WHAT GOT INTO BIG WOOD?: A loooooong time ago, Brendan Haywood found the inspiration to fight his way to a 17-rebound game against the Sixers. That was Nov. 12. A loooonger time ago, Big Wood scored 10 points in a game. That was on Halloween against the Clippers.
Last Tuesday, he was a subtle key to controlling LAC's Blake Griffin. (Subtle, anyway, until Big Wood tossed The Blake Show to the floor, injuring Griffin's elbow and thus helping Dallas just a little bit more to the win.) The stats weren't there. But the effort was.
Here, he found the inspiration again. … and he found some stats to go with it.
""Haywood was a major factor,'' Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of this game's surprising hero, who was re-signed by the Mavs to an $8.3-million-a-year deal to be the starting center before the club acquired Tyson Chandler, who is now the starter and playing at an All-Star level. "He made free throws, he got rebounds, and he gave us a physical presence under the basket.''
Haywood received huge AAC cheers at the 9:33 mark of the fourth as he fought for and won one of his five rebounds and took it to the hole, getting fouled and then making one of two FTs … That coming moments after two made FTs … that coming after a made post-up bucket …
Big Wood scored five points in the first two minutes of the final period, no small reason Dallas found itself no longer down 78-77 as was the case to start the quarter … because three minutes later it was up 87-79.
Haywood's line: 2-of-2 from the floor, 6-of-9 from the line, five boards, a steal, a block and even four fouls delivered in an energetic manner – and he was so effective that he remained on the floor for all the way to the 3:10 mark of the fourth quarter, Dallas opting to milk this for all it could before letting Tyson Chandler seal the deal.
So what got into Big Wood?
Let us show you:
That's Brendan Haywood's pregame ritual. He spends as much time on the floor as any Mav. Entry pass after entry pass, post-up move after post-up move. There is some confidence, there is some grace, and there is lots of effort.
But then, usually, the game starts. And he all too frequently reverts back to "what he knows'' – and what he knew before coming to Dallas, apparently, was undisciplined foolishness with the ball in his hand.
Maybe, just maybe, "what he knows'' is increasingly changing … and maybe, just maybe, might start carrying over from the drills to the games.
‘UNDER PRESSURE': Or maybe Brendan Haywood was inspired by the music.
Before the game, helping set the Saturday night mood was DJ Spinderella (she's famous, right?). Among the warmup songs she played: Queen's "Under Pressure.''
And Big Wood was staging an on-court Karaoke contest with himself.
"Can't we give ourselves one more chance?'' Haywood crooned, rather presciently.
Well, actually, maybe he was Karaoke'ing against Dirk, who DB.com videographer Kevin Brolan captures giving JJB the business and also mouthing another Queen hit, "Another One Bites The Dust.''
Seriously, is that the loosest MVP candidate you've ever seen?
Here, Dirk. You can talk. Just don't sing anymore.
DEFENSIVE NUGGET OF THE NIGHT: With 6:40 remaining in the first quarter, an unusual substitution: DeShawn Stevenson in for Dirk Nowitzki.
Why? The Mavs were in their zone and the Hawks – with so many versatile offensive weapons – were easily attacking vulnerable spots.
It was difficult enough for Dirk when he was forced to guard Josh Smith, the 6-9 jumping-jack who is so gifted athletically that he plays small forward but still jumped center to start the game. But when Atlanta starting running 6-5 sixth man Jamal Crawford into Dirk's defensive area, Carlisle pulled the trigger on the switch to DeShawn.
And when Dallas closed the third quarter, there was DeShawn again, playing the 3 in the same quintet with Kidd, Terry, Marion and Chandler.
Before the game, Carlisle was quizzed about whether a DeShawn slump could be tied to him having exceed the 30-minute mark in a few games. Carlisle wouldn't concede that, but did say, "DeShawn at the 3 did fine, (but) his minutes were going up and up …''
Well, he didn't get to 30. But after three quarters, he led the Mavs with 25 (and finished with 27).
And he didn't always get to play the 2, which we all prefer.
But the Mavs needed him to help curtail Atlanta's easy chase to baskets. And he did that – while playing the 3 and while serving as Dirk's caddie as a baseline defender in the zone.
AS JOE JOHNSON GOES …: The Hawks received some criticism last summer for their max-out re-signing of Joe Johnson. But as imperfect as he might be … when he didn't perform offensively for Atlanta, nobody did.
