THE PENDULUM SWING: With the result riding a pendulum's swing back and forth in the fourth quarter, two players stepped up and shouldered the offensive loads for their respective teams. And, just as we all predicted, it was … JJ Barea and Samuel Dalembert.
WHY THE MAVS CANNOT STAND PAT: We spoke to a high-placed Mavericks source on Wednesday night before Mavs-at-Kings tipoff to gauge the "heating-up'' of Mavericks trade discussions.
Is there a deal to do right now?
"Not even close,'' we were told.
Having said that …
Is the bench there? Yes. The Mavs won in Sacramento with Jason Terry and J.J. Barea combining for 42 bench points, just as on Monday against Cleveland backups Shawn Marion and Ian Mahinmi helped fuel one of this team's 10th straight wins.
Is the record there? Yes. At 37-15, only the Spurs (44), Boston and Miami (38) have more victories.
So with the trade deadline just two weeks ago, can the Mavs stand pat? No.
There are not deals to be done today. But there will be. And the Mavs are so close … and yet at the same time winning games against awful teams by margins that are so close … that the Mavs must end up being aggressive buyers when the store doors truly open for business.
Dallas downed the Kings for the seventh consecutive time, victimizing a young Sacramento team that couldn't make plays down the stretch the way Dirk/Chandler/Kidd so consistently do. This was a game reminiscent of the one the Mavs won Monday, when the awful Cavaliers dropped their record 25 th consecutive game … but just barely, on a last-second failure than meant a 99-96 Dallas win.
So Dallas was three points better than the eight-win Cavs and two points better than the 12-win Kings. It's not that the Mavs aren't also capable of beating teams like the Heat, the Spurs, the Celtics and the Lakers – indeed, when Dirk is the lineup, the Mavericks are a remarkable 6-0 against those powerhouses. And while John Trollinger doesn't dig the following fact, we love it: Dallas is now 15-6 this season in games decided by five points or less.
Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd and Rick Carlisle can do that for a team.
Meanwhile, we're puzzled at old friend Paul Westphal's evaluation.
The reason the Mavericks cannot stand pat is because they possess the assets that make doing so unnecessary. … because they are so close to being so good.
When Dallas is healthy, Dallas is a powerhouse. Little-known fact: With Nowitzki and Chandler together in the lineup this season, the Mavs are now 34-6. Even with the ups and downs of injuries (including Dirk's missing games, the season-ending knee surgery of Caron Butler and the season-long absence of Rodrigue Beaubois, hoping to make his debut this week) Dallas has had winning streaks of 12 and now 10. This marks only the second time in the franchise's history with two winning streaks of at least eight games in the same season.
But there is a fool's gold hint here: As we noted on Monday, the only other time Dallas was so positively streaky was in the now-infamous 2006-07, 67-win campaign, where they would have five such runs, including 8-, 9-, 12-, 13- and 17-game streaks. … and then a No. 1 seed that meant nothing when they were ingloriously upset by No. 8 seed Golden State.
And there is an opportunity here. Yes, Dallas can play with the Lakers and Spurs and whomever. That's been the case for a decade.
But the goal isn't to be able to play "with'' them, is it?
With assets like Butler's $10.6 million expiring contract, DeShawn Stevenson's $4.1 million expiring and promising youngster Beaubois, there is little reason – short of the all-important ability to find a trade partner, of course -- to stand pat. (Indeed, failing to use Butler in some fashion, it could be argued, would be an unwise management of assets.)
At DallasBasketball.com, we're broken information and broken down details on the Mavs' thoughts and abilities regarding acquisitions from Carmelo Anthony to Tayshaun Prince to everyone in between. The time for the Mavs – and for the employers of players like that – to perform some serious self-evaluation is just now coming.
There are ways for this team to win without making a change, or with simply considering the unveiling of Roddy B as "the big acquisition.'' They do find ways, as was the case in Sacramento, where Barea scored 14 fourth-quarter points, where Kidd has control with 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists, where Chandler had 13 points … all of which was enough to overcome Dirk's paltry 10-point effort as he played with a sore wrist.
But there are better ways. Easier ways. Trade-deadline ways.
