HUMAN HIGHLIGHT JJB: He is a "human highlight reel,'' says Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. He is "like a Karl Malone who plays above the rim,'' says Jason Kidd. He is "beast,'' says Dirk Nowitzki.
Who were the Dallas Mavericks talking about? JJB, of course!
No, not really.
That level of accolade is reserved for the Los Angeles Clippers' second-year rookie Blake Griffin. And he is all of those things, a maybe-unprecedented life form at the power forward position. (Unless you count Dirk, also otherworldly … but from a completely different planet.)
But before we get to the headliners going in, let's deal with the headliner coming out of the Mavs' 112-105 win: JJB.
"The little Puerto Rican came to play tonight,'' Jason Terry said of Barea. "He really kept us in it when they could've pushed their lead to 20 or 25. He kept hitting shot after shot, and he made Baron Davis work on defense.''
THE BEARD VS. BAREA: JJB put up numbers: 25 points, one of four Mavs to score 20 or more. But he also put up a fight of sorts with Baron Davis, an old Mavs nemesis who so often cruises through regular seasons with an odd combination of pseudo-machismo and nonchalance.
In a series of plays, JJB drew the pseudo-machismo right out of Davis and forced the Clippers PG from his nonchalant comfort zone. It all hit the fan at the 8:40 mark of the fourth, when JJB baited Baron into a midcourt collision. JJB, noticing that Baron was upset over a previous call, initiated with a nudge, earned a David elbow to the chest, and then tossed himself backwards for a cleverly drawn charge.
Davis went a little nuts. JJB got a little smile. ("I didn't have to go down,'' he said later. "But when you get hit, you go down. That's
basketball.'') And coach Rick Carlisle wasn't smiling at all.
"I'm not going to talk about that," Carlisle said afterwards. "It was … whatever."
Barea thinks "it was'' something else altogether.
"Awesome,'' said JJB of Carlisle's profanely vocal support.
Barea (9-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-4 from the arc, with four assists) completely offset of the work of LAC point guard Baron Davis, who scored 21 but was also harassed into seven turnovers.
Barea bettered The Beard. He offset him and he upset him.
WALKING TALL: The Mavs have long battled their old "Soft White Boyz'' image and it's rather passé now; YOU tell DeShawn Stevenson that he plays for the Soft White Boyz! But just in case, there was Barea, baiting Baron into stupid actions (and seven turnovers) with physical play. There was coach Rick Carlisle running out onto the floor to confront Davis and to drop a series of F-bombs on the player. And there was Brendan Haywood unafraid to earn a flagrant for tossing Griffin to the floor, a player that caused the young star to injure his elbow and maybe not quite be the same again.
"After the flagrant foul it started hurting." Griffin later confirmed. "We'll see how it is tomorrow."
DB.com went 1-on-1 and asked Jason Terry if he thought Carlisle's action in particular was a purposeful thing, almost a pre-meditated thing:
We will say this: One clever way for a coach to keep his team on his side – and a clever way to keepthe crowd there, too – is for a coach to "remove the gloves,'' so to speak.
WHO DESERVES ‘THE DIRKIE'?: In the arena, JJB was selected "Player of the Game.'' But we all know that's not how the Player of the Game is REALLY determined, don't we?
DIRK'S SCRAPES: Dirk had some things going for him that Blake Griffin did not:
1 Dirk demonstrated what we'll call "veteran coping skills.''
2 Dirk has the offensive support of teammates that provided the Dallas Mavericks with that quartet of 20-points-plus scorers.
The usually-sad-sack Clippers came into Dallas having won seven of their last 10, Griffin helping to bullishly push aside many of their usual obstacles. (Not the least of which is their unfortunate owner, Donald T. Sterling, who so often finds himself involved in financial and even racial controversies.) But he didn't have at his side one of his top co-pushers, Eric Gordon, himself a 24-points-per-game budding star, who failed to make the trip to do an injured wrist and may now miss three weeks.
That's the sort of unlucky break that has befallen the Mavs of late. But Nowitzki – who recently missed nine contests and has been slow to stride out of what he calls "quicksand'' in his handful of games back – battled through some more scrapes and bruises and some more shooting woes (6-of-15) to reach the 20-point mark.
Again, it's not that Dirk was "the star'' here. Really, he was able to get by because three other Mavs – Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea – scored 28, 21 and 25 respectively.
Here's Dirk on the game in general (but believe us, this ain't the good stuff ...)
