As Mavs owner Mark Cuban questioned the usefulness of a leering press, the Dallas Mavericks took the court with the in the hopes of silencing their
detractors with their play against one of the hottest teams in the NBA, the Denver Nuggets. With two starters on the bench, the Mavs did not whimper
their way to a 104-96 loss, their fourth straight, that remained undecided in the final minutes … choosing to fight instead. Let's get you warmed up by watching JJB warm up ... C'mon down onto the court with DB.com!
THE TOP STORY: Before the game, coach Rick Carlisle noted that the team's priorities lie in getting rest to those who need it, and a return to health from those presently without it. Nowhere was this more evident than with the starting lineup, as Jason Kidd (rest) and Tyson Chandler (lingering soreness in his back) both missed the game.
Despite missing 40 percent of their starting lineup, the Mavericks did not fail to keep things interesting against a Denver team that had won six of their last seven games, the lone loss coming Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.
With 2:50 remaining in the game, Roddy Beaubois, suffering through an otherwise poor performance, went to the floor to wrestle a ball free from Nene, leading to Nene's fifth foul and Roddy B heading to the free-throw line with a chance to tie the game at 94.
In what may amount to the biggest free-throw attempts of his young career, Roddy drained both.
Unfortunately, Dallas would not score again until Beaubois hit a meaningless runner in the paint with 19 seconds left … a shot that was swatted away by Kenyon Martin, who was called for goaltending.
Fueled by seven from JR Smith, Denver scored 10 points over the same 2:50 stretch to put the game away.
TURNOVERS AND MISCUES: Down the game-deciding stretch, "turnovers and miscues" cost the Mavs the chance at a win.
Tied at 94, JR or ‘Earl' or whomever drained consecutive baskets, sandwiching around a missed Dirk Nowitzki transition three-point attempt, and the deficit was quickly four.
In the final two minutes, three costly errors would seal the outcome.
1 JJ Barea allowed Raymond Felton to harass him to the point of coughing up a turnover, leading to an easy basket from Kenyon Martin.
2 Moments later, Jason Terry would sling a pass several rows deep into the stands … leaving Dallas players to look helplessly up as the ball soared high overhead and out of bounds.
3 On the next possession, JR Smith drilled a three and the deficit was up to nine. Terry would further compound his mistake by earning a technical, which Felton calmly drained, to push the Denver lead to 10.
From a close, hard fought game, to out of reach in a matter of two minutes … and three mistakes.
"I'm upset with what happened at 94-all,'' said Rick in a postgame presser that was otherwise all smiles. "You can't have a situation where you give up a couple of shots, and then turn it over the way we did and give up another basket, and then get a technical foul – regardless of the situation."
More from Smilin' Rick:
You have to respect the fight the Mavs showed as they fell behind by as much as 16, but refused to yield, even as two of their leaders watched from the bench. This game had a different feel than those directly preceding it, though the outcome remained the same.
Signs of toughness were there, but we were reminded of what is lost when Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler are not on the floor at critical junctures. As Barea and Terry were turning the ball over, you couldn't help but wonder if Kidd's BBIQ guides those situations to different destinations.
Dallas gave away a total of 17 turnovers that led directly to 25 points for the Nuggets. It's hard to win with those numbers … just ask Coop.
SURPRISE(S) OF THE NIGHT: We'll start with Corey Brewer.
Before playing four minutes against Portland, Brewer had not seen the court in six outings, including often being inactive and sentenced to street clothes. The much-publicized signee who had created a mini-bidding war among contenders when New York released him had been nearing afterthought status.
With Kidd resting and Chandler out, room was made on the active roster, and Carlisle called upon the newest Mavs … he did not disappoint.
Brewer finished with 13 points (a new high as a Mav) on 5-of-9 shooting and added three steals with constant activity on the defensive side of the ball.
DeShawn Stevenson got the start at shooting guard, but Brewer's first half play … his nine points at the half were second to only Shawn Marion's 11 … led to Stevenson never again leaving the bench, and Brewer starting the second half.
