All-Access Pass: Inside Heat 105, Mavs 94
FOREWARD: The Heat crushed the Mavs by a deceiving final score of 105-94 as LeBron (37 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, two steals, two blocks) and Wade (26 points, eight rebounds, six assists) tried in vain to quiet the championship ghosts with a Game 1 victory.
Before we dig into the fresh bruise decorating our banner-drunken … and clumsy … happiness, let us first remember why this day will not be forgotten in the hearts and minds of Mavs' fans.
The banner-raising as seen on ABC:
Nice. But you are a Premium Mavs Subscriber. So what you get must be nicer than nice. ...
THE BANNER IS REAL, AND IT IS GLORIOUS: We pushed our way to the painted stripe of the court's sideline, directly across from the Mavs' bench and only feet from where the shrouded banner hung like a previously unknown deity finally ready to reveal itself. The tears, the cries, chants, taunts, pain and ultimately the glory 31 years have brought to Dallas fans was all caught beneath a black tarp, tattooed to cloth and waiting to be raised to the rafters of the AAC.
The dream was finally a physical reality. It was tangible. You could touch it – or, at least, we could touch it for you – you could let your eye focus on what history cannot deny, what thousands of fans over the coming season, years and decades will always find perched above their heads. The championship, and the championship banner, was real, and it was glorious.
After a brief statement from David Stern, who received a healthy dose of boo's from the Dallas crowd, and some tearful talk from Mark Cuban, Rick Carlisle spoke and reminded us of the players who figured so prominently in the Title but are no longer present – as if we needed that reminder -- in a sentimental moment that caused the crowd to cheer increasingly louder as Corey Brewer, Caron Butler, Peja Stojakovic, DeShawn Stevenson, JJ Barea and Tyson Chandler were mentioned.
The microphone then made its way to Jason Terry, who exalted the team's success after 31 years, and finally to Dirk Nowitzki. It was around this time that the emotions swelled and spilled beyond the arena and into the hearts of Mavs fans everywhere for all they had been a part of. For one shining moment, faith was rewarded and the truth of what had been accomplished drilled its way home.
(Credit to The 75-Member Staff, led by Kevin Brolan and Chuck Perry on the floor)
"You guys have been with us through everything and made it through a lot of disappointments with me over my 13 years," Nowitzki told the fans during the pregame ceremony, which featured an appearance by commissioner David Stern, tributes from Carlisle to the departed players, and the Larry O'Brien Trophy. "This is a very special day. We waited a very long time for this."
It was this ceremony, these precious moments that we'll take away from the 2011 Christmas Day season opener. The trouncing that was to follow is but a meaningless breath drawn at a nondescript moment of an otherwise significant day. The single game will slip into a stew of so many others, but the banner will hang high … it will serenade our memories safely to the shore of a season ago … to the dreams that now fly, captured on that banner … to that instant the Mavs vanquished their deepest demons to hold what cannot be taken away.
It wasn't the same team we watched today. It wasn't a team we'll ever see take the court again, though rising above the sadness of that reality is the truth in what was given to us, what was earned by them. The Dallas Mavericks are the 2010-11 NBA Champions. This wasn't given to them. They took it. It's theirs … and as Shawn Marion so succinctly put, "they can't say shit."
Talk all you want about today's game, but for this day, today wasn't about today. The rings are yet to come, but this day is forever linked to its former. ... it was all the big things and little things, like the fact that the word "DALLAS'' on the uniform tops was surrounded by special gold trim ... Larry O'Brien gold.
The gold, banner, the championship, as surreal as it was, is real … and it is glorious.
DO WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THE GAME?: Sure, we're still a little punch-drunk, but we'll do our best to look into the Mavs performance here … which leaves us with little to praise.
First, Rick gets his turn.
So, what do WE think of how the newcomers looked in their first game of record? The early – very early – reviews are mixed at best.
"We've got to work (Lamar) into things," Carlisle said. "Foul trouble early kind of got us discombobulated with what we wanted to do with the rotation."
Lamar Odom entered the game alongside Jason Terry and picked up two fouls in a minute-and-a-half and struggled to find the flow of the game from there until he decided he'd had enough of what had become a very one-sided blowout. The Heat led 82-54 with 5:06 to play in the third quarter when the AAC experienced an Odom related flashback … this time his ejection came as a member of the Mavs.
Odom was sent to the locker room after picking up an offensive foul he couldn't accept, earning himself a quick T, followed quickly by another … and his Mavs debut was over with four points (1-of-6 field goals), four rebounds (sadly, that was only two from making him the Mavs leader in this category), four fouls, one assist, one steal and two turnovers.
Statistically, stylistically, and just about every other "-cally" you can think of, Odom's play will be better as time to adjust is granted. For this day, it wasn't pretty, but there remain plenty of reasons to harbor a healthy optimism for how Odom can eventually fit in with this roster.
