-bidding war. And it's not just wrasslin', which is what (in my biased opinion) The Janitor does – because he must to survive. Hollins isn't just "chippy,'' he's "cheap.''

After one exchange in which he chased down Chandler from behind as both men were making their way upcourt … and then kept on comin', as if he wanted to put tire tracks on Chandler's back … there was a timeout. And the FS Southwest cameras focused on Chandler on the bench. Tyson wasn't pissed, exactly … just disappointed, I think, from the lack of professionalism exhibited by Hollins …

DONUT 8: To me, the two guys being worn down by the injuries and other problems are Kidd and Tyson Chandler.


J-Kidd? He is shouldering a monster burden … especially as the ringleader for a bunch of guys who, two months ago, weren't necessarily supposed to every see the court. (That'd be DeShawn, DoJo, Ajinca, Mahinmi, Novak and Cardinal). But he found a way, one more time, with 10 points and eight assists.

T.Y.? Boy, it seems like when he's out of the game – and especially if Dallas is using any variation of its 3-PG Attack – the Mavs defense is a sieve. So nobody likes to see him out of the game much. Oh, Big Wood had some pep in his step. But here's Tyson's burden – met: 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting, 14 rebounds, and as noted above, a cool head as old friend Ryan Hollins attempted (as he always does against the Mavs) to play provocateur.

Telltale Tyson: The Mavericks are now 5-0 when Chandler records a double-double.

Dallas' defense had one serious flaw here: Even with its fat leads, it allowed 50.6-percent shooting to the Cavs – the first time all year that Dallas has surrendered 50 percent. As I was watching, I thought that was a direct result of what the Cavs were able to do with Chandler taking a rest. And indeed, T.Y. was a +16.

Our Michael Dugat has another thought, though, in First Impressions: Opposing FG percentages are rising due to the absence of Dirk

Over the four games he has missed, Dallas opponents have gone 147-of-303, or 48.5 percent. Compare that to the 43.4 percent opponents shot in the 29 games prior to Dirk's absence.

Some of that is emotion and some of it is quality of opponent. But …

Yup. He's an MVP in every way.

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DONUT 10: DoJo belongs.

I don't know who he belongs more than. I don't know that being the 14th man in Dallas helps him more than being the No. 1 or 2 man in Frisco.

But he's an NBA player. Right now.


Somebody's going to look at the boxscore and say, "He still can't shoot.'' Look instead at the game. DoJo finished with nine points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal in 21 minutes. He got to the rim at will … finished a little better there … continues to need work on his jumper … and demonstrated a great deal of court awareness, as both a passer and a defender.

I'll tell you what else DoJo's learned: A little humility.

During his earlier stint with the big club, Dominique talked often about how he's NBA-ready, and in conversations with me, he's scoffed at the idea that his shot needed polish. Now listen to him:

"I've been getting a chance to get better,'' he said of the Frisco experience. "It helped me get my rhythm back and playing up and down was good. It's fun. But you always feel like it's not the NBA. The travel's definitely different, too. It can be kind of humbling. But it was a good opportunity."

"Kind of humbling.'' Self-awareness will help DoJo belong.

DONUT 11: Quote of the Night:

"We had to stop the bleeding.'' -- Rick Carlisle.

DONUT 12: For one night this week at least, the 25-8 Mavericks didn't feel like the victims.

Even with all the doom and gloom, Dallas has lost just eight games – though again, there may be more bad news on the horizon regarding Butler's MRI results.

Eight losses. Contrast that to the Cavaliers, who have won just eight games. Oh, and they have lost seven straight and they have lost 17 of their last 18.

Good God let's hope Mavs Life After Dirk isn't as tortuous as Cavs Life After LeBron. …


Cleveland led just once in the game, fell behind by 17 in the second half, and – again to the credit ot leaders like Carlisle, Kidd and Chandler -- wasn't as composed as the Mavericks. Composure helps get you to 12-2 on the road. … though it'll be awfully handy this week at home against Portland and OKC and Orlando, too.

"This is a much-needed win for us," Carlisle said late Sunday. "With what happened with Caron last night and the tough game (in Milwaukee), it's been a tough 24 hours.''

Hey, it felt good, right? No Frenchmen were harmed in the making of this win, but a second wave of talent led by the first-rounder Jones, who frequently powered his way to the basket and was 5-of-5 from the line and skied for a blocked shot and seemed confident, fearless? He seemed to give Dallas an emotional boost. I bet he did the same for the Mavs-lovin' audience.

Depending on the news on Butler, the Mavs may need that plus more from guys like Jones. More emotional boosts … More minutes. … More something.

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