Could this create a battle for the final active spot between Brewer and Stevenson?
Stevenson has been the consummate teammate, and a model professional, but Brewer's energy level is something the Mavs have been lacking at times in their recent stretch. As Stevenson's shot continues to elude him (0-of-3 against the Nuggets), the notion of replacing him in the rotation with Brewer must be considered.
"I love the points, but I love the energy more," Carlisle said. "You talk about a guy staying ready and taking advantage of an opportunity … I though Brewer played terrific tonight. We were down quite a bit when he came into the game, but he energized us and helped get things going, and he made sound plays for the most part."
The energy is the key. When the Mavs were in danger of once again appearing stagnant, it was Brewer's presence that helped shift the feel of the game.
The second surprise shouldn't come as a surprise, though the fact that it may speaks to a season long battle for consistency from Brendan Haywood.
With Chandler resting his sore back, Haywood was handed the start … and played very well.
For the bulk of the game, Haywood was a dominant defensive force lurking in the paint to challenge any and all comers. Big Wood finished with only one point, delivered by hitting only 1-of-6 attempts from the free-throw line, but otherwise made a strong positive impact.
He totaled 19 rebounds, a new season high, falling one shy of his career high 20, and blocked five shots. Eight of those rebounds came at the offensive end, helping to give Dallas a 15-to-12 advantage over the Nuggets in this area.
We often opine that Big Wood plays his best when he is given a hug … playing time, compliments, whatever. Rick must believe so, too, because after giving Brendan the assignment, and along with praising him in the postgame, the coach took a dig at Haywood's critics, gently nudging the "people in this room (media)'' who have "maligned'' him.
And then Big Wood himself dealt with those "people'' ...
ENTER THE MATRIX: Carlisle noted at practice today that Shawn Marion would likely be the starter for the remainder of the regular season, which had to please Marion, who only recently voiced frustration over his ever-changing flux between the starting lineup and bench.
In his now clearly defined role, Marion once again excelled with a team-high 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting to go with 10 rebounds for his tenth double-double of the season.
THE NUMBERS GAME:
*With 21 points, Shawn Marion led the Mavs in scoring for the third consecutive game, and he is averaging 20.3 points over that stretch.
*Dallas entered the Nuggets game having hit only 42.2 percent of their total shots and 32 percent behind the arc, over the past five games. These numbers are down from the full season averages of a 47.3 field-goal percentage and 36.6 percent from three.
Over those five games, the Mavs are scoring 6.4 points less per game.
*Shawn Marion has now started 23 games this season for Dallas. In those games the Mavs are 10-13. When he enters the game as a reserve, they are 42-11.
To round out those numbers, the Mavs are 1-1 in games Marion has missed.
*In games where five Mavs score in double digits, as they did against Denver, the team's record is now 33-8.
THE OTHER GUYS: Carlisle called the supporting cast that. Nothing negative about it. But we know that the Mavs' future largely hinges not on them, "The other guys,'' but rather on the likes of Dirk, Jet and Kidd.
Let's chronicle the exploits of those three, bouncing from Sunday in Portland (where the team last played, and poorly) to Wednesday at the AAC:
*Dirk Nowitzki: Over the previous six games (not including Portland), The UberMan was averaging 21.8 points and 8.2 rebounds, but had scored under 20 three times and hit only 42 percent of his field goals, including only 25 percent behind the arc.
Against Portland, Dirk was the Mavs third-leading scorer with 16 points on 5-of-12 attempts, along with five rebounds and seven trips to the free-throw line, where he converted six.
Against Denver? Dirk was 9-of-16 for 20 points, seemed prepped to get hot late, and seemed plugged in enough to record a notable late-game block.
Dirk's "We kept fightin''' evaluation:
*Jason Terry: Over the previous four games, Terry was averaging 11 points and 4.5 assists, and hitting only 31.4 percent of his shots from the floor and 15 percent behind the three-point line.