Yeah, for three quarters, the Mavs defense was merely a phantom incapable of deflecting Atlanta's forays into the paint, where they would score 20 of their 24 first quarter points, allowing the Hawks to shoot 50.8 percent through three.
But it really was coming down to one guy. Because in particular, they could not keep Joe Johnson from the rim, as he would score 25 (by our count) of his game-high 27 points in the paint.
For three quarters, the defense allowed Atlanta to stay in the game. And Joe Johnson single-handedly kept Atlanta in the game. We're big fans of Al Horford, and we've even argued that he, not Joe, is Atlanta's best player. But here, Horford played 40 minutes and scored 10 points – on a night when Dallas was allowing too many points in the paint.
A strange disappearing act from Al, who provided too little help to Joe.
The Mavs are praising Shawn Marion for the things he did defensively in this game. Let's give the microphone to The Matrix himself:
FT NUGGETS: If you've followed the Mavs for some time, it's likely you've muttered the phrase "this team needs someone besides Dirk that can attack the rim and create offense on his own." Well, you may have worded it differently, but the thought isn't a new one.
During the Fox Sports Southwest broadcast, our DB.com colleague Mark Followill noted that Tyson Chandler had taken at least 10 free throws in consecutive games (prior to Saturday night), and was the first Mav to do so since Devin Harris in 2005.
Taking Followill's stat a step further and doing some digging: No Dallas player has exceeded these criteria since Dirk's rookie season in 1999-2000, other than Dirk. Meaning, since Nowitzki's rookie campaign, no other Maverick has taken 10 or more free throws beyond back-to-back games.
Since the 2005-06 season a Mavs player has taken 10-plus free throws in at least two consecutive games 22 times. Twenty of them have been Dirk.
RODDY B ‘UNTOUCHABLE'?: We wrote this at this time a year ago. We wrote it again last summer when Dallas was flirting with the idea of chasing Joe Johnson, who ended up re-signing with the Hawks. And I suppose we have to write it again now, even though, as Tim MacMahon notes, this is simply Mark Cuban reiterating his oft-repeated stance.
The Mavs don't want to trade Rodrigue Beaubois. OK, every GM in the league … did you hear that?
Of course, that stand is preposterous when it elevates to "untouchable'' level. There are dozens and dozens and dozens of players the Mavs would swap Roddy B for … though Cuban's words are safe because there aren't dozens and dozens and dozens of players who are going to be subjected to being involved in such a decision.
At least Cuban did issue a caveat.
Roddy B is "untradeable,'' the owner said, "with a few exceptions."
No, we're not going to fan the flame of "untradeable'' talk. But if you want to take Cuban's comment as wanting to be part of a Carmelo Anthony ‘Melodrama, you would be correct.
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: Credit this one to our man Chuck Cooperstein, who notes that it was on Dec. 11 when Dirk Nowitzki grabbed his last offensive rebound.
Part of that is his role in the offensive, of course. And it speaks to his work as a perimeter player. But as a 7-footer who famously "made himself into an NBA rebounder,'' as Nellie used to say (adding that he'd never seen anyone do that before because rebounders are generally born with it) …you'd think Dirk would accidentally grab one.
Blame the sprained knee? Sure, but that happened on Dec. 27. This offensive-rebound-less streak bridges time before and after the injury.
Dirk nevertheless put up some numbers here as he finished 8-of-11 for 19 points (12 of those in the first half), with four assists, one steal, one block and six rebounds … all of them, of course, on the defensive end.
Also of note: He seemed to get his minutes (33 total) in smaller chunks.
We're playing him in relatively short stretches, but he's going all-out in those stretches and that's part of the process of getting back,'' Carlisle said. "He gets closer and closer to getting back to where he was and it's encouraging."
DIRK HEALTH UPDATE: While it may just be another step, it was great to see Dirk looking healthier than he has since returning from the knee injury that kept him out a career-high nine games. Beyond the return to a high level of efficiency and the full boxscore, there was the return of grace to his shot.
This may not be the grace that earns players time on the highlight reels, but is a grace that yields a beautiful fluidity from the shoulders up and through his shot, whether it is the One-Legged-Euro-Fade-Away or an aggressive move to the rim.
