TOP BILLING: What began as the story of Josh Howard's first game against the Dallas Mavericks (he's missed previous meetings due to injury), quickly became the Tyson Chandler show as the Mavs sealed the deal with an 8-2 run to close the game and bring a 105-99 victory, making that five in a row and 15 of the last 16.
CRUNCH TIME: In the last three years under Rick Carlisle the Dallas Mavericks are 51-18 in games decided by five or less.
OK, this ended up being a six-point margin. But the point remains: Dallas isn't good enough to beat the Wizards by 20. It just isn't.
What the Mavs are good enough to do is to get up 11 in the fourth quarter, survive some feats of athleticism from the likes of rookie John Wall (24 points) and in the end, make the big shot, make the big stop, and make the deciding free throws.
Free throws? The Wizards has 16 of them. Astoundingly, they missed 10 of them.
"(If) we (make) free throws,'' Washington coach Flip Saunders said, "we win the game."
Ah, but those are the sorts of things Dallas does well. Better than pretty much anybody.
It's so rarely good enough to win by 20. … and so you get this "killer instinct'' talk.
But when it's a five-point game or so? Dallas "kills'' you in those.
"We were lucky to get out of here alive," Rick said.
"Luck''? Is 51-18 in close games "luck''?
BACK TO TY: Tyson Chandler must get a sparkle in his eye when he sees the Wizards on the opposing bench. Following his 18-point and 18-rebound performance earlier this season, he went for a new season-high in points, with 23, while adding 13 rebounds and a block Saturday night.
"All night long he ran the floor well,'' Carlisle said. "He defended the basket well, made his free throws. You know, he's really important to us. You know, all three centers did a good job tonight, but down the stretch tonight, he was big."
We've seen games won by riding the back of Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry's late offense or a red-hot JJ Barea. On this night, Chandler grabbed the game like a loose ball falling away from the rim, threw it over his shoulders and did all he could to ensure another addition to the win column.
When shots were failing to find their target, it was Chandler corralling them and guiding them back through the net either with soft put-backs or one of his seven powerful dunks, including rerouting a Terry miss that broke a 97-all tie to put Dallas up for good with 1:16 to play.
Wanna see a bunch of those dunks? We've collected them here as part of the Fish/Ro Blackman/Dana Larson postgame show on FS Southwest (featuring Ro's birthday celebration, too!):
And, as usual, he was a factor at the defensive end. John Wall may have led his team with those 24 points, but he needed 26 shots to get there and gave away four turnovers. Chandler waiting in the paint certainly contributed to these struggles.
It's never truly one player to capture a win, but Tyson was the best player on the court against the Wizards.
"I wanted to come out tonight and make a statement," Chandler said. "I really wanted to get involved, because coming after the All-Star break, I know it's the stretch now here we've really got to get focused and make our playoff push,"
YOU CAN'T CONTROL WHAT THE JOSH DO: Going back to where the night began, this was Josh Howard's first chance to "stick it" to the Mavs – remember his pledge? -- since leaving in the trade a year ago that brought Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas.
Things started well enough for him, when he quickly attacked Peja Stojakovic for a couple of easy lay ups. From that point on, Howard was only a factor at the beginning of the third quarter when he contributed five points in a 9-0 run by the Wizards.
He finished the night with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting, six rebounds and two assists.
On a side note: witnessing Howard settle for step-back jumpers against a defender he should have continuously attacked … a trait that fed frustrations towards the end of his time on the Mavs … wasn't nearly as frustrating to watch when he was wearing the bad guys' uniforms.
DIRK'S ‘BAD' 21: Dirk Nowitzki did not have one of his better games on the offensive end, where he missed seven consecutive shots at one point on his way to a 3-of-13 shooting start. He would rebound slightly by hitting three of his final five and getting to the line for a game-high 11 attempts, making eight.
Dirk would finish as one of three Mavs to score 20 by totaling 21 points on 6-of-18 attempts, seven rebounds and three assists.
Add up Dirk, Roddy B and Peja and you get 9-of-31 shooting. The UberMan's work at the line salvages that somewhat.
BBIQ: There are very few players in the league capable of greatly influencing the outcome of a game while taking only one shot.
Jason Kidd is one of them.
Despite his lone field-goal attempt, a three that he did sink, Kidd's fingerprints were all over this outcome. There was a critical late-game steal, something of a specialty for a player with one of the highest BBIQ's in the game, to go with 14 assists (his highest total since dishing out 18 on the opening night of the season), eight rebounds and three steals.
