BIG MARGIN, BUT …: Rick Carlisle predicted a bit of rust could be evident early in the game as the Dallas Mavericks players shook off the time away for the All-Star Break. Quickly, this prediction came to fruition.
In the first 10 minutes of play the Mavs tallied eight turnovers, on their way to an ugly 19 for the night, and ended the first quarter down three, 26-23.
Said Dirk Nowitzki: "It wasn't pretty there in the first quarter. What really hurt us the most were the turnovers. We were just not quite as sharp as we wanted to be."
Fortunately, though the turnovers continued to plague them, the results would change.
RODDY B FREE: Once again, Roddy Beaubois got the start at shooting guard. And, once again we saw what we both expected and hoped for as he endures the early realms of his return from extended time away with a foot injury.
There are the moments of brilliance … such as a pretty two-on-one break beside Jason Kidd created by a Roddy B steal and concluding with a brisk pass from Kidd for an easy lay-in … the quick to arrive fatigue, and the mistakes so often present in young players … such as a foul collected when trying to fight through a screen too aggressively.
Pick-and-roll defense continues to be a problem, but a problem only time can heal. Yet, we continue to see more than enough to ensure that the flashes we saw last year were not a mirage, but the peripheral glimpses of a true and deep talent.
Roddy B would finish with 10 points, four assists, one steal and two turnovers in 22 minutes. And then we let him speak about it.
THAT KILLER INSTINCT: Much discussed. Rarely accomplished.
Except this time.
After the first quarter, the Mavs outscored the Jazz 95-73, including 59-44 in the second half.
Owner Mark Cuban had noted the fact that Dallas was not finishing off opponents. Instead, the Mavs were allowing big leads to dissolve into tight contests. Carlisle talked about the same problem, and addressed it with the team, having noted the day before that "(Cuban) is tired of us blowing big leads, our players are tired of it, our coaches are tired of it.''
The Mavs finished with their largest margin of victory for the season (19 points, previous high was 16). The message was received and a killer instinct embraced.
Rather than toying with a wounded Utah team, playing without Deron Williams or their incoming players (Devin Harris and Derrick Favors), the Mavs traced the scent of blood to the source and with a 40-22 run after the game had been tied at 63 in the third quarter put to rest any hopes the Jazz may have continued to clutch at.
NOW, TO THAT D-WILL TALK: Mavs players certainly know what Utah was missing with Deron on the bus outta town. In his last seven games in Dallas, The Colony's favorite NBA son averaged 26.1 points and 8.5 assists and shot 46.5 from the floor and 48.4 from 3-point range.
What some players (very privately wanted to know): Why didn't the Mavericks get Deron?
The truth lies in two places.
One, the expediency with which New Jersey and Utah did this deal. A few Mavs suits told us they'd never seen a deal of such magnitude done with so little fanfare. We are told it was an early Wednesday phone conversation between NJ and Utah and a few hours later, it was done. And yes, Mavs HQ knew what was going on, but …
Two, the blockbuster nature of NJ's offer. Favors and Devin and two No. 1's? The Mavericks couldn't compete with that. Nor could Portland. Nor could anybody. It wasn't even worth Utah's time to give callbacks to Dallas and Portland once the NJ offer was presented.
Dallas was and is looking for smart ways to use Caron Butler's expiring deal. … to put further distance between them and the teams below them … and to find ways to gain advantages on SA and LA, too.
There is this argument, though: At 41-6, does Dallas HAVE to do something?
The Jazz certainly missed Williams' numbers (he's averaging 21.3 points and 9.7 assists per). But under any circumstance, Utah was going to have a difficult time matching the boxscore-fillers in Dallas. And maybe a lot of teams will.
Consider Tyson Chandler's 12 rebounds and Jason Kidd's 12 assists and what the Mavs do against winning teams – they are 21-9 against foes over .500 – and they seem to be part of the creation a major gap between the "haves'' and the "have-nots'' (or at least the "second-tier'') teams of the West.
San Antonio, Dallas and the Lakers? Contenders. Oklahoma City? Maybe so. (OKC is really the benefactor of the Moves Back East.)
Teams like Phoenix, Denver and Utah, having in recent months stripped themselves of players like Amare Stoudemire, Anthony and Williams? They are setting up the possibility of lots of first-round blowouts in the Western Conference Playoffs.
As much as we don't want to see The Caron Coupon wasted, Dallas as presently constructed does seem prepared to take advantage.
