"That was an emotional response,'' said Shawn Marion of Rick Carlisle's words after Dallas' 127-109 blowout over the Knicks. "I guess sometimes those aren't the best responses … full of emotion. … But I think at times we do play a little tentative.''
"Tentative'' is better than "soft.'' "Soft''?
"Soft''? That's a nasty thing to say about a club that enters the weekend at 47-18, the second-best record in the Western Conference, better even than the Lakers. But it was coach Rick Carlisle's assessment of what went wrong in New Orleans on Wednesday, when the Mavs lost 93-92 while getting outscored 8-0 in the final 73 seconds. That game followed a similarly tight win over lowly Minnesota and another close loss at home to Memphis …
And that was supposed to be a slightly more cushy portion of the schedule than Dallas now finds itself immersed in.
"I just see more and more teams that are taking physical liberties on our guys, and so much of this game to me is about disposition, both physically and mentally," Carlisle said before Thursday's tip. "We've been very good this year, but I always feel like we can be better and more consistent. That's really where it's at."
Carlisle was quick to note that he wasn't advocating Malice in Dallas or anything like that, even as Wednesday's illicit Hornets shoves from Marco Belinelli and David West rubbed him wrong.
"I'm not talking about getting in fights or swinging at people or anything like that," Carlisle said. "I'm talking about getting together and making a
stand on the court and manifesting those types of thing to consistent aggressive play. Those are things that we generally do, but I'm going to keep
pushing guys to do it better. With what we're trying to do, you can't be mediocre at anything. That's a fact."
The Mavs did muscle up against New York, but did it in basketball fashion, befitting the wishes of owner Mark Cuban. Cuban disagreed with the "soft''
assessment and also noted that sometimes, it's the basketball brawlers who are the "pussies.''
"I don't think we're soft at all," Cuban said. "But (Carlisle) wanted to send a message and the message got through. … Throwing a punch is what a
pussy does. That's what pussies do. Right? There's 1,001 ways to respond to things. Particularly basketball players. That's what a pussy does, is
throw a punch when you know 50 people are going to be there to break it up."
The Mavs found many of those "1,001 ways'' over the course of this victory. Dallas established itself in a first half in which it outscored New York 72-51 – those 71 points a season-high for a half. And the Mavs also played defense at the right times against the right guys in that half, limiting Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony to a combined 7-of-24 shooting. ‘Melo would remain controlled, scoring 18 points on a poor 5-of-15. Amar'e (who'd averaged 29.5 points on 59.7 percent shooting in his last eight trips to Dallas) eventually got his, totaling 36 points.
New York has now lost 17 of its last 19 meetings with the Mavs, and not even the additions of Anthony and Stoudemire could alter that. Shawn Marion, despite having hurt his ribs on that flagrant blow in New Orleans, helped counter New York's two stars with his defensive work and his own 22 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two assists. That work came in support of usual leading scorers Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, who totaled 23 and 21, respectively.
Dallas also took out of mothballs explosive young talents Roddy Beaubois and Corey Brewer. Roddy B again started, but this was more than a token assignment as he was allowed 21 minutes and scored 14 points with six assists. Newcomer Corey Brewer, who'd played 22 total minutes in his previous four games, contributed seven points, four assists and two steals in seven minutes. And backup center Brendan Haywood was helpful as Tyson Chandler struggled with foul trouble. Haywood pitched in with 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
The Knicks are now 34-30 and working to hang onto sixth place in the Eastern Conference. They are a drawing card … and maybe an inspiration – though not as much of an inspiration as Carlisle's four-letter word.
"We weren't focused on that,'' Haywood said. "We were focused on the opponent.''
The next test? The next opponent? A Saturday night visit from the flip side of the glamour sandwich, the LA Lakers. It's a chance for Dallas –- which, despite the self-analysis has won 20 of its last 23 games -- to further assert itself in the West standings and a chance to put behind it accusations of having the consistency of melted butter, warm cheese and marshmallow filling.Coming up: Your All-Access Pass to Mavs-Knicks -- locker-room video, exclusive interviews, all the stats, quotes and analysis ... and this is a Sneak Peak of what you get when you Go Mavs and Go Premium!