TOP BILLING: This is the biggest comeback of the season.
Was it ever in doubt? Even as the Dallas Mavericks fell behind by 19 points in the first quarter, at one point humiliated by a 22-3 Raps run?
Yeah, maybe it was a little in doubt.
"That,'' Dirk said of the early going, "was ugly.''
VANITY AND BULLSHIT: Dallas is now 32-2 when scoring 100 points.
Early in the season, Carlisle called the pursuit of averaging 100 points "vanity" and "bullshit."
"Vanity'' and "Bullshit'' were also the nicknames some of the mean kids gave Fish and Dugat back in middle school. But anyway. …
When does 100 become something more meaningful for this team?
Digging deeper into his comments at the time, where he defined the defense and other areas of play as priority over hitting the century mark in points, perhaps it isn't the offense at all … only a result of a defense that may bend, but when supported by solid offense, refuses to break. Perhaps it isn't about the offense at all, but a defense that finds traction when it must while both feeding the offense and finding support from it.
Still, if you are trying to anticipate trends: Dallas had scored 100-plus in five games coming into this one. Toronto was allowing 105 per for the year. Getting to 100 in this game didn't seem like "vanity'' or "bullshit'' to us.
It seemed like a path to victory.
THE SECOND WAVE: Few teams can bring a second unit to the fore like Dallas can.
"Our bench really saved us," Nowitzki added. "Some nights your starting five just doesn't have it for whatever reason, fatigue, rhythm or whatever. Our bench was phenomenal."
Shawn Marion had 20 points against his former Toronto mates. Jason Terry came off the bench to contribute 19 points. And Ian Mahinmi took his turn as the No. 2 center (with Big Wood getting a DNP) and The Ianimal scoring 13.
And no small feat (no pun intended): JJ Barea served as the crunch-time quarterback for the Mavs, allowing almost-38-year-old Jason Kidd to rest the entire fourth quarter while Barea ran the show in impressive fashion.
While Terry and Marion may have been the headliners from the bench, JJ continued his fine recent play with 12 points on 6-of-10 shots and nine assists (versus only one turnover).
The rise of the "little Puerto Rican" (as Terry affectionately called him) has been well chronicled in these parts, but one other aspect of his improved play will be noted tonight.
A revelation seems to have occurred at the end of Barea's dives into the paint … he's begun to perfect a high-arcing lay-up that catches the backboard near its crown, effectively limiting the ability of much taller defenders to reject his shot.
That's not to say he won't suffer his share of rejection, but the degree has been lessened by this incredibly useful skill many small guards have sought to master. The undeniable efficiency behind the three-point line since the change in calendar year has certainly played a role, but this new adaptation is significant.
We're not saying he's only just begun to adopt this shot, only that it would appear he is closer to having it perfected than ever before.
Your Minutes Measure? Kidd played just 27 minutes.
Good thing those fellas got it done, as the Mavericks' starters were outscored in the first quarter by Toronto's starters by a score of 30-5.
And by the time it was all done? Dallas bench 64, Toronto bench 25.
THE NUMBERS: They really do start piling up in impressive fashion.
*This is Dallas' 16th win in 17 games.
*The Mavericks have won six straight.
*Dallas has won nine of 10 on the road and is 21-8 away from home overall.
*The biggest number: 43-16. Still not good enough to close any ground on SA, which survived a Sunday night home scare against Memphis. But good enough for second in the West. And good enough to believe.
Maybe not good enough to believe in the "revenge'' angle played up before the game by Jet, Dirk and TY. All three guys cited a Dec. 28 home loss to Toronto (the game Dirk sat out and instead served as a "Take That Wit Chew!'' announcer) as vengeful motivation. But good enough to believe that they will find a way.
DIRK AT WORK: It's not every night when Dirk gives Dallas a double-double anymore. Remember the pre-All-Star Break game in Phoenix when he grabbed one rebound and made fun of himself for it?
Ah, but some nights …
Nowitzki did his 31 point thing … almost predictable. He fought his way to the line 10 times (after doing so 11 times the previous night in D.C.). And … he corralled 13 rebounds, providing the Mavs with that infamous "matchup nightmare'' that has terrorized opponents for more than a decade.
How nightmarish this season? The UberMan has 10 double-doubles this year. In those games, Dallas is 10-0.
DOUBLE TROUBLE: In addition to the fact the Mavs are now 10-0 when Dirk posts a double-double … they are 13-3 when Chandler posts a double-double. When Marion reaches a double-double, they are 5-1.
Speaking of ‘Trix: His line ended at 20 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals … all of that despite rarely, if ever, having a play called for him on the offensive end. Combine this with his eternal impact on the defensive end, and you have a prominent piece of the Mavs' core often skirting the praise of national analysts … but for those paying attention, there's little denying his role on a team that's won 16 of their last 17 games, nine of their last ten on the road and six consecutive.
Anyway, the double-double potential is there for a handful of guys …
So, it's good when one of them post a double-double. Point taken.
CALLING ALL JET: The Mavs, said Raptors coach Jay Triano, "decided to lock-down (on defense)."
Anybody in particular, coach?
"I don't think they let DeMar DeRozan have an easy catch all game. Jason Terry did a heck of a job denying him over the whole court and he had to really work to get it. … That's what you try to do, bear down on the guy that's going to try and lead this team, and they did a pretty good job."
That's right, kids. The opposing coach just praised Jason Terry for lock-down defense.
QUOTEBOARD: " This might be the deepest team I've ever played on," Jason Kidd said. "You've got 12 or 13 guys that can start."
Stay tuned for more McKinneyDentist.com Quoteboard coming up!