"We've got to get better and it will take a little time to get better and even though the start of the season is going to be a sprint it's still a long season with 65 to go," Odom said. "We've got another one tomorrow so we'll chalk this one up as a loss and get ready for Denver."
Vince Carter continues to appear as "Half-Man/Half-Retired.'' Perhaps we're being too harsh here in a time where such opinions have yet to gain the sample size needed to feel valid, but age seems to have drained his quickness and made shallow his once deep athletic well, leaving a player prone to taking bad shots and incapable of being paired with Jason Kidd in the backcourt … a conclusion the Mavs may share, considering that Delonte West started the second half at shooting guard in place of Carter.
On the positive side, his length did prove to be a benefit a few times at the defensive end, though his lack of foot speed tends to counter this. It's not earth shattering, but it was a hint towards the right end of the spectrum.
We're not yet ready to declare that Carter can't be a strong player on this roster, or make a solid positive impact, but Carlisle has a job ahead of him working out how and where Carter, and others, fit … or, how they fit together.
"We could have some variance with our lineups at the two spot, which is certainly nothing new here,'' Rick said, adding that he "liked the way Vince played.''
Carter finished with five points (2-of-6 field goals), two rebounds, three assists and two turnovers.
Bring on the varience?
Delonte West may have been the newcomer to shine the brightest in an otherwise gloomy performance. His tenacity on defense was both familiar and refreshing, though there were a couple of questionable decisions that led to passes being thrown into crowded lanes, trying to find their way through too fine of crevasses.
No Mavs seemed capable of stopping or even slowing down Wade or LeBron, but West may have been the sole player to at least momentarily make Wade work for his points, and he showed the ability to create for his teammates or knock down a shot if needed.
West seems like an entertaining individual, perhaps bringing the good kind of "crazy" to this Mavs roster and if today was any indication, he should fit in nicely as these players come to better understand the nuances of playing as a unit.
A BBIQ REPORT: From J-Kidd, natch:
MISSING IN ACTION: Ok, it's only one game. You must remind yourself of this. True, it comes after a less than impressive preseason, but it cannot be assigned more significance than it merits. More likely than not, most of the judgments you cast today will not endure the season.
With those caveats in mind, where in the hell is Brendan Haywood?
Miami boosts one of the weakest center rotations in the NBA with Joel Anthony starting and a PF (Udonis Haslem) cleaning up the minutes behind him. In an ideal world this is a situation Haywood should feast upon. Instead, he had more turnovers (2) than points (0), blocks (0) and steals (0) combined.
In just under 14 minutes of action, Haywood picked up four fouls and managed to give almost nothing of value to his team.
In this moment, as small as it may be, we're forced to wonder if the mental strain Big Wood's free-throw struggles may be causing hasn't permeated the rest of his game, perhaps even the core of his confidence.
Still, we won't form an opinion yet. We're willing to admit things can change completely with one good performance … something Haywood is certainly capable of … and we're more than willing to accept this as what it is, just one game, but things have to get better. If Haywood cannot impose his will in the paint, cannot become a factor, this team is in real trouble.
Rick is telling us not to worry, insisting that Big Wood had his moments of effectiveness. "Brendan Haywood is not Tyson Chandler,'' the coach said. "He's a different kind of player."
And Haywood himself is acting like he's above it all.
"You can't worry about what anybody else is saying or trying to prove anything to anybody else," he said.
Fine. They aren't worried. It's just us, then. We're worried.
THE ZONE: If our eyes did not deceive us, we did notice the zone on a few occasions. This tactic hid the weaknesses of last year's roster with great success, and may be relied upon to do the same again … to put it nicely; it remains a "work in progress" with this year's squad.
QUOTABLE: "It's going to be a work in progress. We've got a lot of work to do. ... We've got to figure this thing out pretty quick." - Dirk
THE JET HAS TAKEN FLIGHT: With the Heat lead ballooning to as much as 35 points (after a 42-17 surge by the Heat), the game was delivered to Jason Terry and the Mavs bench. After allowing the heat to top 30 points in each of the first three quarters, Dallas fought back in the fourth, holding Miami to eight points on 2-of-15 shooting … only the hole was far too deep to begin with.
Yes, the starters did give way to the bench for both teams, and the comeback was never truly in hand, but there are positives to take from a team that refused to give up when it would have been so easy to do so.
Jason Terry led the Mavs with 23 points, nine of those coming in the fourth quarter, three assists and two steals. When few seemed ready to rise to the level of competition this game required, Terry showed no fear and no letdown.
Delonte West joined him in the final frame's push back, adding eight points, causing the final score to look somewhat respectable … though that is clearly misleading on this day.
THE NUMBERS GAME: Look away if you must …
*Dirk scored 21 and you barely noticed.
* The Heat outscored the Mavericks 42-17 from the 7:12 mark of the second quarter through the 8:24 mark of the third period to open up a 35-point lead (78-43).