Against Portland, Terry scored four points on 1-of-6 shooting, adding zero rebounds, one assists, one turnover and nothing else … he had as many personal fouls (four) as any positive statistic.
Against Denver? Jet was 5-of-10 for 15 points, missing a late-game 3 try that might've altered the fate of this game.
*Jason Kidd: Since March 6, over the course of 15 games, Kidd was averaging 5.9 points, 8.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds while shooting 31.5 percent, and 23.9 percent behind the arc.
Against Portland, Kidd went scoreless, missing all six of his shots, with five of those coming behind the arc. He did have three steals and a block, but only four assists and appeared to begin to reserve his energies as the game went on.
Against Denver? He wore a lovely suit, like another key guy, Tyson Chandler, awaiting a more important day.
Earlier in the week, Dirk said: "We need some home cooking now. … We got to play better, get more out of myself. Jet hasn't been there on this trip. J-Kidd's got to make some shots. Just all across the board."
He's pinpointing the right guys. But do they need simply "home cooking''? Or something more (less) than that? Going into Wednesday, unfortunate occurrences came in threes. Now they've come in a fourth – with the Mavs now trying to hang onto not being fourth in the West.
There is no panic in the Dallas locker room. But there is awareness.
"I don't know that it's ever going to be perfect,'' said Carlisle before the game. "Last year, we entered the playoffs on a five-game roll and all seemed well. And we struggled (losing in Round 1 to San Antonio). The priority in our mind is to make sure the guys that need rest get rest, the guys that have any health issues get it resolved and then we've got to focus in on who our opponent is.''
QUOTEBOARD: "We're pros here. We don't have a bunch of rookies running around out there. We have one rookie who's got a screw in his foot, and he ain't played in more than two months. So we can't be doing that stuff. Simple as that. ... After the fact, I think our guys realized that, but in the heat of the moment we've got to be better." -- Rick Carlisle, upset at late-game mental mistakes by, apparently, Jet and Marion.
MARION RESPONDS TO CRACKDOWN: "We need more than that, but that's OK," Marion said of him being pulled from the game for not hustling back after an airballed 3. "I'll take it, but you've got to make an example out of everybody. I'll lead by example. That's fine. It is what it is."
JJ Barea finished with a double-double by scoring 12 points and handing out 10 assists. It's his third double-double of the season, and second in the
last three games … Five of the eight players to see action for Denver reached double digits in scoring. The three that failed to reach double digits
each had nine. That's what we like to call "balanced" scoring … It was a "Go Green'' night. Green headbands and such ... In a rarity, Jet did not make himself available to us for a visit ... Rick had some pregame fun joking about JJB's relationship with Miss Universe 2006 ... In addition to Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler missing the game for Dallas, Chris
Andersen, Arron Afflalo and Timofey Mozgov were out for Denver … The Nuggets were on the second night of a back-to-back, having lost the prior night to
the Thunder … OKC is now one game behind the Mavs for the third seed, and holds the tie-breaker as a division winner. Both teams have four games
It is conceivable that Dallas could drop to No. 4 and oppose No. 5 Denver in Round 1 of the playoffs. Indeed, you look at all the accepting smiles after Wednesday's loss -- combined with the work ethic that was in place for at least the second half -- and wonder if fourth place (the non-Lakers bracket) isn't somewhat acceptable ...
THE FINAL WORD: With Kidd and Chandler watching from the bench, this game was an uphill battle from the start. Roddy Beaubois got the nod at point guard, and suffered through obvious growing pains (though he would keep his head in the game and make a nice play on Nene to gather a steal and earn two free throws to tie the game at 94).
Despite Roddy B's struggles, and the plethora of team turnovers, which again arose at the most inopportune of times, we saw something we've been searching for from this team. We saw a group willing to fight, and willing to scratch and claw their way through a tough night. InGame No. 78 it's hard to accept a game as a "moral victory," but there is some semblance of that here.
"I would've been more impressed,'' Brendan Haywood said, "if we got the win."
And those are the facts. And the fact-based opinions.