BEAT LA: Wednesday night, the crowd in Dallas was thick with Kobe Bryant jerseys and loud cheers supporting Los Angeles successes.
Drowning in the hurt of a six-game losing streak, the Mavs forced their head above the waves and by force took back their confidence, their swagger, and a 109-100 victory over the visiting Lakers.
And yes, while it isn't likely much of a factor to the actually participants, it is fun to force a figurative sock in the collective mouths of the Faker Fans who invade the AAC once or twice every season, almost always wearing brand-new Kobe jerseys, sometimes with the price tag still on ‘em, usually a tell-tale sign that this "BRYANT'' guy in Sec. 120 just because a proud Faker Fan, like, yesterday, courtesy not of having grown up in Southern California but rather courtesy of the Dick's Sporting Goods store in Richardson or someplace.
Really, it's like the Dust Bowl migration pulled a U-turn. Generations ago, hard-scrabble folks fled the region just north of the Red River for Land of Milk and Honey … and now their great-great-great grandchildren are back in the region.
Wearing $200 sneakers with purple-and-gold laces.
THE SEVEN-YEAR ITCH: "I've been here seven years and had never been through a stretch where we lost six games in a row," Jason Terry said after the game. "I think the big thing was realizing and assessing the situation and then aggressively attacking from the beginning."
Seven years for Jet.
Longer than that for the rest of us, all the way back to when Dirk was in shortpants. (Well, everybody in the NBA is in shortpants, but you know what we mean.)
Is this The Due Theory? That this team simply isn't bad enough to lose seven straight, even with all the dark cloudy woes hanging over it?
Ignoring the shooting struggles of Dirk Nowitzki, who would shoot 5-of-15 for 14 points (tying his third worst shooting performance of the season), the rest of the Mavs embraced the challenge at hand as a collective with true aggression and denied the woes of the recent past.
PREACH IT, KOBE: "They started making shots and took over the game," Kobe Bryant would say when it was all over.
Let's name names.
It was Jason Terry playing well for four quarters and tying for the Mavs scoring lead with 22 points, though he abused the second to the tune of 13 points on 5-of-7 field-goal attempts and 3-of-4 behind the three-point line.
It was Jason Kidd discarding the chains of a recent slump (more on that in a moment) to set a new season-high with 21 points on 8-of-12 shots, including 5-of-8 from three. Perhaps drawing inspiration from Terry's second period, Kidd matched his totals by putting up 13 while going 5-of-5 from the floor and 3-of-3 behind the arc in the third.
In the fourth, it was Shawn Marion's turn to shine. Marion would get 11 points on 5-of-6 attempts in the final frame, and would have the pleasure of driving the final dagger home by throwing down a breakaway dunk to put the Mavs up 15 with under two minutes to play.
Marion would finish with 22 points, hitting 10 of his 13 shot attempts.
Three different quarters. Three different Mavs stepping up to line to resurrect a team's bravado.
For the first time all season, Dallas had three players reach 20 points … and none of them go by the name of Dirk Nowitzki.
Shawn Marion, speak your mind…
Oddly enough, the Mavs are now 7-and-1 when Dirk fails to score 20 (though, in fairness, some of those occasions have come behind limited minutes due to blowouts).
On those three players that did score 20, Phil Jackson had this to say:
"It was the other guys, Marion and Terry coming off the bench that was the difference."
Dallas shot 55 percent, and 46.2 percent from the arc.
What happened to LA's defense?
"We were just being lazy,'' said Lakers center Andrew Bynum. "I'm quite sure if you look at the tape everybody is kind of stagnant and just staying still. And we didn't cut off the baseline, and had guys rotating, we were just playing lazy.''
NATIONAL LEAGUE: 3-and-4 was the record the Mavs entered Wednesday night with in nationally televised games (excluding NBA TV). By busting their own six-game losing streak, they reach .500 in impressive fashion.
STREAKING KIDD: Jason Kidd found himself within reach of a dubious honor.
Since the 2000-01 season, no Dallas player has put together a streak longer than 14 consecutive games of shooting under 50 percent. Tim Hardaway (2001-02) and Jerry Stackhouse (2007-08) both reached 14, but none have gone further.
Kidd walked onto the court having converted under 50 percent of his attempts in 13 consecutive contests.
At halftime, that streak was placed in danger, as Kidd hit 3-of-6 shots, including 2-of-5 from behind the arc. If you've read above, you know what he did the rest of the night.