MAVSELLANEOUS: The Raptors didn't immediately have the life sucked from them, obviously, at the news that budding star and leading scorer Andrea Bargnani would miss with the flu. But for Toronto, it's always something as the Raptors (16-44) have now lost 20 of their last 23 … the Mavs have won six straight. … The Mavericks asserted themselves – finally! – when they opened the fourth with a 12-2 run … The Mavs, who had to battle to win in Washington on Saturday, didn't get to their hotel in Toronto until almost 3 a.m. Sunday. No whining, though, please. The DB.com 75-Member Staff was up until exactly the same time and you don't hear us bitching … Roddy B wasn't exactly unleashed here, but we did get to see the Roddy-Oop, as Kidd found him on a backdoor lob at the start of the third. … Six turnovers? Only six turnovers for Dallas? That's usually a credit to Kidd, but props again to JJB the QB … Dallas allowed just 39 second-half points. … Thank goodness for Dirk's 18 first-half points, which kept Dallas within reach … Note that at one point in the second quarter, the Mavs bench had outscored the starters 27-to-12, with Marion playing a significant role in this. … "They have too many shooters and too many weapons out there so at the end of the day you've got to give them something," said the Raps'Jose Calderon of Dallas. "They were just picking us apart, they were finding the open guy. That's what a good team does." ... "If you come out and aren't ready to play at a high level you're going to get your face smashed in, and that's what happened to us early," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "We took the hit and fought back. Some nights, that's how you've got to win."
THE RE-START: The Raptors hit 52.3 percent of their shots in the first half, carried by the 60.9 percent converted in the first quarter to hold a 57-50 lead at the intermission.
Dallas players headed to the locker room with clear frustration tugging at their faces, but emerged having tapped a reservoir of energy and a revived attention to detail at the defensive end. By no coincidence, Marion started the third quarter in place of Peja Stojakovic.
In the third, the Raptors would hit only 35 percent of their shots, as Dallas took the period by a score of 25-15 behind the strength of their defense and a raised level of energy.
This momentum would carry into the final quarter as Dallas flirted with their largest margin of victory of the season (19 points just two games ago against Utah), only to fall short by one to win by 18.
In the second half, Dallas outscored Toronto 64-39.
From down 19, to winning by 18. That's a point swing of 37 points.
MORE DIRK (BECAUSE YOU CAN'T GET ENOUGH): After swallowing the frustration of the team's horrid start, a strange notion bled into clarity when considering the play of Dirk: we're a spoiled lot (that's not a bad thing in this case).
With those 18 points (including 16 in the second quarter alone) and seven rebounds heading into the half, it was hard not to shake the feeling that Nowitzki appeared sluggish and slightly out of rhythm. Is it odd to be able to say this in reference to a player on pace to score 36 points and grab 14 rebounds?
Not strange, just a huge credit for one unlike any other Dallas has ever known. It's a compliment when an audience can question a performance such as this.
Again, Dirk would finish with 31 points on 11-of-20 field-goal attempts, 13 rebounds (just two off his season high of 15), two assists and a block … and was the only player to total over 30 minutes of action.
And, in the end, he made clear just how lucky we are to have him in a Dallas uniform.
JET, NOT RODDY B: At some point, does the playing-time decision involve these two?
Beside Marion, leading the charge of second-wave Mavs was Jason Terry. When Dallas needed an offensive lift, particularly after a second straight short leash for Roddy B (who played just under 15 minutes), Marion or Terry always seemed to be right there to provide it.
Terry finished with 19 points on 7-of-13 field goals, including a big dunk after turning the corner and finding Toronto had vacated the lane, and added four rebounds and five assists … highlighted by a beautiful bounce pass on the break to setup a Marion dunk.
THE IANIMAL AND A WORRY: As has become the trend when facing teams with quicker, athletic big men, Ian Mahinmi got the first chance to backup Tyson Chandler at center … and he would not relinquish the role.
From his first moments, Mahinmi unleashed his unbridled enthusiasm and near reckless liveliness … not out of control reckless, not on this night, but a willingness to garner the bruises of a man unafraid of throwing his body before opposing players on the attack in any fashion. There were the two charges, and a third that saw the whistle go against him, and constant activity around the rim to support this label.
In 23 minutes Mahinmi scored 13 points, grabbed three rebounds and one block.
We chronicled the contributions of Mahinmi above, but with them come one slight, and possibly misguided worry.
We've all noticed the strong play of Brendan Haywood over the previous four games, perhaps one of his most sustained stretches of such play this season, just as we've observed what appeared to be lapses of energy, effort or aggression at times.
In other words, we've seen what could be defined as emotionally constricted play delivered in the wake of becoming Tyson Chandler's backup. Fair or not, it's not an uncommon observation among those on the outside looking in.
Considering this, could collecting a DNP-CD (Did Not Play – Coaches Decision) after such strong play carry unwanted consequences?
We hope not, and until shown otherwise we'll assume not. Rick Carlisle has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to coaching decisions this season.
THE FINAL WORD: The DB.com gang hung out at Esparza's in Grapevine for a lovely Mavs Watching Party ... and a great time was had by all. Famous for Tex-Mex, Notorious for Margaritas, and best of all, guess who stopped by for a special guest appearance?
"I haven't missed a minute of a game,'' said Bob Ortegel, the iconic Mavs TV analyst recently dismissed by Mark Cuban after 23 years of service. "I still watch. ... so I might as well watch with you guys!''
Bob O says he roots for the Mavs as hard as ever ... and maybe gets to do so a little more demonstratively from his living room (or from Esparza's) than he allowed himself to do while alongside Mark Followill.
"Oh, I very much believe in them,'' Bob O said. "I watch as a coach, and I watch as a commentator. But I am also enjoying watching as a Mavs fan. I'll always be a Mavs fan.''