Four games now remain before the All-Star Break. This run can continue.
Two weeks now remain before the NBA's Feb. 24 trade deadline. The Mavs' run of making blockbuster deals – they've done so in two of the last three seasons – should go on as well.
EXIT THE DOJO: There is nothing funny about rookie guard Dominique Jones' stress fracture in his right foot. The kid was working hard, had dominated play during his D-League stint (18.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and five assists in his 10 games in Frisco) and had in recent months tempered his healthy confidence with some equally healthy humility.
"Those bus rides in the D-League, those are there to teach you lessons,'' DoJo told DallasBasketball.com the other day.
Carlisle said DoJo's hard work is what caused the injury, which he said, "I believe (is) the right fifth metatarsal. It's significant, but I can't give you to what degree or a timetable.''
Well, given our most recent experience with "the fifth metatarsal,'' wouldn't a guess at a timetable be, oh, five months?
COQUI, JJB!: Is it becoming a trend?
With Dirk Nowitzki clearly off his game (more on that below) JJ Barea scored 15 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, while making six of his eight shots, including 2-of-3 behind the three-point line, and willed his team to victory.
Seeing Barea's name fill this role may come as only a light surprise. Seeing the opposing offensive duelist as Samuel Dalembert glows much brighter. Over an almost two-minute stretch 14 total points were scored. Seven came from Barea. Seven from Dalembert. Where Barea scored 15 in the final period, Dalembert posted 12 of his Barea-matching 20.
In what has become known as Jason Terry's stage, Barea stole the scene and continued his stellar play of late. If every Mavs player didn't find him after the game, share a hug and thank him for the win … they should have.
Over the last nine games, all wins, Barea has averaged 14.3 points, 3.1 assists and 1.3 turnovers (including zero against the Kings), all while hitting 56.8 percent of his total shots, and 50 percent of his threes.
They kept giving me the ball and it kept working out," said Barea. "I love it. I love having the ball in my hands and making things happen."
If nothing else, he's making a great case to deny a loss in minutes to the soon-to-return Roddy Beaubois.
JJB'S RUNNING BUDDY: You know how we hate the 3-PG Attack, but …
Just because Barea played the leading role doesn't mean Jason Terry didn't have a significant part.
With 2:10 left in the game and the Mavs down one, it was Terry who drained a three to put Dallas up for good, just as it was the Jet who calmly nailed a pair of clinching free throws with four seconds remaining to push the lead from two to four.
Terry finished with a game-high 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
Dallas is 11-1 when Jet scores at least 20 points
DIRK'S WRIST: As he did in the second half against Cleveland, Dirk Nowitzki wore black tape around his right, and shooting, wrist. He's admitted to soreness, and there was a clear passivity to his offensive game for the majority of the night, as evidenced by the fact that he didn't collect his first points until the 8:48 mark of the second quarter on only his third shot.
If watching the game didn't convince you that the wrist might be a factor, the results may. The UberMan would finish with 10 points (a season-low for a game he finished) while hitting only four of his 14 shot attempts.
Given what we've been shown this season, it would appear the only defense capable of slowing Dirk is his own health. Unless we hear otherwise, we'll trust this is only soreness and will pass … we only hope that it does so quickly.
PEJA'S HOUSE – BRICK BY BRICK: At shootaround, Sefko notes, Arco Arena (soon to be called Power Balance Pavilion after that bracelet company) was labeled by Dirk Nowitzki "The House That Peja Built.''
Well, as they say in basketball parlance, Peja the shooter is indeed building house – brick-by-brick.
The Mavs newcomer was once again in the starting lineup and once again played 20 minutes with no apparent problem with his balky knees. But he made just 1-of-7 shots and missed all three trey attempts. Add it up and the former King's two-game totals in Dallas are a less-than-regal 4-of-16 shooting with 1-of-9 from the arc.
Other than the final offensive possession, where his elite free-throw shooting stood as an asset when an intentional foul was sure to come from the Kings, none of those 20 minutes came in the fourth quarter.
One thing is clear when watching Peja shoot: he is ever so slightly off, but off just the same. For the night, he was 1-of-7 for four points, though he did add four rebounds, five assists and one steal.
