LOVE ROMANCE: If you are a Minnesota fan, the Kevin Love roll keeps you warm at night.
Love hit a 3-pointer in the third quarter to give him his 51st consecutive double-double. That tied Moses Malone for the all-time "modern'' record (post NBA/ABA merger). It ain't Wilt, who did it 224 straight times.
But it is quite something. … and rather a sideshow.
It can be argued that Love is the NBA's best rebounder; when he's on the floor, he grabs almost a fourth of the available boards. And as Dallas discovered, his range as a scorer presents a challenge to a traditional big like Brendan Haywood.
Honestly, though, Love would be much more of a weapon as some good team's third best player. Instead, he's The Show in Minny and for all his production, the T'Wolves are a 15-win team and during this streak are a 11-40 team.
"I'd be jumping for joy if we were winning and everybody was playing great, including myself," Love said. "I'm just going out there and playing hard and it is just kind of happening for me. But it is kind of an afterthought because we aren't winning."
Kevin's numbers (23 points and 17 rebounds) don't surprise us, anymore than Zach Randolph's 29/7 did the previous night. These guys are throwing unique curveballs at the Mavs, and at Big Wood …
And Tyson Chandler is still nursing that right ankle.
SPEAKING OF TY: The Dallas Mavericks are 2-1 without Tyson Chandler during this time of ankle healing – but it was cool to see him on the bench, showing support of the now 46-17 Mavs. Oh, and wearing that velvet suit with the tuxedo piping straight out of the Marvin Gaye Collection!
PEJA AND COREY: We have this bright idea, see.
Mavs newcomer Peja Stojakovic is a proven offensive specialist.
Mavs newcomer Corey Brewer is a proven defensive specialist.
The bright idea: Between some spot play here and some platooning there and maybe even occasion to start both of them, the two guys can combine to be a singular two-way force.
Well, it's a good idea …
Peja is struggling. He totaled nine points, including hustling for a putback on the break early and making two big perimeter shots in the fourth. But at 1-of-4 from the arc, he's got to be REALLY open right now to be effective.
Over the last five games, Peja Stojakovic saw his shot continually elude him. During that stretch he averaged four points with a field-goal percentage of 25.8, including a 13.3 percent conversion rate behind the arc, to go with 3.4 rebounds over almost 23 minutes per game.
And Brewer, the ex-Minny ace? Well, he's a worker bee, and it earned him a resounding dunk. But he's seems a long way from being assigned a stopper role.
Though, heck, with Carmelo and Kobe coming to town Thursday and Saturday, maybe his time is coming.
DIRK AT WORK: Dirk Nowitzki was his usual self, scoring a game-high 25 points efficiently on 7-of-12 shooting, including 10-of-10 from the free-throw line.
His numbers might've really popped except …
Foul trouble limited him to 27 minutes. Still, there he was there to carry the load in the game's deciding moments. With 2:30 to play and Dallas down one (95-94), Dirk stepped to the line and we saw his blood change. Like a werewolf beneath a full moon, The UberMan looked into the weight of clutch attempts and ice began to course through his veins.
And we use that description because hanging in the ceiling of the Minny gym is … a full moon. Kinda cool.
Zach Randolph had fired the silver bullet into his final-second heroics the night before, but Minnesota had no similar answer. Sure, the Grizzlies would sink two threes in the final 3.8 seconds, but they were simply spraying Fabreze on what was otherwise garbage time … garbage to everyone but those focusing on the line in Vegas.
Back to The UberMan: Dirk would sink eight free throws over the final 2:30 and help put the game away.
THE CUSTODIAL ENGINEER: What took place while Dirk sat wearing the burden of fouls collected may have been the story of the game. In his stead, Brian Cardinal found 17 minutes set at his feet … and he did his best to make his mark.
We're assuming there was many a cold night in Minneapolis when young, hairy-headed Purdue star Brian Cardinal rolled into town and dropped some bombs on the locals. And when know "The Janitor'' did that at times as a member of the T'Wolves. But what he did here as a backup 4, coming out of mothballs while Dirk was in foul trouble?
"Without Cardinal," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, "I don't think we would have won the game."
In a wrinkle that simply couldn't have been part of the gameplan, Cardinal was unleashed to attempt eight 3-pointers – and he made four of them. In total, Brian scrapped and fought and gave the Mavs a season-high 12 points in those 17 minutes.
"The Custodian''? Nah. For one night, he's elevated to "Custodial Engineer.''
JET'S ONE BIGGIE: Jason Terry did not have one of his better games. When the Mavs had six first-quarter turnovers, three of them belonged to Terry.
He would finish with 11 points while shooting 3-of-11 from the floor, and 1-of-6 from three, along with four assists and four turnovers.
