QUICK RECAP: Putting together one of their best all-around halves in forever, Dallas wore the "soft" label their coach threw at them after their last meeting with the Hornets as a searing reminder, and trounced any association with it, cruising to an easy 121-89 win, holding the Hornets to 28 points after the intermission and claiming their largest margin of victory for the season, 32 points.
Even Rick Carlisle was fairly impressed.
Our thoughts? From this perch, the playoff view suddenly became much brighter.
THE TOP STORY: Playoff seeding may beg to dominate the marquee. (LAL almost blew it in Sacto, but the Lakers won in OT, meaning Dallas doesn't get the Hornets but rather the Blazers). But let us first take a moment to bask in what the Mavs put on the floor in the second half.
New Orleans scored 61 before the intermission, as the Dallas defense looked far from playoff-ready, and walked into the locker room having hit 57.5 percent of their shots, including 5-of-8 from behind the arc, and edging the Mavs in rebounds, 19-to-17.
The Mavs offense wasn't bad, note that the starters had combined to hit 60.9 percent of their shots, but the defense pulled at the frustrations harbored deep in the minds of most local fans.
"Everything was a little too easy for them in the first half and we talked at halftime how we had to step it up and bring a little more energy and really contest shots," Dirk Nowitzki said.
Whatever was said, worked, as Dallas emerged from the break a new team, punishing the Hornets in every possible way.
There was DeShawn Stevenson, Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler using their actions to loudly state the Mavs would not bear the brunt of bullying, responding to each shove with a push of their own.
There was no love lost as Chandler shoved his former teammate, Chris Paul, to the floor … (and beat on him at other opportunities, including when setting picks on the lil' fella).
There was only a purity of "disposition" – one of Rick Carlisle's buzzwords -- from Stevenson, as he prowled the court.
Dallas used the final half of the regular season to remind us all of what this team can be. If momentum is a beast that rolls downhill, we can only hope that what was gathered here continues to pick up speed as it moves on.
BELIEVE US YET?: You don't want to take our words for it? Check out some of the second-half numbers:
The 28 points New Orleans scored is the fewest the Mavs have given up in a half all season … pair that with the 63 Dallas scored, and you have the recipe for a good ol' fashioned butt-whoopin.
To reach those 28 points, the Hornets hit only 11-of-39 attempts from the floor (28.2 percent), including 1-of-6 behind the arc.
Where the Mavs were edged on the glass in the first half, they dominated in the second, out-rebounding the Hornets 25-to-16.
There was defense, there was the 61.8 percent Dallas shototing, there was dominance on the boards … there was a reminder of just what this team can be.
You don't have to tell that to Jason Terry twice ...
RODDY'S ROCKY NIGHT: Roddy Beaubois would not start the game, being replaced by DeShawn Stevenson in the starting lineup … and Roddy may be the sole source of negativity from the outcome, as he left second quarter with a sprained foot. Though he may have already seen his minutes much harder to come by, the injury will add a new level of uncertainty.
Carlisle on the decision to remove Roddy from the starting lineup:
"Just thought it was time to give that another look. Roddy struggled a little bit, and his energy has been down. So, that was that."
And, that was that.
Adding to that uncertainly, regardless of the injury, was the solid play of DeShawn Stevenson.
"We feel like when D.-Steve's in the starting lineup we feel like we can put him defensively on anybody and switch back and forth from the point guard." Jason Kidd said. "So, that works well and he's a veteran guy and knows what needs to be done, and that helped us out big time tonight."
Stevenson finished with six points, taking all three of his shots behind the three-point line, hitting two of them, and gave away only one turnover.
The boxscore may not show it, but Stevenson was also a big part of any "message" Dallas may have sent with their second-half play … a message delivered by the hammer rather than the finesse of the feather, or as Carlisle noted, "Yeah, Stevenson and (Tyson) Chandler were very physical defensively …"
We got some Fish-on-DeShawn one-on-one time in this Exclusive DB.com Video Visit:
We haven't given up on Roddy B, and still believe he can provide something no one else on this roster is capable of, something that may be required at some point in these playoffs, but it's hard to argue with these results.