Regardless of any awkward movements from the waist down, the static is cleared in the arms and the ball comes free with clean elegance.
"The knee is almost 100 percent,'' Dirk said, "It was tough to work my way back into it. … It's encouraging and I'll get healthy soon.''
THE SASHA SITUATION: We heard wildly different pregame versions of what the Mavs planned to do with Sasha Pavlovic now that his second 10-day contract is expiring.
One source said the Mavs' "family'' attitude might cause them to retain him (unless he totally stunk up the joint). Sasha and his teammates have quickly bonded.
Another staffer suggested that Sasha's presence is redundant on the roster as long as Peja is healthy … but when is that going to be? Yet, don't you always need shooters?
And then there was a third considered option: If you keep him, you commit to guaranteeing his half-season salary (of the vet's minimum of about $1.2
million) … so does the organization simply lean toward making a money decision (knowing that at some later date, if needed, they could probably call on
"I'm starting him," coach Rick Carlisle said before the game, "so I think that pretty much says what I think."
Pavlovic's performance wasn't of the stink-it-up variety. But it appears Mark Cuban overruled the coach.
Sasha was released after the game, but left with the appreciation of his teammates, who cheered him (and probably cheered him up) after his odd day …
starting an NBA game at 7:35 and being released two-and-a-half hours later.
We're told, by the way, that Sasha's release shouldn't be taken as a sign of readiness of Peja (see below) or a sign that Roddy B is ready to step up (though that might be close) and certainly not an endorsement of the idea kicked around regarding a Joe Alexander call-up (an angle we're all over in our weekly reports from Down on The Farm.) Maybe Steve Novak for a 10-day? Maybe nobody?
KEITH GRANT FOR 30: In a truly classy moment, the Mavs stopped down at halftime for a "Congratulations on 30 Years Night'' acknowledgement of assistant GM Keith Grant.
Grant has seen it all here, and is respected league-wide for his work alongside Donnie Nelson – and of course his work even pre-dating Nelson … which is why the men who joined him on the floor included Norm Sonju, Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson, Ro Blackman, Brad Davis, Rick Sund and, for a moment, Dirk Nowitzki, who gave Grant a hug that caused the unflappable Grant to tear up for just a second.
Classy guy. Classy moment.
MCKINNEYDENTIST.COM QUOTEBOARD: Who said what? We've got it all right here on DB.com, including this:
After the game, Tyson Chandler was asked to put into words "the difference in the game.''
"Brendan Haywood,'' TY said succinctly.
More TY? We are at your service, Dear Mavs Premium Member:
MAVSELLANEOUS: How can you not like The Matrix? After the game, while other players were tossing towels and wristbands into the crowd (which is nice and all), Shawn Marion took off his shoes and handed them to a kid.. … After Tyson Chandler apparently hurt his left hand in the first half, but it was nothing serious. … When the Mavs score 100, they are 21-1… Josh Smith fouled out with 5:41 remaining and Dallas up 92-82. Maybe Larry Drew shoulda saved him up a bit? … While the Mavs were winning No. 31, the hated Spurs were winning No. 40 … Dallas has now won 19 of the last 25 meetings with Atlanta and has completed this year's sweep. … The Mavs would open the deciding frame with a 14-to-1 run to build a lead they would sustain by allowing the Hawks to hit only 4-of-15 shots (26.7 percent) for the quarter. … The Mavs are taking today off from practice … We were hopeful of a four-game sweep of this homestand and now rolling into town for a Monday visit, the Washington Wizards, who enter the weekend with ZERO road victories. That's right. No zero for the calendar year. Zero for the season.
CARLISLE PREACHING ‘UNSELFISHNESS': He's pushed it since camp. It's catching.
"We moved the ball well,'' the coach said. "I think that's one of the characteristics of our team; we're unselfish. When we move it good, good things happen.''
When we listen to Coach, more good things happen. So let's listen:
WHO DESERVES THE ‘DIRKIE'?: At the AAC, Jason Terry was named "Player of the Game'' for his first double-double of the season, 18 points and 11 assists..
But that's not "official official.'' As far as DB.com is concerned, "The Dirkie'' is official … because YOU vote right here!
By the way, Jet. … nothing personal. We want your thoughts on all this.
FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHT: A Friday night fracas in the Knicks-Hawks game landed Atlanta's Marvin Williams in NBA jail. He was suspended for this game (and another) for fighting with former cup-o-coffee Mav Shawne Williams of the Knicks.
"It's a loss for them,'' Carlisle said. "But they're deep. I don't think it's that big of a hit for (the short-term.)''
Atlanta is deep. But at this moment, Dallas gets to compliment itself in the same way. Four straight wins, five wins in six outings, and back-to-back games with seven guys scoring in double-figures … and while there won't be a Caron coming, they will have Roddy B back and they will experience Peja Vu.
"Deep'' isn't the same as "great,'' not for either of these 30-wins teams. But they are deep.
PEJA VU: Stojakovic continues to push himself in workouts but a combination of a need for improved conditioning along with some knee soreness continues to keep him in street clothes.
We mean, we guess that's it.
Carlisle noted that the newest Mav – well, a Mav in name, anyway -- Peja Stojakovic -- is unlikely to make the trip when Dallas heads out on the road after Monday's contest with the Washington Wizards. This would mean we are unlikely to see Peja on the court in a Mavs uniform any earlier than Feb. 7 in Dallas against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Per Carlisle, this is to allow Stojakovic to regain his conditioning.
Per us, a possible added bonus, this would also allow for a favorable matchup in his first game's matchup … something the Cavs should provide.
THE BIG WOOD DOWNSIDE: OK, we've waited long enough. Here goes.
Why can't we see this more often, Big Wood? Like, every night?
There may have been no player with a bigger role in the fourth quarter turnaround than Brendan Haywood, where he would score seven of his 10 total points and grab four of his five total rebounds.
There were multiple occasions when his play brought the bench from their chairs to stand cheering down the stretch.
And as noted above: Beyond the stats, which were good, was the clear emotional investment from Haywood, as well as a high level of energy. And that rarity of seeing him hit 6-of-9 free-throw attempts? That's a rarity the law of averages dictates should come.
Nights like this are both uplifting and frustrating when it comes to Haywood. It lifts us as a reminder of the talent we all know he has, of the skills that earned him his contract and praise such as "the best center in Mavericks history."
However, it also serves to prompt frustration … frustration on why we don't see this every night, or at least with greater consistency.
It was kinda funny after the game, as DB.com videographer Kevin Brolan was in the media pack waiting on Haywood and saw Brendan peek his head into the locker room, observe the crowd near his locker, and decline to visit.
There was later a statement from Haywood, apparently collected by the Mavs PR staff:
"I just take it one game at a time and try to move forward,'' Big Wood said. "I'm starting to understand what I'm asked to do out there, and I'm feeling more comfortable.''
That's all we ask, Big Wood … keep "starting to understand'' … and then do it more than a couple of times a month.
B2B BLUES: If you are a Mavs fan, you kept waiting for the B2B Blues to set in on an Atlanta team that worked its way to a 111-102 home win over the Knicks just a night ago.
But the grind didn't affect them early; Atlanta shot 57 percent in the first quarter and Joe Johnson (a 34-point scorer on Friday) was 6-of-8 for 12 points. And it didn't affect them through three, as the Hawks held that 78-77 lead.
But it affected them eventually.
With 1:20 remaining in the game, the Hawks team that had 49 through two and 78 through three had scored just 10 fourth-quarter points. Atlanta was outscored 25-13 in the final period, that 13 allowed Dallas' second fewest permitted in the fourth this season.
It took until the 6:35 mark of the fourth before Atlanta even scored a basket. Half-a-quarter, no buckets.
Well, that and Dallas running off to a 14-1 advantage to start the quarter. That'll do it, too.
SEVEN ON SEVEN: For the second consecutive game, seven Dallas players finished in double digits scoring. A model of balance, there was: Dirk Nowitzki (19), Jason Terry (18), Tyson Chandler (12), Jason Kidd (12), DeShawn Stevenson (11), Brendan Haywood (10) and Shawn Marion (10).
The Mavs are now 9-0 when at least six players reach double digits in scoring.
THE FINAL WORD: It's about spreading it around," Terry said. "Offensively, guys are penetrating in and it's beautiful. Coach Carlisle told us it's a beautiful thing to watch when you see guys move the ball the way we do. He said there's probably only two teams that do it in this league, and it's us and San Antonio. It's the reason for our success."