Despite this performance, it was Terry sinking one of the biggest shots of the night. Having missed his first five attempts behind the arc, with 1:37 to play he finally found the net for a three that would put the Mavs up four … a gap the Grizzlies would never completely close again.
And THAT is probably how he wins the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award.
THE 3 APPROACH: About those 3-pointers:
It seems like a poor approach to attempt a season-high 35 attempts behind the line while facing the league's most porous defense, rather than applying pressure by attacking the paint with consistency.
This wasn't stressing the league's worst scoring defense; it was attempting to do just enough to scrape by without truly exerting a high level of energy. It allowed Minnesota to hide their biggest weakness, even as Dallas added almost one to the 107.3 they allow on average.
In the end, things worked out. But we cannot imagine that this was the plan.
ENERGY GUYS: As the number of 3-point attempts may provide evidence of, this was a game needing energy from the Dallas side. Though the stats may not precisely show it, two players prominently provided this: Shawn Marion early and Ian Mahinmi late.
Marion finished one point away from a double-double with nine points, ten rebounds (five of which came at the offensive end), four assists, one steal and one block. So, maybe the stats do show it with The Matrix, but they don't tell you everything.
The Timberwolves were threatening to pull away from a sloppy Mavs team (who at one point had as many turnovers (9) as assists (9)), when the spark provided by Marion kept the game within reach. His shot wasn't falling early (4-of-11 total), but as the stats above show, he found other ways to make an impact.
Mahinmi would finish with two points, four rebounds, one steal, one block and five fouls in just over 16 minutes.
One play may have epitomized his contributions.
After Kevin Love gathered another offensive rebound, Mahinmi was there to knock the ball from his hands and dive to the floor in an attempt to finish the play, as he ripped the ball away and passed to a teammate without touching the baseline only inches from where he sat.
On the stat sheet it's only a steal. In the game, in was a contributor to a momentum shift.
We're not saying ‘Trix and The Ianimal weren't a bit sloppy themselves. But the effort was there.
CRUNCHING NUMBERS: Calculate …
*The Mavs launched a season-high 35 treys. Wow. Happily, they made 12 of them, including a quartet in the final quarter. But wow.
*Cardinal's 12 points is the most he has scored since March 12, 2008.
*Aided by Dirk's foul trouble, the only starter to total over 30 minutes of play was Jason Kidd at 31:29 and another game fell into the win column. It wasn't pretty, and a similar effort against a stronger team would have likely yielded a blowout loss … but it wasn't a stronger opponent … and it wasn't a blowout loss.
*Before this game, the Mavs had won eight straight in Minny by an average of 17 points per.
* Peja finished with nine points (his most since scoring 18 against Utah Feb. 23) on 4-of-9 shooting, 1-of-4 behind the arc, and five rebounds in 16 minutes.
QUOTEBOARD: " It was exciting. We obviously never won't see Dirk get in trouble, but I think we have a deep team that can step in for people." – Brian Cardinal.
MAVSELLANEOUS: Brewer received an early call to action (and a nice reception from the Minnesota crowd) and entered with the first wave of subs alongside Jason Terry and Shawn Marion. … Dallas allowed a pair of 30-point quarters. "It wasn't pretty there for a long time,'' Dirk said. "The first quarter wasn't great. I mean, they scored 30 there in first quarter and we had a slow start … We had a lot of good looks, but nothing seemed to drop.'' … Dallas made this way too interesting with some more third-quarter problems, these on the offensive end, as the Mavs closed the period by missing eight of nine shots. … Minny hurt itself at the line, missing 10 FTs – and five alone by Michael Beasley … In a twist, Carlisle opted to start ‘Trix ahead of Peja to begin the second half … Hard to gripe about Big Wood's 10 rebounds and eight points … Minny screwed things up in the final seconds by making a couple of long-range Hollingers …
HERE'S YOUR HIGHLIGHT PACKAGE:
AN UNFORCED ERROR: We were surprised. But not worried.
Jason Kidd has asserted his will on a game in the final moments with regularity, which was why watching him commit what was virtually an unforced error with the game on the line, resulting in an easy Luke Ridnour lay-in, that much more surprising.
Despite this play, which occurred just inside the two-minute mark and kept things close, Kidd was instrumental down the stretch and finished with 13 points, nine assists and four steals.
The ball in Kidd's hands to finish? That's why Dallas under Carlisle in three years is 52-19 in games decided by five points or fewer. And it's why we were surprised … but not worried.
THE FINAL WORD: "I'm feeling that I should be able to go Wednesday." – Tyson Chandler, eyeballing a visit to his old stomping grounds in New Orleans.