We'll have to wait to see how things shake out in the playoffs. But at this moment, depending on the who's who of the opponent …
OUR GUESS AT THE ROTATION: We think eight guys are kind of figured out.
Dirk, Kidd, TY and Marion start.
JJB, Peja and Haywood get first cracks off the bench.
That's seven … with a hole.
Can we assume the DeShawn deal was a tryout and that D-Steve passed the test?
"You've been around this team for a while, haven't you?'' Carlisle asked playfully before reminding that he has a penchant for making deep reserves into starters and then back again.
So here's the deal on Roddy B vs. DeShawn: there is suddenly a vibe from the club that the confidence that Roddy B is now lacking in himself is a feeling temporarily shared by some of the other fellas.
"Things change," Carlisle said. "And you've got to be judged by performance. I think the last time I said, ‘I'm sticking with this kid' was over a week ago. Some things have changed in that period of time.''
DB.com started the "FREE RODDY B'' movement. We still believe in it, and we're worried that if the team is lacking Roddy B, the team is lacking. But if Beaubois is performing so poorly at this moment that vets like Tyson Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki are singing the praises of D-Steve, who are we to argue?
"I'm a big supporter of D-Steve,'' Dirk said. "He's a rugged 2-guard who can guard 1s, 2s and 3s, so he's versatile. His shot was looking really good early in the season. If he can shoot the ball like that, he's going to be an animal for us in the playoffs."
An animal? How can we argue against that?
We know that DeShawn's 3-point accuracy has faded since the first half of the year, when he was among the NBA's best. But we also know that with a healthy Dirk in the lineip and Stevenson starting, the Mavs are 36-9 this year.
So ... like Rick says ... "things change.'' Maybe they'll change back. But probably not this weekend.
OUR ROUND 1 SCHEDULE: Save some dates. ...
Mavs/Blazers: Gm 1 - SAT April 16th at 8:30 CST
Gm 2 - TUES April 19th at 8:30 CST
Gm 3 - THURS April 21st at 9:30 CST
Gm 4 SAT April 23rd at 4:00 CST ... The DB.com Mavs Get-Together at ThreeSheets is on! Big prizes, a huge Mavs-lovin' crowd and you … check it out on our ThreeSheets Mavs Party Facebook Page !
Gm 5 (if) Monday, April 25th (Time TBD)
Gm 6 (if) Thursday, April 28th (Time TBD) and
Gm 7 (if) Saturday, April 30 (Time TBD)
J-KIDD FEELIN' STRONG: Jason Kidd scored 12 points by hitting 4-of-6 attempts behind the arc to go with eight assists, three rebounds and four steals.
"I just feel stronger by having the week off and let my legs catch up, and so physically I feel great." Kidd said. "I feel like I've got my legs back. I just wasn't bending my knees enough before and using my legs on my shot. My shot felt really good tonight so I'm happy where I'm at right now."
Fascinating to hear a 38-year-old all-time great discussing openly some tinkering with mechanics, still trying to get better. …
Oh, and great to hear that he IS better … as Dallas will need this version of Kidd in the playoffs if success is to be found.
ONE-ON-ONE WITH RICK: The coach danced wryly around a question about how he would spend his postgame night -- "None of your business!'' he joked in the group presser -- but DB.com thought we'd give the angle one more try later when we cornered him one-on-one.
Fish: "So really, what's your usual M.O. here? Put your feet on the desk and watch the Lakers? Get the staff together and start film study? Go home and hug your wife?''
Rick: "Well, my wife's here (at the arena). So I don't have to go home to do that.''
Fish: "So, go watch the game with the staff and have your wife spend a romantic evening watching it with y'all?''
Rick: "Yeah, that's one idea. No, I think we're going to order in some dinner, watch a little basketball and get to work. But you know what we've got there? Options. We've got options.''
With guys going from inactive one night to starting the next ... yeah. Rick likes those options.
OH, YEAH. DIRK: We're this far in and yet to mention the fact that Dirk Nowitzki scored a game-high 32 points, earning 12 trips to the line, where he would hit 11, and grabbing six rebounds.
Dirk was also the lone Mavs player to play over 30 minutes, with 31:47 … winning by 32 can do that for a team.
So yes, he got his rest, too, while also finding his groove. And meeting with the loitering media.