Consider that streak drawn, quartered and sent to the four corners of the earth. … 5-of-8 from the arc 21 points for a season-high, plus 10 assists.
(Quick side note on the streak above (consecutive games shooting under 50 percent). Counting only games where players started, the longest streak of the season is 14, by Travis Outlaw. Stephen Jackson, often mentioned as a possible trade target of the Mavs, is nursing a current streak that is alive at 10.)
MAVSELLANEOUS: The Lakers had just two turnovers in the first half. … Jason Terry and Shawn Marion, both coming off the bench as Dallas' sixth and seventh men, each scored 22. "I felt that we played our best as a team when those two guys were in that roles," Carlisle said. "We don't have a sixth man, we have two sixth men, really. Those two guys come in the game the same time virtually every night, and they complement each other." … It was fun to have the Mavs lift themselves to the occasion. It was fun to re-learn that Dallas is capable of these sort of things, hopefully 50-plus times a year. … LA's failure at the American Airlines Center gives the Lakers just their third loss in 15 games, a hot streak that comes after having dropped three straight in late December. We're now around the midway point of the 2010-11 season and I'm not enough of a homer to kid myself here; at 31-13, the Lakers probably still join the Spurs as one of the two Western Conference teams of distinction. But … Pau Gasol (23 points), Kobe Bryant (21 points and 10 assists) and Lamar Odom (20 points and 10 boards) all had their moments. Indeed, the Lakers shot 54.3 percent – but the Mavs shot 55 percent … Remember earlier Wednesday, when the battle-scarred Mavs looked forward to the nationally-televised visit from the regal Lakers as "a foxhole moment,'' as Dallas GM Donnie Nelson termed it? They just made the hole a bit shallower. … One thing that's always sorta good when it's LA-at-Dallas: The Mavs have a decade-long history of relative home success against the powerful Lakers; since 2000, Dallas is now 11-10 when LA visits. … On paper, a game with the Lakers seemed a rather unlikely way to get well, but in the first of the teams' three scheduled regular-season meetings, Dallas overcame an early 11-point deficit to gain its own double-digit lead throughout the late-going of the game. … Always good to see Luke Walton launching bombs. Thanks for the 0-for-5, Junior. … Do all of yesterday's problems get washed away in this sprinkle of success? Do you now slam down the phone and laugh when Denver offers you ‘Melo? Do you tell Roddy B to go off and dip his toes in the Riviera and c'mon back when Summer League starts? No. But it feels good. Allow yourself to feel good, OK? ... In the house: Emmitt, Tony Dorsett and Tony Romo, with lovely fiancee Candice Crawford. And why were you idiots booing Tony Romo? More twisted Lakers fans, I assume?
Rick Carlisle, you feelin' good?
WHY THE STRUGGLES?: Why have the Mavs struggled over the previous 11 games?
When Dirk is on the court, the Dallas offense scores 16.31 points more than when he is not.
They score 10.25 more when Tyson Chandler is on the court, compared to when he isn't.
In this respect, these players rank first and second on the Mavs roster.
On defense, Dallas gives up 6.63 more without Dirk's presence than they do with it, and 5.27 more without Chandler. In this category, they rank as the first and third biggest positive difference makes on the team (Caron Butler was second, as opponents had an average of 6.5 points higher when he was on the bench).
Considering this was the first time in 12 games that two of these three players took the court at the same time, maybe we begin to understand how 2-9 comes to be … it doesn't hurt any less, but its genesis becomes a little clearer.
And we haven't bothered calculating the absence of Caron Butler and the non-entity that is the injured Roddy B.
Tyson Chandler returned from illness with six points and 10 rebounds, but gave Mavs followers a moment of apprehension when he left the game in the second quarter and was announced as "questionable" to return due to the same illness that had kept him out the previous two games.
"A healthy Dallas Mavericks team is a top team in the league,'' said the Mavs' Jason Terry. "An injured Dallas Mavericks team is not so good."
That's legit, right? A three-week stretch during which there's no Dirk, no Caron, no Roddy B and a Tyson Chandler with his head in a bucket … how CAN that be a good team?
Phil Jackson cited T.Y. as a difference-maker and of course, he's onto something.
"That was a big scare for us, because you are like here we go again, another guy is going down," Terry said of Chandler's vomitousnous. "But, you know, you saw Tyson at halftime and he was feeling a little bit better and then the performance he had out there in the second half just lifted us up."