Like we said, few can do so much while taking only one shot. … and on Sunday morning, if you hear anybody joke that the kid Wall outplayed the old man Kidd, you will know that they didn't actually watch the game.
"Jason Kidd had some key stops,'' TY said. "For him to be 37 … and still running up and down the court with their young fellas … man! That young dude on the other side, who may be one of the top three, two fastest guys in the league, that's impressive."
JET'S STRANGLEHOLD: Joining Chandler and Dirk as 20-point scorers was Jason Terry, who led the Mavs with 25 points (matching his Feb. high and only three from his season-high 28), including nine in the fourth quarter and a handful of clutch free throws to seal the victory.
Terry would also add four assists without giving away a single turnover – a real measure of his all-around positive contribution.
Combining with Chandler to hit 20-of-32 shots (62.5 percent), Terry rescued some of the other shooters here.
Against the Wizards, Terry played like a guy that held a lock on the Sixth Man of the Year award, backing up his own words.
RODDY B? FORGETTABLE: This was a night to forget for Roddy B.
It's only his fourth game back after missing more than five months of action, which means we should probably cut him some slack, but things weren't pretty. He would hit only one of his seven shots, including at least two easy misses in the paint. These results would keep him from the court in the second and fourth quarters.
Roddy B would finish with two points, three assists, three rebounds, one block … a high-flying denial of a John Wall lay-in try, where speed matched speed down the length of the court … and one turnover in only 13 minutes played.
Due to his errant shot, and the fact that this was only game four back after such an extended time off, we'll reserve the right to deny fears or complaints of Carlisle's often-short leash from last season making a return … besides, hard to argue against it on this night.
Those of us wondering who Rick might lean to in crunch time now that he has a full deck got an answer: Jet and ‘Trix joined KIDDIRK and TY. Roddy B wasn't allowed anywhere near crunch time.
THE NBA HIGHLIGHT PACKAGE:
‘SUNG' HERO: If we say it enough, the play of Shawn Marion will stop being that of an "unsung hero" and become a piece of the marquee.
With 13 points on 4-of-6 field-goal attempts and ten rebounds, his sixth double-double of the season (four of which have come since January), Marion continues to prowl under the radar, while being a core contributor.
BIG WOOD'S BIG ROLL: On paper, the matchup with JaVale McGee, a quick, athletic center, called for Ian Mahinmi to get some minutes. And, it was Mahinmi that Carlisle first called upon to sub for Chandler.
Quickly, Brendan Haywood replaced him and though the stats may not reveal it (four points and three rebounds), this was another strong performance from Big Wood. For the fourth consecutive contest, we saw an energized, aggressive center that seems ready to set aside the failure to meet early expectations and begin to complete a strong rotation at the center position.
It's only been four games, but you have to like what we're seeing from Haywood recently.
MINUTES TO WIN IT: Despite the close final score, no Mavs player went over 33 minutes. With a win in the books and Toronto waiting for a matinee tomorrow, it is hard to not like that.
QUOTEBOARD: "You're up nine in the fourth early, that's a situation where you kind of want to go up 15, ice your knees and get on the bus. It didn't happen, but at the end of the day, we want wins." – Jason Terry.
Stay tuned for more McKinneyDentist.com Quoteboard coming up!
MAVSELLANEOUS: Dirk entered the night shooting 52.8 percent from the floor, 42 percent from the arc and 88.2 percent from the line, making him the only NBA player in the top 20 in all three categories … The Wiz are now 15-43 and the Mavericks are 42-16 … 11 of Kidd's 14 assists came in the first half. … J-Ho reportedly experienced problems with his surgically repaired left knee after the game. … "I'm not keeping track of the double-digit scoring streaks," Carlisle said. "It was a tough game on paper and a tough game on the floor. (The Wiz) play their best basketball against the better teams." … Germany's ambassador to the U.S., Klaus Scharioth, was in attendance to meet and watch Nowitzki.
MORE RO AND FISH ON FOX:
THE FINAL WORD: As we noted on Saturday morning, the schedule allows Dallas a chance to keep winning and winning all the way to March 9, at which time oddsmakers might have the Mavs at 42-16.Jet, for one, joins us in doing the math.
"Obviously we were disappointed in the way we finished that ballgame, but hey, we got out of here with a win," Terry said. "This is a stretch where we have games where, let's be blunt, we should win."