MR. UNIVERSE: JJ Barea continued his strong play, raising his career-high scoring average to 9.5 points per game with 14 against the Hornets, while adding eight assists, where his 3.4 per game on the season is also a career high.
Remember the horrible shooting slump that marred the early portion of his season? It was left to wallow in 2010.
Since the calendar flipped to 2011, over the course of 50 games, Barea has averaged 11 points and 4.2 assists while hitting 47 percent of his field-goal attempts, including 44.8 percent behind the arc.
And, did we mention he is dating Miss Universe?
2011 has been kind to Barea, and the Mavs feel very comfortable going forward with him as the backup PG, a guy who has excelled while playing 20 minutes per game and now will be asked to squeeze that sort of production into the less-demanding minutes available behind Kidd.
MAVSELLANEOUS: Gone and buried now is all that failure against West playoff-bound teams. The Mavs had dropped nine in a row, but the strong close and this second half moves that number into the history books. ... Congrats to 'Trix, a 1,500-steals/1,000-blocks man, one of just five in NBA history ... Peja Stojakovic was excused from the game to tend to a personal matter. He is expected to rejoin the team Thursday ... Shawn Marion became the fifth player in NBA history with 1,500 steals and 1,000 blocks. ... Dallas will not practice on Thursday, but Rick Carlisle will meet with the media in the afternoon and of course DB.com will be there ... Interestingly, the player tabbed to speak to the crowd before the game on Fan Appreciation Night was Dallas backup center Brendan Haywood. "Y'all are the best fans,'' Big Wood said. "We expect the same thing in the playoffs.'' ... Follow The 75-Member Staff on Twitter!
Follow Fish on Twitter at FishSports! And get hooked up with other DB.com staffers like Michael Dugat and Kevin Brolan, too!
FISH AND 'TRIX: THE SECOND BANANA?: The numbers say it is so, Shawn ...
THE NUMBERS GAME: With the season wrapping up, here are a few nuggets from the accumulated stats.
*Dallas went 13-1 when scoring at least 110 points, and 43-4 when reaching 100.
*The Mavs bench scored a combined 60 points six times, leading to a 5-1 record in those games. Dallas had a record of n instances that saw two bench players score double digits,
*When grabbing no less than 50 rebounds, Dallas was 8-0.
*The most points allowed in a half was 66, which happened twice. Most allowed in a quarter were 41, which Memphis put up on March 6. Most in a game was 121 by Denver Feb. 10.
*The least points allowed for a half was the 28 New Orleans scored in the final half of the regular season. For a game, Golden State scored only 73 March 20. Fewest given up in a quarter was the 10 by Golden State in the fourth period in that same game, March 20.
*The highest scoring game for the Mavs was 127 against the Knicks, March 10, as was their biggest quarter, 41 points, and their most points in a half, 72.
*Mavs lows? Scored 12 points in a quarter against Memphis (Jan. 15) and the Lakers (March 31). Put up only 31 points in a half in that same Lakers game. Their lowest scoring game came in Dirk's first game back from injury, when they scored only 70 against Memphis.
*Dallas finishes with the best record on the road in the league, tied with Miami at 28-13, and improves upon their 55 wins a season ago by reaching 57.
Their final record is 57-25.*Brian Cardinal hit 48.3 percent of his threes this season … a new career high.
THE QUOTEBOARD: "I'm not into analyzing (the past). I'm an in-the-present guy. ... We're gonna go into this thing guns blazing.'' - Rick Carlisle.
The "blazing,'' we assume, was an unintended pun.
THE FINAL WORD: Dallas entered game number 82 with questions and doubts enveloping their every move … including a starting lineup change, which is less than ideal in the final game of the regular season.
Does a half of great basketball erase all doubt? No.
But, it does remind us of why our hopes once climbed so high … of how we can continue to find frustration in a team with 57 wins. For one half, the final half of the regular season, we saw what fed breaths into our hope's lungs. We again found a reason to believe that the level of play attained early in the season was not a mirage, that it did not ride the Caron Butler injury off into the sunset … but lingers on.
We saw what we can only hope to see when the playoffs begin this weekend.
"Now the fun season starts." Dirk Nowitzki said.
And so it shall.