THE TOP STORY: A media survey of the Dallas Mavericks locker room after its Wednesday win counted Jason Kidd as the only Mavs player who allowed himself to be impressed with "11X50.''
Good for him. Proof he has the highest BBIQ in the building.
DB.com started making an issue of this back when it was "8X50.'' It was impressive then, moreso now – this is the level of stuff that only Russell's Celtics, Magic's Lakers and Duncan's Spurs can match – and to note that Dallas is the only one of those clubs to not put the cherry on top?
That argument is true. But trite.
Listen to Dirk:
"I've said it the last couple of years: I'd rather trade it in for a championship," said The UberMan, the centerpiece of it all. "Eleven 50-win seasons don't mean nothin'."
We'd all rather have a title than a 50-win season? No shit? But that's not the choices that are put in front of a team. That's like saying, "I'd rather eat than just open my mouth.'' Yeah ... but you gotta open your mouth FIRST.
To get to the championship, you pretty much HAVE to win the 50. FIRST.
So Dallas has won the 50. Again.
Whether that almost-accomplishment brings you more joy than pain or vice versa is entirely up to you and your mindset. We say if you don't like winning 50 games a year, you ought to brace yourself for when 50 wins don't happen. …
And see how much joy or pain THAT brings you.
LESS THAN IDEAL: In the realm of the ideal, the Mavs would have quickly built an insurmountable lead over the visiting Timberwolves. Bruises of the recent past would be allowed to fade ever so slightly, and starters would spend more time perfecting their butt imprints on the bench cushions than out working on the court.
Here's Rick on that and more ...
With six games in nine nights looming at the horizon between March 26 and April 3, including a triple dose of back-to-back contests and ending with four games in five nights, rest is not stitched into the immediate future.
If minutes are to be curtailed, it will come riding the back of blowouts … a feat not common to this year's Mavs, who have only one victory by 20-plus points … not by the graces of the schedule.
"It's going to help,'' Jason Kidd said, "to have depth.''
It would've helped on Wednesday to kick the lowly and Kevin Love-less T'Wolves in the teeth early rather than having to claw for the 104-96 victory.
Let's see the highlights for ourselves:
Unfortunately, Dallas came out sluggish and allowed the Wolves to hang close thanks to 23 first-half points from Anthony Randolph (already besting his season high of 19 and only five from his career high of 28).
Randolph would finish with 31 points and 11 rebounds, but scored zero in the fourth quarter … though he was one of the few guys the Mavs controlled.
CONFIDENCE-BUILDER: We pointed out on the FS Southwest "Mavs Live'' pregame show ("Hi, Mom!'') that the stage was set for a self-esteem surge. But nothing about this win acts as a confidence builder. Really, though it falls into the correct column on their record, we don't think we're being too Negative Nelly to say the outcome acted as quite the opposite.
Dallas had a chance to stomp a lesser opponent playing without its best player, Kevin Love, but found themselves trailing by one with under three minutes to play.
If not for Dirk Nowitzki's 14th double-double of the season (30 points and 11 rebounds with four assists), including 20 points in the second half, this was a game that could have easily gone the other way.
ON THE OTHER HAND …: We say that, and yet this game serves to illustrate the thin line between "contender'' and "sucks.''
Don't the Mavs play too many of these sorts of games (and win)?
Don't the T'Wolves play too many of these sorts of games (and lose)?
Dallas' point differential is +4.1. Minny's is -5.8. That's two buckets. Two buckets … two buckets a night, mind you … that separate a 50-21 team from a 17-55 team.
DEFENSIVE WOES: As has become the trend, the problems seemed to arise from the defensive end.
We reported on the intense practices and a deep awareness among the players for the need to pick up the defense, but saw little evidence of it on the court … until 1:17 remained in the fourth quarter and the Wolves were within two at 98-96.
Jason Terry hit a three, Marion cut off the passing lane for an easy steal, leading to Dirk draining two free throws and a moment later Marion went one-of-two from the line … Minnesota did not score again.
That final 1:17 was a part of an 11-2 run the Mavs used to close out the game.