Given the length of his time away from the court, we'll chalk this up to little more than rust. There remains a beauty to his release and the arc of the ball, but the aim is only a fraction off.
With time, there's no reason to believe he won't find his rhythm and those shots so close to falling now will find their way through the net.
And the bricks will cease being laid.
Whatever problems we have had closing games, that was not evident tonight," the Kings coach and former Mavs said. "We did everything that you need to
win a game and came up short against a great team that did a little bit more to win the game."
For fun, let's see how the other half lives as Westphal talks about Dallas' "great team'':
Paul, what game did you watch, brother? Anyway, more QUOTEBOARD coming to the front page in a bit ...
WHO DESERVES THE DIRKIE?: You vote here! The Player of the Game is up for grabs and the Player of the Game gets "The Dirkie''!
More of what everybody is saying about everything in McKinneyDentist.com Quoteboard!
MAVSELLANEOUS: .The Dallas bench that scored 60 points on Monday against Cleveland was good for 58 points here … The Mavs are now 26-1 when scoring 100-plus points … The late-game double-T's called on Chandler and Cousins for wrasslin' was critical as it was Cousins' second. He was ejected and the wrasslin' prevented him from snaring an offensive rebound, too. More on that below. … Just as big? After a Mavs stop, the Kings were down four with plenty of seconds to play and coach Paul Westphal couldn't quite make his young fellas understand that with a foul to give, they needed to hammer a couple of Mavs and fast. Instead they hammered Terry, and slow, and he went to the line and iced it, putting Dallas up four with four seconds remaining. … Peja's five dimes tied Kidd in that category. … Big Wood responded to a Monday DNP with a Wednesday six-point/four-rebound four-minute stint in the first quarter. … Dallas is 8-3 on the first game of a b2b and is on the plane to chilly Denver as we write this in chilly Dallas …
CENTERS OF ATTENTION: At least in the first quarter, you had to love what you saw from Brendan Haywood. He was the first, and only, big man to spell Tyson Chandler, and made an immediate impact on the game.
Within his first four minutes of action he already had six points and four rebounds, including three offensive boards. He appeared energized, motivated and ready to be the player we all know he is capable of being.
Chandler would also start the game well, being the first Dallas player to reach double-figures in scoring.
Though they couldn't stop him from getting his points or rebounds, the duo would eventually frustrate DeMarcus Cousins (19 points, 15 rebounds) to the point of drawing two technical fouls and earning a disqualification from the contest with an important 47 seconds to go. That second tech came while wrestling with Chandler for the rebound after a Kings' free-throw attempt, after some time of increasingly chippy, physical play between the two.
In the first half, Chandler and Haywood would combine for 18 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Unfortunately, this pace could not be sustained, as they would only add two points and three rebounds to those totals in the second half.
However, Chandler would be there waiting with help defense on what may have been the game's deciding play with the Mavs up two and 12 seconds to play, when he stood his ground and forced Tyreke Evans to adjust his shot in the paint, thus allowing Jason Kidd to alter it further and cause the ball to find nothing but air.
After one of his best games in a Mavs uniform, Ian Mahinmi did not see the court. While a big part of this likely came due to Haywood's strong start, it may also be Carlisle keeping the young center from a tough matchup with a much stronger player in Cousins.
SPRINT TO THE HALF: The Kings sprinted from the gate and made a home in the paint, where they would score either 22 or 24 (depending on how you score a Omri Casspi shot at the side of the lane) of their 28 first-quarter points.
Due to this, Sacramento began the game hot from the floor, having hit 58.1 percent of their shots with 7:24 left in the second period. For those final seven-plus minutes of the first half, they would shoot 3-of-14 (21.4 percent).
Aided by this defensive push, the Mavs would close the half on a 29-10 run. … capped by a corner 3 at the buzzer by "The Custodian.''
THE FINAL WORD: "The Mavs don't have that one player who transcends all, a Kobe, a LeBron, a KG, or a Manu Ginobili." – Kings broadcaster Bill Walton, who was part of Grateful Dead Night at Arco Arena and must've been high on some groovy nasty shit.