No, here comes the good stuff. DB.com went 1-on-1 with Dirk to ask him about his poke in the eye, his scrape on the cheek, and maybe one more collision when he somehow poked himself. We'll call it …
DIRK'S ‘S***T HAPPENS' DB.com VIDEO VISIT
PEJA IS SWEET 16: Yes, his locker stall is up and running with a quick strip-of-tape job and STOJAKOVIC 16 displayed on the shelf. More help is needed and it's coming, too, though Peja Stojakovic sat this one out. He has some "knee irritation,'' could be ready for Thursday's home game against the Rockets, but here spent most of his time joking on the bench with DeShawn Stevenson.
Oh, and while Peja didn't officially get traded for Alexis Ajinca, they have traded AAC lockers. ‘Lex's old stomping grounds is now PejaLand.
A NAKED CARDINAL: As Dirk and Jet were discussing their Super Bowl-related charitable work for Big Brothers, Big Sisters (the bidding for a suite at Cowboys Stadium began at $17,000 by a certain Steelers fan named Brad Davis), Brian Cardinal came plodding through the media pack.
"Geez, Cardinal, put on some clothes,'' said Dirk, and indeed, Cardinal was naked enough – er, naked too much. "Nobody deserves to have to see that.''
THE HOLE: The Mavs looked to be in need of some sort of boost through a first half in which they experienced their poorest defensive numbers of the year. The Mavs allowed 62 points on 67.6-percent shooting) and were behind 62-54.
"That is an unacceptable number for a team that has high aspirations,'' Carlisle said.
But Dallas turned the tables in the third, outscoring LAC 27-16 in the period while altering its strategy by double-teaming Griffin at most every opportunity.
"They started bringing the double-team,'' said Griffin. "This is something I'll learn from. … So even though it's tough to take a loss like that, and it's tough to have a game like that, the good thing is that there's always something you can improve on.''
The Education of Griffin is a real thing, mentioned in both locker rooms. Yeah, so for now, let's enjoy the Mavs' eight-game home winning streak against the Clippers while it lasts.
There's no denying the drawing-card appearance of Griffin, the University of Oklahoma product who was the NBA's top pick a year ago before missing all season due to a broken left kneecap. Griffin, 21, is therefore a second-year pro but nevertheless eligible for the Rookie of the Year award – just one of the many interesting sidebars that are part of the Griffin Experience. … and it was a highlight-reel experience for three quarters as he totaled 21 points – but just one more point in the decisive fourth quarter.
"I thought we got stagnant offensively, which affected our defense,'' LAC coach Vinny Del Negro said. "And then it snowballed from there.''
How it worked by the numbers: After allowing the Clippers to shoot 12-of-17 and 11-of-17 in the first and second quarters respectively, the Mavs would hold them to 6-of-19 in the third … when the game changed.
Los Angeles would hit 55.7 percent of their shots for the night, but could not overcome the defensive burst from the Mavs in the third.
A BREAK FOR T.Y.: The double-team and the stagnation gave important help to the foul-prone Tyson Chandler on defense on the same night when he exploded on offense for his highest-scoring game of the year. Some upfront defensive help also arrived in the form of Shawn Marion, who overcame a poor start to contribute 10 points and 10 rebounds. And Chandler's work took some of the edge off of Griffin's first-ever game at the AAC.
And what about Big Wood!
Chandler backup Brendan Haywood demonstrated a higher-than-usual level of emotional investment when he took on Griffin. Big Wood played 24 minutes (to Chandler's 17, with Ian Mahinmi getting nine as both a 4 and a 5) and battled for a trio of blocks – and that flagrant foul while throwing Griffin around.
Tyson was 5-of-5 from the floor and 11-of-11 from the line. Big Wood didn't put up those sort of numbers but instead did it with muscle.
"I was excited for him,'' said Chandler of Big Wood. "I think this was one of Brendan's best games. The defense he played against Blake was great. He got physical and that was a huge game for him.''
Together, for one night, they (along with "The Ianimal'') justified Carlisle's belief in what he calls his "1-2-3 Punch'' at center.
NO MORE QUICKSAND?: Dirk Nowitzki, stepping from a wave that delivered him to Tuesday night having both struggled with his shot over the past three games (to the tune of 32.7 percent) and nail a game-winner against the Nets, started slow and finished … resting.
Dirk would not get his first made field goal until 2:09 remained on the clock in the second quarter, and he'd finish with the aforementioned unspectacular 20 points on 6-of-15 attempts.