"It was a little different,'' Haywood said of a Williams-less Jazz team. "We are used to Deron being out there. He was a big part of what they do. But, at the end of the day, we can't feel sorry for them. We have to handle our business … And we did that tonight."
And maybe they can do that starting in late April, too.
For the moment, though, a bunch of Mavs players let themselves dream about doing something BIG now. Something with Deron. And in that sense, maybe players ARE just like fans.
PEJA PRAISE: Peja Stojakovic is improving with almost every passing appearance. In only 23 minutes he would efficiently reach 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-5 behind the arc.
We preached patience when his shot arrived in Dallas with its aim ever so slightly off. Now, though patience may still be required, there's plenty of pleasure to be found in the beauty of those jumpers gracefully finding their target. We watch him at practice, making 39 treys in a row … it encourages us to assume that when he's open in games – and with the way Dallas spreads the floor with shooters, he often is – he'll make ‘em.
Over the last four games, Peja is averaging 15.5 points while hitting 59 percent if his field-goal attempts, and 54.5 percent of those from three-point land.
Effectively (or statistically), for four games, he is replacing the offense lost with Caron Butler's absence. Yes, he remains an inferior defender. Utah's bullish 4-men were able to succeed against him inside.
But all Dallas needs him to there is hold down the fort … and wait until he gets the ball at the other end.
Said Rick: "Peja is a top-five- or six- shooter, you could argue, of all-time. So, if we can get him looks, there's going to be a great chance that he's going to knock them down.''
The Peja Presser:
DIRK GLIDES PAST CLYDE: Dirk Nowitzki quietly led the Mavs in scoring, but never truly had to exert himself. He would lead the starters in minutes played, but was still only needed for 31 minutes of action.
Like "hearts and thoughts," memories of the wrist and knee injuries continue to fade away (forgive the Pearl Jam reference). In their wake, elite efficiency has returned. Dirk finished with 23 points on 9-of-15 shots, and added seven rebounds.
*In the third quarter, with 7:46 on the clock, Dirk would reach 18 points for the night. This was significant because it moved him past Clyde Drexler into sole possession of the 23 spot in the NBA's all-time scoring list. Next up: Kevin Garnett.
THE MINUTES MEASURE: Outside of Dirk's 31 minutes, no Mavs player would total more than 27 minutes … another reward delivered by holding a lead.
As DB.com's Kevin Brolan points out, the best measure of whether Dallas had a particular game in the bag is Jason Kidd's minutes.
Jason Kidd's minutes here? Along with his 12 assists, he registered 27 minutes.
BIG WOOD SPEAKS!: Before tipoff, there was Brendan Haywood – the subject of a Mike Miller/Miami trade rumor that we cannot quite make sense of (more momentarily) – dancing in the huddle with Cuban. Some sort of tribute-to-the-‘90's move. (It was, after all, ("90's Night'' at the gym).
Owner and player certainly didn't act as if they were closing in on being owner and ex-player.
And then came game time. Big Wood continued a nice little string of games by having his third consecutive strong performance, which led to the backup center's second double-double in those three contests. Over this three-game span he has averaged 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds a night.
Like every other Mav, he was not effective in slowing down Al Jefferson (30 points, eight rebounds), but again played with controlled aggression and consistent attention.
He finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes. Add this to seven points and 10 rebounds for Tyson Chandler (who also had a season-high five turnovers), and the duo came very close to their early season goal of combining for 20/20 each night, with a combined 19 points and 20 rebounds.
THE SECOND WAVE: Shawn Marion continues to soar beneath the radar while greatly impacting the final results. He would total 16 points on 6-of-9 field-goal attempts to go with six rebounds and his eternally proficient defense.
Much like Jason Terry before him, Marion continues to set the gold standard when it comes to doing whatever is asked of him for the betterment of the team. As much as any other, he stands as a symbol of players placing wins ahead of ego.
And maybe there is pride to be taken in being part of the NBA's best bench. Shawn?
Said new Utah coach Tyrone Corbin, who is now 0-4: "There are no excuses because guys are out of the lineup. We've got five guys on the floor, they play with five, and those out there on the floor have got to play the whole time they're out there. We just have to be better at finishing the game."
Yeah, coach, but the Mavericks' five is better than your five. And the Mavericks' 10, 11 and 12 is better than yours, too. Dallas, which has won eight straight at home to stake a solid claim to the No. 2 slot in the West, featured seven players in double-figures for the Mavericks.
A "calling card'' as Rick likes to say? This marks the 14th consecutive game that at least five Mavs have scored in double-figures.