There were some other awful execution issues late (Jet again rushing bombs, Kidd with an uncharacteristic unforced turnover) but a 77 seconds of defense made the difference.
Tyson Chandler did his part, and Shawn Marion chipped in as well, but at times the rest seemed to roam from their assignments, allowing open lanes to the rim or uncontested jumpers.
We say Dallas talked a good game about its defense … but forgot to play one … though they apparently disagree with that notion.
Said Jason Terry: "Defensively we maintained our level of intensity all night but it was frustrating when the ball wasn't going in the hole."
Said Dirk Nowitzki:
"I think our defense really wasn't all that bad all night,'' Dirk says in the Video Visit. "In the first half we held them to the low 40's shooting from the field which is pretty decent. Down the stretch we just had to buckle down and stay in front of our man and we got some good steals. We contested shots and got some key rebounds. So, that was key down the stretch."
Hey, maybe our eyes lied to us.
Or, more likely, maybe when The UberMan says, "not all that bad,'' it's hedging on a compliment.
B2B's: Let's go back to the impending trio of back-to-backs for a moment, where the Mavs will have their hands full, particularly on the tail end of those back-to-backs, due to the quality of opponent and the fact that all will have had at least one day's rest prior to hosting Dallas.
Those back-end games will include three teams with a combined record of 128-84 for a winning percentage of .604. They include: Phoenix (who will be on one day's rest), the Lakers (fresh off three days of rest), and in the final game of the road trip, the Portland Trailblazers (one day's rest).
Tyson Chandler is ready for the road ... and knows there are no excuses.
Every team endures punches from the callous, unsympathetic fists of the schedule. If Dallas can thrive during their longest stretch of games away from home this season against strong opponents, they may do something more important than pry open the eyes of those watching … they could seal their own lids up.
"We haven't beaten any of the top teams in awhile," Dirk conceded. "I think we've lost six of the last seven against top playoff teams. So, we've got to pick it up. We're usually pretty good on the road, comfortable on the road, and we're one of the best road teams in the league. So, we should play well and have a good road trip."
Coach Rick Carlisle has stated he looks forward to the test, to the challenge. How the Mavs respond may go a long way in revealing who they hope to become … of course, regardless of what happens, all will eventually come down to playoff results.
PEJA VS. ‘TRIX: Peja Stojakovic had his second consecutive strong performance, finishing with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting and hitting 4-of-8 behind the arc. He also had a couple of nice reverse layups to finish breaks … giving us a little something we might not have expected.
In his two games since returning from injury, Peja is averaging 16.5 points while draining 57 percent of his shots, and 56 percent from three-point land.
There was also a nice instance of a fluid two-man-game between Peja and Kidd, when the two traded passes while constantly moving, eventually traversing almost every inch of the offensive side of the court … this ended with Peja getting a good look and draining a three.
Is it disconcerting to say it appears the Mavs really needed him against the Love-less Wolves?
Peja was playing well enough to keep Shawn Marion on the bench for all but the final 2:38 of the fourth quarter.
So does that mean Peja is "beating out'' Marion, as Carlisle suggested the two are in a battle for a starting forward job as the club looks to solidify its starting lineup for the postseason?
Shawn Marion had another strong game as a starter, finishing with 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting, to go with six rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
We say both guys made strong bids to be in the first-team quintet. If competition is what Rick was looking for, he got it.
Some quick PejaTalk:
RODDY B SLOPPY: Roddy Beaubois didn't have one of his better games, and suffered from a short leash because of it. To open the third quarter, we did see a more aggressive disposition, but a pass a few rows into the stands highlighted (lowlighted) a night that hopefully gave more to learning that actual results.
Roddy B was 1-of-5 shooting with two turnovers in his 15 minutes. Coaches are whispering to us that they are "grooming'' Beaubois into a more important role. But this was not a step forward.
Back to the groomer's.
THE NUMBERS GAME: Let's crunch, Cap'n:
*With the win, Dallas reached 11 straight season with at least 50 wins, the third longest streak in NBA history. (We just thought we'd remind you in case you are already taking it for granted!)
*Dallas has now won 18 of the last 19 matchups with the Timberwolves.