Perhaps, unspectacular only because there was no need to be otherwise … and it is a compliment to Dirk that, for him, 20 points can be labeled as such.
But here's the good news: Scrapes and cuts and missed shots, yes. Quicksand? No. The quicksand seems to be drying up.
JJB'S TURNAROUND: This is JJB's night. Can we crunch some JJB numbers?
With the Clippers up by as much as 15 in the first half, Barea decided to burrow into the paint and refuse to let the game get out of hand, scoring 16 in the second quarter alone. (Jet's not exaggerating when he says Barea is the guy who kept this from being a 20-points-plus deficit.)
Beyond the paint, Barea continued to distance himself from the painful early-season numbers behind the arc by hitting 3-of-4 from distance. Over his last 14 games, he has now hit 19-of-34 of his three-point attempts, a very impressive 55.9 percent.
"I was struggling at the beginning of the season and my teammates and the coaches kept encouraging me and told me to just keep shooting that they would eventually go in," JJB said, "so, I just kept working hard at it and finally it has been going in lately."
Barea totaled four assists. As notable as these stats may be the fact that he also finished with zero turnovers.
JET'S AUDIENCE: Jason Terry would score 14 of his season-high 28 points in the fourth quarter. You can catch a glimpse of this from home, but there's something inspiring in nature of the crowd's reaction to Terry.
Clearly, Jet knows how to play to an audience, but it's something beyond that. When the ball finds him open behind the arc in crucial moments, and it becomes clear a shot is to come, almost every butt in the house begins to lift from the seats of the AAC in anticipation of the celebration to come.
Yes, this can be said of many of the biggest shots, but there's something different in the aura of the moment when it's Terry or Dirk about to release the ball. It's not unique to them, but it's a thrill to witness none-the-less.
Almost as fun: Jason Terry in the postgame locker room:
SEASON BESTS: The Mavs totaled two season highs as a team, with 63 bench points and by forcing 23 turnovers.
And a Clippers low – reminiscent of the "old Clippers'': They totaled more turnovers (7) than field goals (6) in the third quarter.
MAVSELLANEOUS: Tim Grgurich is a semi-legendary NBA assistant coach who did some work with the Mavs early in the season in a sort of unofficial capacity. He was back on the bench on Tuesday. ... … Worth noting: LAC is also without the injured Chris Kaman. … The Clippers have accumulated the second-most turnovers in the NBA. What is funny is that the guy who should be in charge of those dual departments (veteran leadership so the team survives on the road and controlling turnovers) is none other than Baron Davis. Unfortunately something less than a stabilizing force, apparently. … Eric Gordon -- a key LAC piece averaging 24 points per and averaging 20 per in three career games at the AAC – is expected to miss three weeks with his wrist problem. … In his stead, LAC went with Randy Foye, who scored 15. … Griffin truly is a "freak,'' a combination of smooth skills, interior power and skywalking explosiveness. He just couldn't do it alone for his 17-27 Clippers.
The Clippers would do their best to make it interesting in the final minute, clearly to the frustration of Rick Carlisle, coming as close as six, but there were no need for late heroics. … Behind a 31-12 run to close the third and open the fourth, the Mavs built a lead as large as 17 and put the game out of reach. … While we love the fact that Carlisle stood up for his player, it's hard not to wish it had been a player on the court in his place -- and before you ask, DeShawn Stevenson was not in the game at the time. We're not saying the circumstances could have allowed that to happen, only that it would have been nice. … For the first time since Feb. of 2009, the Mavs had four players score at least 20 points: Terry (28), Barea (25), Chandler (21) and Dirk (20). … Shawn Marion finished with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. His dunks were momentum-grabbers -- in fact, Shawn deserves some face time (even with the football writers!)
GRIFFIN FILM: Blake Griffin would finish with 22 points and 11 rebounds, but most of this (12 points and five rebounds) came in the first quarter. If you're wondering how allowing a guy to total 22 and 11 is keeping him quiet, consider that it was 10 and six over the final three quarters.
So, how'd they adjust? The double-team, yes.
But we're going to want to go back to DB.com HQ and watch this film. Because we think what Dallas actually did was show a circle of three Mavs
making sure it wouldn't be Griffin killing them.
THE LAST WORD: You can get the entire McKinneyDentist.com Quoteboard right here … but here's a sampler:
"If you have to score 112 to win, that's not the formula that's going to get it done for us when it really counts,'' Carlisle said of his team, which moves to 29-15. "We got to do better, yet I'm very happy with the win.''