*As a harbinger of what was to come, the Heat outscored the Mavs 18-0 in the paint in the first quarter
*Our man Chuck Perry summarized the first quarter, which set the stage for the game: "Ugly. It is evident that this team has not yet found the right chemistry due in part to so many new faces. In the first, the Mavs had eight turnovers and surrendered seven offensive boards to the Heat, resulting in eight second-chance points. Miami is clearly the beneficiary of a high degree of continuity from last season, but not the Mavericks, who also haven't completely figured out their defensive rotations; they committed 10 fouls in the opening period. ‘'
And as it didn't get much better after that, that about sums it up.
*While Lamar Odom struggled from the floor (1-of-6 and a total of four points), he also struggled with the officials, earning an ejection with 5:06 to play in the third quarter. It marks the second straight game from which Odom has been booted, following his ejection from a Mavs-Lakers meeting in the playoffs while a member of the Lakers. Last two games at the AAC, Lamar hasn't been around long enough to grow comfortable.
*At the half, the Heat had 10 second-chance points to zero for Dallas. With 9:04 to play in the second quarter the Heat had as many offensive rebounds (8) as the Mavs had total rebounds. The final rebounding numbers were 51 for Miami, 31 for Dallas.
*The Dallas loss bucks a number of statistical trends: The Mavs had won 18 of 31 season-openers and 19 of 31 home-openers before Sunday's meeting with a team it had downed 14 straight times in the regular season.
FROM THE HEAT ROOM: The Miami players couldn't stand to watch the festivities, opting to march off the floor before the pregame lights were dimmed.
That earned them hoots from the Dallas crowd … and then came some rather lame explanations from the Heat locker room. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said the move was made "out of respect.''
"Yes we heard it, but at the end of the day they are the champions and they deserve it,'' Wade said. "We just came back to the locker room and stretched and get ready for when it was time to get back out on the court.''
Whatever. But we did sense that Miami has matured from where it was a few months ago.
"I'm encouraged,'' said Wade. "It's different from last year and we're little more together and more comfortable. This is step one and we did a good job today.''
Snarkily-speaking, it's worth noting that this Mavs' celebration of their first-ever title was infinitely more dignified than the Miami Heat's preseason celebration from a year ago of "one, two … seven'' titles anticipated. But paint LeBron James and Wade and company as mercenaries and villains as some might, on display Sunday once the ball was tipped were all the reasons Miami was favored to dominate Dallas in last year's Finals and are favored again this season.
"It was a good business professional win for us,'' Spoelstra said. "We understand this is going to be a wild journey for everybody with all the condensed games coming one after another. … It's not about last year's storyline; it's not about anything else other than trying to establish our season on the right note.''
MAVSELLANEOUS: Cardinal being Cardinal, with 10:08 to play in the game, Haslem picked up a Flagrant 1 after Cardinal got under his skin enough to draw a shove … That pregame ceremony lasted about 31 minutes – mirroring the 31 years you waited for it … Photographers continued to chase Khloe around and we really, really look forward to a coming Mavs game during which her presence is noted as being commonplace enough that she's no longer a primary storyline. … You will recall that DoJo started the last preseason game. That start now looks like the result of others who were absent. However, it's curious that he didn't get any real burn in a blowout like this one. DoJo and Roddy B were both allowed only brief mop-up duty. … LeBron and Wade joined Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony in the Miami starting lineup – a mirror of the Miami fivesome we last saw when Dallas beat the Heat 4-2 in the Finals last June. … This outing, predicted Dallas coach Carlisle, would be more about "play-making than play-calling." In other words, with the absence of the usual month-long training camp (along with Dallas' personnel changes), this is an NBA time for individual brilliance to dominated. And Miami's individual brilliance dominated. ...
TRIX' DIGIT: Trix broke his pinky finger. Again. He'll apparently rub some dirt on it and be ready to play Monday against the Nuggets.
THE FINAL WORD: As new as it is, and as much as it may hurt, this team greatly misses Tyson Chandler. Haywood is a capable starter in this league, even if he hasn't yet shown us this year, but he will never be Chandler. His personality and skillset simply do not match those of the former Mav and current Knick. Those days are gone, and this team has been left to swim the ocean of what comes next. There's a vast amount of space to cover and a limited period of time to do so. During training camp, Jason Kidd expressed the need for this team to catch on quickly and avoid the need to play catch up for the fast-paced season to come. Unless that fear is to be realized, Dallas must find a way to mix the pieces together in a fashion that allows them to not only remain competitive but when as they undergo the learning process.
This team has talent and they will get better. Considering all of the surrounding circumstances there is no shame in making the playoffs, regardless of how or what seed, and there is a very long way from here to there, but the curve must begin to arc up. The sky hasn't fallen. We have yet to be crushed in crumbling debris of blue.
There is still time to rely on time … for now.
Enjoy the banner. Enjoy the holiday. Try not to put too much weight in one performance. Remember that losses are fleeting but Flags Fly Forever. Now, go snuggle up to someone you love and maybe take a moment to remember something great from the last year … which happens to include the Mavs winning a Title.