All-Access: Mavs Get Win 1, 99-86 Over Raps
Coverage by Michael Dugat, Kevin Brolan, Chuck Perry, Mike Piellucci and Mike Fisher:
For the first time this season, in the fourth game, the Dallas Mavericks claimed a win. It wasn't always a construction of pure beauty, but the result finally gave this version of the Mavs something the cheer about, as Dallas put away the Toronto Raptors 99-86.
Dirk Nowitzki led the way early, but the game quickly evolved into a shootout between Andrea Bargnani and Ian Mahinmi … you read that correctly.
And at the end, Jet was wagging his index finger and Dirk was celebrating, too. ... a celebration of relief.
The World is a Candy Store
Lamar Odom continues to disappoint, though we may now have a more defined reasoning behind the "why" of this. Yes, there is the obvious nature of his sudden departure from the Lakers, to go with his very sudden arrival in Dallas, and the clear need to learn and adapt to a brand new system at both ends of the court. But, there is also something else, something far more fundamental.
"He's got a ways to go," Carlisle said of Odom. "He was behind conditioning wise. We'll get him caught up."
So, to compound all that he must first overcome to become a significant piece of this team (as we still expect him to do), he has to get into shape. We've heard about the extra work he's putting in, from extra solo-sessions to extra running, and there seems to be nothing but respect for the level of effort he is now giving, as coach notes that he is "working his ass off," but we can't feel a little upset over the fact that a professional athlete showed up for work not ready to physically contribute.
"We can't unconditionally play (Odom)," Carlisle said. "That will hurt our team."
This mantra, minutes must be earned, was clearly adhered to against Toronto as Odom played only 11:34 and visibly slowed after an energetic first couple of minutes. We have no doubt that he'll get there, but forgive us our impatience as we wait on a player who will be heavily relied upon to get his body ready for the weight.
Odom finished with three points, all from the free-throw line and four rebounds. By missing all three of his field-goal attempts, his shooting percentage for the season (though only four games old) now sits at 13.3 percent.
There's no doubt that will improve … the sooner the better.
In fact, Odom promised as much in the pregame, reminding a media grouping that he is a star.
"Once I get right, I'll be all right. I'm one of the best players to ever play," Odom said. "I'm the only player that can't make an All-Star team, but can play on the Olympic team."
That was the pregame. Here's LO postgame:
A Couple of Guards
There were two facts of note within the guard rotation of this game. First was the fact that Delonte West started but only played 16 minutes, going scoreless but handing out three assists and grabbing one steal.
West did not play in the fourth quarter, but continues to look like he will be a nice addition to this team. (We remember his Thursday night limp to the team bus and wonder if that's the reason for his limited work here.)
The second fact worthy of notation was that Roddy Beaubois acted as the closing point guard. With 10:46 to play he replaced Jason Kidd, and never left the court again. This was not garbage time. Roddy entered the game with a five-point lead but oversaw an offense that pushed that advantage to 13 by the final whistle.
And, other than two errant passes (the second of which Roddy took right back through sheer hustle), he played well. He seemed a little more in tune on defense, not wandering out of place and/or losing track of his man, and ran the offense well.
One of the errant passes mentioned above was intended for Dirk Nowitzki, but after that miss he did a good job of getting the ball to the focus of the Mavs offense in good positions to shoot and avoided forcing the issue beyond reasonable levels. It wasn't anything that jumps out of the boxscore, but it was something we've wanted – needed – to see more of from Roddy B. It was a solid effort … that helped escort a win home.
Roddy finished with seven points, two rebounds, one assist, three steals and three turnovers.
You won't hang this on the wall of great performances, but it should be taken in stride as a step in the right direction -- as FREE RODDY B usually is.
So Close to 2-2
You bitched at 0-1. You panicked at 0-2. You started thinking lotto at 0-3.
But this team has done everything right on the way to earning what oughta be a 2-2 mark in the last 248 hours, a KD miracle the only thing standing in the way.
The full Rick:
"We're playing better basketball,'' Carlisle said. "The first couple of games were horrible… The last couple of games are games we can build on. Tonight wasn't perfect - we gave up two significant leads. But I thought the key part of the game was the end of the third when we were on a run with Dirk on the bench. That gives us a huge lift… Games are going to be hard all year.''
And 2-2 would've been a way to endure "hard.'' Instead it's at Minny on Sunday and then OKC here on Monday and if Dallas played with this sort of effort (and gets a couple of its fatties in condition), maybe the Dallas Mavericks record is respectable some 48 hours from now.
Kiss My Rim: Center Stuff
We now know that Chocolate Covered Almonds can put his lips in the rim.
But what we really needed to know what, you know, can any of these centers continue to do what they did in OKC on Saturday and put the actually ball through the rim.
Friday's story from the center position was – and should be – Ian Mahinmi's 19 points that give Dallas a huge lift in the second quarter in particular. Mahinmi went a perfect 6-for-6 from the field (7-of-11 from the line) en route to that career-high 19 points. He added five boards and two blocks in a career-high 29 minutes off the bench for Dallas.
"I know this was a career high in points for him,'' Carlisle said, "but the last two nights he's given us a really high level of energy. He's given us a physical presence, he's a combative guy, and he was really big. It wasn't just the points; it was defensively he's in the right place, he's aggressive, he's talking. He's making great strides.''
