1st Impressions: Half-Unselfish, Half-Amazing
Vince Carter and Ian Mahinmi led the Dallas Mavericks in scoring with 13 points apiece as the defending champs enjoyed a strong team effort with six players in double figures, pulled back to within a game of .500 at 4-5, and started packing for a road trip that will be highlighted by Monday's visit to the White House. (Coming up: The odd tale of why Delonte won't be joining the team on its get-together with President Obama.)
Carter again reminded all that he can still be "Half-Man, Half-Amazing" with a vicious, highlight-reel dunk over Emeka Okafor in the second quarter. Have a look:
Carter's description of his work: "Just playing within the flow of the offense. Being aggressive and making a couple shots. Trying to get to the basket. Just being aggressive and making plays."
Vince, getting the start at the 2 (with Delonte moving to the 1 as Kidd will spend the next few days nursing his sore lower back), also displayed the type of hustle that Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has praised throughout this early season.
Carter was also a go-to guy in the locker room as the veteran newcomer characterized the Mavs as "a very unselfish team.'' And maybe that's a foundation piece of this thing …
"This is kind of the defining characteristic of this season," coach Rick Carlisle said, adding two more foundation pieces. "Depth is king, energy trumps everything."
Backup center Mahinmi also finished with seven rebounds, two steals and a block, showing growth on the defensive end of the court, which have at times lagged behind his increasingly obvious offensive talents.
The Mavericks didn't even need a superstar-level performance from Dirk, who struggled for the second straight game, finishing with 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting from the field. He hit all six of his free-throw attempts. But otherwise, Dirk got shots within his comfort zone but struggled to convert, rimming out many shots that normally fall.
"I've got to keep working,'' said Dirk, whose issues are about conditioning rather than any serious injury (though he did wear a sleeve over his knee). "I'm not there yet. I had shots. I've got to make them."
New Orleans was lead by Al-Farouq Aminu, who had a double-double with a game-high 15 points and 12 rebounds. New Orleans had four players in double figures. Jarrett Jack scored 13 points to go along with seven rebounds and five assists while Carl Landry scored 12 points. Chris Kaman also scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds.
But New Orleans is still adjusting to life without Chris Paul, who was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers prior to this season. The Hornets are also assimilating new starters Kaman and Aminu , and were without Eric Gordon and a large chunk of the roster due to injury and personal reasons.
The Hornets outrebounded Dallas 39 to 35, maybe their only real advantage. They clearly miss Paul's playmaking ability as they registered 17 assists to 21 turnovers. Some of those, of course, were due to an active Mavericks defense that played the passing lanes and accounting for 12 steals. Carter, Delonte and Haywood were among the Mavs with some defensive bounce.
From a pure talent standpoint, the deep Mavericks seem infinitely nearer to an identity than do the Hornets. And we're optimistic enough to believe that same comparison is true with nearly everyone in this league. However, Dallas – as it works in so many new faces -- struggles against teams with more cohesion and discipline.
And maybe more raw athleticism, too.
We have to out-smart some teams,'' Carter said. "There's going to be some younger teams that are maybe more athletic, faster than us. But we have to pride ourselves on execution and being smarter than everybody. And I think us moving the ball and finally getting stops makes us a successful team."
At the same time, with Kidd unavailable, the rawest of the raw, Roddy B, earned some increased playing time and produced positive results. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-5 from the arc. He added two rebounds, two assists and two steals, displaying the type of gifts that have Mavericks observers salivating.
Dallas hasn't put things together yet, from Roddy B to Dirk and everything in between. But in this game, 11 guys played and 11 guys scored, depth serving as a Mavs calling card. A team that had to be dispatched – the Hornets have dropped six in a row and are 2-6 – was dispatched. And one aspect of the Mavs' identity showed itself.
"We're a veteran team and it's something that's going to take time,'' Vince said. "We're a very unselfish team.''