PLAN B: For years, Dallas management has attempted to construct a roster that could compete with LA. This year's blueprint: the acquisition of the 7-1 Chandler, the re-signing of his 7-0 backup Brendan Haywood and the continued featuring of Nowitzki, all of which would provide Dallas with Lakers-like size and length.
This win, which pushes the Mavs to 27-14, would require Dallas to try a Plan B.
Chandler's vomiting on the sideline throughout the first half. Haywood's a relative non-factor. And Nowitzki had a subpar offensive game.
Plan B? Sasha and a little JJB (who'd miss some practice time to attend a family funeral) and a lot of Jason Kidd, who broke from a miserable shooting slump (1-of-14 in his previous two games) to contribute a season-high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 5-of-8 from the arc. Kidd's all-around floor game was evident in his overflowing boxscore which included 10 assists.
Hey, T.Y., how sick are you? (Oh, and show off that tight new haircut!)
SWAGGER TIME: Back on Dec. 27, when Dirk sprained his knee in a game at OKC, the Mavs were second in the Western Conference – and they had the swagger than went with that. Since then, they'd slipped to the No. 5 spot in the West, and not only were many of their key players gone … so was their confidence.
Here comes a little bit of confidence … a little bit of swagger … and any unlikely hero who wants to step on up and help the fellas out of that foxhole.
BOY-TOY BUSINESS: Can we tell you how tired we are of this "boy-toy'' business?
Not so much Mark Cuban's predictable manipulation of the gullible media; that's how Tony Cubes amuses himself and sells tickets.
But really, what is wrong with us ink-stained wretches? We crowded around Cuban's Stairmaster, and nobody really wanted to talk basketball or ‘Melo (except, we think, Stein and Fish) … they all wanted to talk about Phil and boy-toy bullshit.
"(Jackson is) smart,'' Cuban said. "He's smart. You've got to have a sense of humor and be smart enough to figure it out. He likes to play with the media and so do I. You guys are a convenient intermediary. I think if you ask him, he would tell you that 99 percent of his comments are designed to see whether or not the media actually gets what he's saying, and only 1 percent is actually about the content of what he says. And you've got to like that about a guy."
And then Cuban said something about someday looking Phil up at "www.BoyToyNation.com'' or whatever, and you shoulda seen us dopes scribbling away like it actually meant a damn thing.
WHO DESERVES THE DIRKIE? As always, we cast our votes – after Mavs wins only – here on DB.com Boards!
SET LINEUP?: Sasha's move into the starting lineup allowed Shawn Marion to return to the bench, thus recreating the chemistry and makeup of the reserves.
"Of late, we've had some inconsistency and people going in and out of the lineup," said Jason Terry, "but now we are going to be able to see what we have again once we are consistent with our lineup again."
But wait. What exactly is set? Sasha Pavlovic as a starter?
Sasha Pavlovic made for an odd Mavs starter, an odd Mavs hero and an odd Mavs postgame spokesman. That was especially so when late into the night he exited the locker room pulling behind him a gargantuan suitcase large enough for a 10-day-contract temp-service employee to live out of. …
Odd to find ourselves worrying not too much about positioning around Dirk's locker or Kidd's locker … because we wanted to make sure we got an earful of Sasha.
"To keep playing this hard and together like this,'' said Sasha after the Mavs' victory, their first win in seven outings and just their third in a dozen games, "we can beat anybody in the league.''
More Sasha talk …
Hey, yeah, leave it to the always-eloquent Sasha Pavlovic to serve as the scene-summarizing post-game team leader.
No, really, Sasha serves as the poster boy for some of the oddity that this game represented. He was a surprise starter despite being on the last legs of his 10-day tryout contract, and despite wearing a plastic mask to protect a recently busted nose.
In the very first moments of the game, he got hit in the face and re-injured his nose – "I think it pushed it back where it belongs,'' he joked -- but he kept playing and eventually scored 11 points in an unlikely performance that likely keeps him around for another 10 days.
An odd pairing at the starting wing positions? You got it with DeShawn Stevenson and Pavlovic.
Who didn't see that coming in training camp?
Stevenson's been a starter for some time but is slumping offensively. Sasha is at the end of his 10-day contract and eight hours before the game, Mavs management was quite non-committal about his future.
"I think he's probably earned another chance,'' Rick said after the game in reference to re-upping Pavlovic.
And indeed, Sasha was told before the game that he's sticking with the club. So that huge suitcase – and we mean, really, it was more of a trunk that a suitcase, like the kind travelers used to haul onto a ship to sail across the sea – is simply what he's taking with him for the swing that starts in Chicago on Thursday.