*Dirk Nowitzki pushed his consecutive free throws-made streak to 63.
*In the first half, Dallas hit 17-of-21 attempts in the paint. Outside of the paint they hit only 4-of-23 shots, including 2-of-14 behind the arc.
*Dallas is now 12-2 when Dirk posts a double-double.
*Just another zany stat night at the office for Jason Kidd, who was 0-of-5 from the floor with six rebounds, 13 assists, three steals and a blocked shot.
QUOTEBOARD: We're a skilled, veteran team that knows how to win," Carlisle said. "Persistence has got to be our calling card."
CARON ‘NEWS'?!: Dear DB.com Reader,
DB.com is as anxious and excited and interested as anybody to learn whatever there is to learn about Caron Butler's attempted comeback. Our coverage of the Mavs extends to every possible important note and every possible important quote and every piece of analysis that the 75-Member Staff can come up with. We do what we do tirelessly (but lovingly!) and we promise you, when Caron Butler does something that is headline-worthy, Caron Butler will have his headline.
But minute-by-minute updates of every time Caron tosses a ball at a basket?
If it's framed by something funny that happened, or if there is a pertinent Caron quote, or, most of all, if Caron's tossing a ball at a basket is a true indication of progress, we all over it.
There is NO indication of progress from Caron having tossed a ball at a basket this week. He's been tossing balls at baskets for more than a month.
When he FIRST did so, DB.com reported it exclusively – and had the video to show you.
The media report that claims a Thursday rim-toss "is significant progress'' is not accurate. The phrase "joined his teammates on the court'' is
unintentionally (we are sure) deceiving. Caron "joining his teammates on the court'' is, in this case, no more significant than noting that Caron
"joined his teammates in walking to the players' parking lot'' or "joined his teammates as they ate at Burger King.''
Here is the DB.com exclusive video from Feb. 16:
When Caron does more than that, we will report it with a headline. When Caron does the same as that, we will not report it as "progress.''
Perhaps the Mavs looked past a wounded Wolves' team, focused on the six-game road trip they are about to embark upon. If you're looking for a silver
lining, that may provide the clearest avenue … well, other than the fact that the Mavs did not play well, and despite making the game tougher than it
should have been, did manage to pull out a win. … Carlisle said he started Marion in part to combat Michael Beasley, who scored a pedestrian 12 points.
… We're disappointed that Dallas didn't take it to the hole more often with only Darko there to stop it … It is our understanding that Peja's health is
still somewhat of a concern. Rick called the neck injury "scary,'' and there will be continued monitoring there. … The Mavs have a morning practice
session on Thursday before traveling to Utah. … We always joke that Brian Cardinal's greatest asset is that he "knows where to stand.'' But not even
that was the case for ‘The Custodian'' in 2:04 of burn that went on 2:00 too long. … That fourth-quarter two-man game featuring Dirk and Jet was
predictable – but, we admit, predictably good as they combined to total 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting in the final quarter. … Yes, we loved TY's battle
for an offensive rebound, putback and foul that pushed the Mavs ahead with 2:38 left. Ah, but when he emotionally slapped the ball across the court and
yelped, we were reminded again that one of these days (like in the playoffs), Tyson is going to run into a ref who doesn't like chasing punched dead
balls or hearing celebratory yelping. Be forewarned, TY. … Marion got it done despite a sore wrist, sore ribs and a pinky finger that he says is
permanently turned sideways. … Was this a playoff rotation preview? The Mavs essentially used nine guys, with Ian Mahinmi getting five minutes,
Cardinal getting his sniff, DeShawn playing four seconds and Corey Brewer getting nothing at all. …
Said Carlisle: "There are some things we've got to keep working on and working out, but I'm going to remain very positive about these guys. I believe in these guys."
THE FINAL WORD: "It wasn't pretty tonight,'' Dirk said. "We were a little rusty there in the first half. We missed a lot of shots, wide-open shots actually, and in the second half we really had to fight for it … but it was a good win and we'll move on."
So, let us move on as well … no 11X50 banners or t-shirts or sprayed champagne. … let us move onto 51 … and beyond.