Dallas is doing it with Nowitzki, of course. But on this night the Mavs also did it with help from everyone, including bench guys Marion, Jason Terry (13), JJ Barea (13) and Brendan Haywood (12 points with 10 rebounds).
Not that it's all about scoring, but the Mavs are coming at opponents in waves and here had a 55-22 edge in bench points.
QUOTEBOARD: Maybe the Jazz should be glad there isn't more "Melodrama'' surrounding this change. Carlisle referred to Carmelo Anthony's recent departure from Denver as "a circus'' and said the D-Will move leaves him "not shocked, but it's a little surprising that there wasn't a three-month drama."
Please check out McKinneyDentist.com Quoteboard after every game!
MAVSELLANEOUS: Dallas is now 30-2 when scoring 100 points, and 38-7 when both Chandler and Dirk play. … And, since we've noted their record when Chandler posts a double-double (12-3), we'll also note the fact that they are now 2-0 when Haywood reaches the same mark this season. … The departure of Williams was obviously a shock to the Utah system, which just last week accepted the resignation after 23 seasons of iconic coach Jerry Sloan. … The Mavs moved to 3-0 against Utah this year … Dallas made a season-high 58 percent of its FGs. … Dallas is 14-1 in their last 15 games, and has won eight straight at home. For the fifth straight game, they would also shoot over 50 percent with a season-high of 57.9. … The last time the Mavs hit over 50 percent of their shots in five straight games: 2004. … Jason Kidd finished with a quiet but effective five points on only three shots, 12 assists and two steals. … At one point, Kidd had 12 assists while the entire Jazz team had – yes, 12 assists. True, Devin Harris is yet to arrive, but this is simply the first of many signs to remind them of the player they lost in Deron Williams.
TRADE GAB: Assorted rumblings:
*Cuban is pissed that the league-owned New Orleans Hornets are being allowed to increase payroll by trade for Sacramento forward Carl Landry. It's an odd deal; the NBA runs the Hornets and the team is being subsidized by the other owners.
So in a sense, Mark Cuban just helped pay for the Hornets to make a trade.
"That's just wrong. That's just wrong. That's just absolutely, positively wrong,'" Cuban said. "That is so far wrong that it's not even close. …. There's so few teams in the league that can afford to do that and yet we're allowing a team that's owned by the league to do that? …I don't need to be competing economically with the league and myself.''
The problem, of course: Who do you protest to about the league's behavior? The league?
*Meanwhile, the Yahoo report that Miami wants to acquire Brendan Haywood in exchange for Mike Miller was not well-received by folks we spoke to at the AAC. Dallas still believes that a) Haywood's value around the league exceeds that, and b) Haywood's value to this team exceeds that.
And then, by gosh, he went out and tried to prove it.
*Steiny-Mo says Dallas is exploring JR Smith of Denver. He makes a snappy point about JR being controllable, maybe, because ex-Nuggets aide Tim Grgurich, a highly respected guy, is now present at Dallas practices.
Keeping JR Smith's head screwed on? Good luck, coach Grgurich.
*We have the Devin Harris talks that were trumped when Harris was used by the Nets to get D-Will. Different media types can spin this as they wish: But Dallas' intention in considering Devin was to PLAY Devin. Deal him away sometime in the future? Sure. That can be anybody's fate. But Caron-for-Devin would've been a smart play.
Again, it's just that Deron-for-Devin (and Favors and picks) was smarter.
*And finally, we come full circle. The most sensible deal during the start of this process is one that DB.com has broken down from every ankle. It is Tayshaun Prince. Caron + sweetener for Tayshaun. It's so sensible for both sides to do … so easy to do. … and in Dallas, so worthwhile if only to watch Prince guard Manu in the playoffs.
Now Dallas just needs to get Joe Dumars to see the logic.
TY TAKES THE STAGE: Tyson Talk …
THE FINAL WORD: At the Mavs' morning shootaround in preparation for the visit from Utah, Carlisle prepared his team for a Jazz club with Deron, and having heard the buzz about a Williams trade, for a Jazz club without its superstar.
"We'd started to go through our walkthrough stuff,'' Carlisle said before tipoff at the AAC, "and then I brought the team's attention to the (reports of Williams being dealt to New Jersey). And that if indeed this is the case, then a couple of situations we'll play this way. And if he's here, we'll play it that way."
This way. That way.
Right now, any way works for a Mavs team that won its 14th out of 15, any way works.