First Impressions: 'A Piece Of Work' In OKC
It's not really about the final score. When the banner hasn't yet been raised and over one third of the roster is new, final scores of preseason games aren't the top-of-mind concern.
"Obviously, with the short training camp and new guys, it's going to take a while," Nowitzki said after Dallas finished its quickie exhibition season at 0-2. "We really haven't had a game under our belt as a complete team, having Jason Kidd and I resting the first game, and we had a bunch of people sick ((on Tuesday).
"I think our goal cannot be to be the best team right now. In a week our goal is to get better and also better game to game,'' The UberMan continued. "Hopefully by April, May and June we can be back to where we were last year. However, we know we are still a piece of work."
Indeed, progress of new guys and cohesiveness of the entire unit are far more realistic goals.
First Quarter Coming in, Dallas was looking to see if Dominique Jones could duplicate his performance from Sunday (when he scored 17), and the early results were promising. DoJo earned the start at the 2, in part because with West and Terry out sick and Carter sidelined, too, Jones was merely among the last men standing. His early performance did not disappoint, with an aggressive demeanor that led to four early free throws and a nifty pass down low to Marion.
Other first-quarter standouts were Odom and Haywood – but for very different reasons. Odom showed some impressive range going 2-of-2 from the arc and again showing off a wide range of activity, registering a rebound as well as a block in the quarter. Alternately, Haywood slipped on his Eric Dampier Hands and fumbled away an inbounds pass.
Second Quarter Just in time for winter, it brought "tough sledding'' for the Mavericks. In fact, it was fairly reminiscent of the second quarter from Sunday, where the Thunder started splashing jumper after jumper. The Thunder used a deadly transition game as well as timely 3's to ignite a 12-2 run that opened a lead they nursed for the rest of the quarter. It was obvious the Mavericks still have not ironed out the kinks in the offense and defense caused by the addition of so many new faces.
On the positive side, with Dirk in the lineup, we got to see our first glimpse of the Three-Forward Lineup for the first time, however briefly. (It's a shame the Three-Forward Lineup couldn't play alongside the 3 PG Attack, because the Mavs could've used the six-to-five-man advantage here.)
Third Quarter The OKC run extended to 36-9 and the blowout was on. Again, not that the final score matters in preseason games. … but the Mavs looking lethargic after halftime is a tad bothersome, as they only mustered 14 points in the third quarter after only scoring 15 in the second. Coming out of a timeout in the third quarter, Carlisle substituted in Neitzel and Randle together, essentially calling off the dogs. (Neitzel and Randle, by the way, are apparently reporting to Frisco on Wednesday along with new center Sean Williams to get some work with the D-League Texas Legends.)
Fourth Quarter The final quarter saw the Mavs, led by Jerome Randle, Brandan Wright and Lamar Odom, hustle their way back to respectability. Most of Randle's and Wright's points came in garbage time, but their contributions are promising. Wright and Randle finished the game with 12 and 15 points respectively, tops on the team. Their rally ultimately fell short however, and the final score was a closer-than-it-seems OKC 87, Dallas 83.
DoJo: DoJo was aggressive early and often, penetrating with ease against an active OKC defense. He led the game in FTs and finished with a balanced little line of seven points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals (marred by five turnovers). Sticking with Russell Westbrook proved to be a challenge, but his combo ability gives him a strong argument for being a rotation player going forward.
Lamar Odom: Carlisle predicted fans would fall in love with LO, and there he was diving on the floor for loose balls and standing up for his teammates after hard fouls and … yes, you love him. Last year, some of his efforts would have been dubbed "cheap shot,'' but this year he's in blue, so his defense of Randle will simply be called "being a good teammate.''
Semantics aside, it was nice to see a member of this team look something besides lethargic in the second half. The Thunder were by far the more engaged and urgent squad in this game. They played like a team attempting to avenge last year's exit at the hands of the eventual champs. But LO put up a fight … kinda as if he knows something about defending titles.
Jerome Randle and Brandan Wright: We group these newcomers together because they were both fourth-quarter standouts. Though the game was essentially already decided, Randle and Wright played hard through the final whistle. Wright finished with 12 points and four boards and displayed an impressive array of moves inside. He looked comfortable using power inside, dunking with authority, as well as with a soft touch on a nifty floater. His development and use will be interesting as he fights for minutes amongst a frontcourt crowded with talent.
Randle, on the other hand, is merely fighting for a roster spot. He made a strong case here, demonstrating the plus handles we are accustomed to but also displaying more shooting touch than we've seen previously. The comparisons to Barea are starting to make more sense, and if he makes the squad, this won't be the last time these two are linked.
In Summary: Nowitzki went 2-of-10 from the field and scored six points in 23 minutes. Kidd had three points on 1-of-4 shooting and three assists in 18 minutes. Those numbers alone remind you that this outing has very little to do with the Mavs having defeated OKC last spring in the Western Conference Finals and very little to do with their ensuing title.
"Please don't read too much into it," said Thunder star Kevin Durant. "Those guys, they rested a lot of guys.''
It is hoped that this preseason also has very little to do with what starts happening for real on Christmas Day … and that this "work in progress'' can become a "piece of work.''