Added Ian: "If I'm open, I'm going to shoot it; that's what coach has been telling me through the preseason, when I got an open shot, I got to take it, which is something I've really worked on in the offseason."
But what shouldn't be obscured is Brendan Haywood's night on the glass, highlighted by Big Wood yanking down four offensive rebounds in the first six minutes as part of five offensive and nine total rebounds on the night. We're starting to learn that the theme for this troika of Mavs pivots is going to be what they do as a collective rather than their individual stats, with the goal being to fuse those three disparate skill set into one unit greater than the sum of its parts.
Wood's job, as the biggest man on the roster, is to protect the rim and outmuscle opposing bigs for rebounds. Given the split in minutes, odds are his stat line won't be as gaudy as his starting campaigns in Washington or his first half-season in Dallas. But if he continues to rebound the way he has in the opening chunk of games, that will be more than enough for the Mavs. (Unless they acquire Fesenko, in which case it will be more than more enough.)
Especially with The Ianimal looking like a real live NBA player and Sean being able to kiss the rim and stuff.
He's still Vince Carter
We all know Vince Carter's rep. We've all probably complained about him at some point, be it as a neutral observer during one of his other stops or in the first four games he's played in Maverick blue. Like a lot of these Mavs, he's not what he used to be.
But when Vince Carter has the ball in his hands, you pay attention because, even at 34, he can still make things happen. And if you accept Vince Carter for what he is now – a good player working on a very reasonable deal (less than half what Caron makes, for instance) – versus what he was then, odds are you're going to wind up impressed with what he can add to this team.
Which, as demonstrated on Friday, can bring a nice smorgasbord of skills off the Mavs' bench.
Not a lot of any one thing, per se, but a little bit of everything – a block in the second quarter, a big top of the key three-pointer in the third, a nice feed to an open Mahinmi for the contested flush in the fourth; hell, he even took a charge.
Then there were the two prettiest buckets of all, a pair of long fadeaways from a foot or two inside the three-point line. Dirk can hit that shot because he's Dirk, and there aren't many spots on the floor he can't connect from. But outside of The UberMan, nobody else on the roster can make that look and even in the winter of his accomplished career, VC makes it look smooth.
All told, it was easily Carter's best game in Dallas -- and in a way, that's saying something inasmuch as on Thursday he hit the seeming game-winner in OKC. This team is starving for some continuity from the new arrivals. And Vince's waistline shows that he's not exactly starving, if you know what we mean. But just a little of the right Vince? They'll get value from Carter if he continues provide this type of spark off the bench.
Remember "Who do you think you're talkin' to?'' from his Thursday conflict with Ibaka? Saying it is fun. Showing it is better.
"I better go write my acceptance speech." - Vince Carter, referencing the number of times Carlisle has noted him as a "future Hall-of-Famer.''
This Mavs team is supposed to be about depth, right? (Well, after being about Dirk.) So we love hearing Rick say, that the French Connection of Ian "and Beaubois were really key guys on the second night of a back-to-back being able to finish the game. We didn't have to finish those last three minutes with Dirk out there or Jason Kidd. It really helps as we go forward." ... Want more depth? "Cardinal went in the game with 3-4 minutes left in crunch time and went out there and really played perfectly,'' said Rick. "We need that." ... Toronto used a 17-2 blitz (from the 7:41 mark of the third quarter through the 3:56 mark of the period) to take a seven-point advantage (68-61). And yeah, that put a scare into you. But Dallas responded with a 16-2 run to close the quarter and led, 77-70, after three. ... The Mavericks' bench outscored the Raptors' bench, 56-26 ... So are we gonna get over the "Khloe!" thing or not? New Year's resolution: Let's try.
The Next Dirk
Is Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani "The Next Dirk''? Heck, Durant isn't even "The Next Dirk'' yet. So, nah, but Bargs is a decent imitation. He went 7-of-8 from the floor in the opening half and had 18 points and five rebounds at the break. He finished with a game-high 30 points.
Rick on Casey
Rick praised ex-staffer Dwane Casey for his work as the first-year Raps coach. "I give Dwane a lot of credit for the approach that he's taken with that team,'' Rick said. "It's the right approach for a young team that's in a position to make some quantum leaps. For my money, I think they'll be in the hunt for the playoffs in the East."
There were times that this game felt like it may quickly spin out of control. Dallas was sloppy with the ball (though they finished with only 10 turnovers), seemed out of synch on offense and continued to struggle with forcing the opposing team to miss shots. These things cannot be ignored, but they were overcome on this night.
Dallas remains near the conception of a brand new process, of turning this into something resembling the chemistry and strength of last year's team. It has been far from consistently pretty, but we cannot ignore the fact that reasons for optimism have begun to peak through. It will take time, and there's nothing close to a guarantee in regards to the results of a year ago, but the signs of a TEAM coming together are now breaking from the seed and starting to peak through the dirt.
For every process, for every journey, there remains the necessity of a first step. With this win under their belt, Dallas has taken that step. Now we greedily await the next.
So, really, have the Mavs "turned the corner''? "Definitely,'' says Trix.
The Final Word
Don't get too low after a loss or too high after a win? Especially applicable when 66 games are crushed inside of 127 days. So Jet, you can quit wagging your No. 1 finger now.
"Take a look at the schedule,'' Carlisle said. "It looks like a Major League Baseball schedule. There's a jillion games! We can't have hangovers on losses or wins.''
Bring on the next slice of jillion, the Sunday visit to Minnesota.