All-Access: Mavs Get 3rd Straight in Boston
LET THEM EAT PIE!
To capture the happy mood, we go back a few weeks to allow Cowboys-hatin' Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Darrell Armstrong to gloat while eating pie:
OK, is everybody happy? (Except for y'all Cowboys fans, that is?)
FOREWARD: Two days ago the Dallas Mavericks had yet to win a road game. Two days later, they own a two-game winning streak on the road after dispatching the Boston Celtics in a game that was often contentious, occasionally ugly, and rarely with Rick Carlisle in the second half after he was ejected with 10:33 to play in the third quarter.
In the end, it marks the schedule as a 90-85 road-win on the second night of a back-to-back against a good team coming off of four days of rest.
THE FINISH: After a frustrating couple of minutes that saw Delonte West try to outduel Rajon Rondo to the detriment of his own team by failing to get the ball into the hands of Dirk Nowitzki, and a Paul Pierce three that tied the game at 85, the game's outcome finally fell into the palms of The UberMan.
Know this. Know this as a Mavs fan and know this if you are Kevin Garnett: The four NBA players who have the highest career scoring averages as visitors to Boston are all single-moniker icons. There's 'Jordan,' 'Kareem,' 'Wilt' ... and 'Dirk.'
So there was Kevin Garnett, full of spit, of manufactured bravado, of eroding defensive sills, wearing what must be at least a temporarily bruised ego after several poor plays in the final quarter, seeking redemption. Seeking a win. Wrapped in all of that, Garnett pressed in close to Dirk … who easily went around him for the second time in the final minutes and attacked the rim.
"I just tried to make tough for him," said Garnett in review. "A player like Dirk, man, that man has like a million moves. I just tried to play the consistencies and just make it tough for him. He made a hell of a shot."
Brandon Bass met Dirk in the paint, sending Nowitzki to the floor, but somehow The UberMan's hand had flicked the ball almost straight up through the air … and as the foul whistle sounded it slid perfectly through the rim, barely caressing the net. It was the kind of shot you undoubtedly would have sighed "lucky" had any opponent pulled it off. He's shot just 10 times in the previous On Wednesday he waited 47:35. But the half-bull/half-acrobat effort with five seconds left from Dirk it's just another example of who he is.
"It's a fun situation to be in," said Dirk. "Everybody's looking at you and your team really depends on you, so I like to be in the position where I can make something happen."
"I was able to get to the rim,'' said Nowitzki, who demonstrated some playful color as he sat on the floor, post-foul, and wagged his tongue in the general direction of former teammate Bass. "I didn't even see the ball go in to be honest. I just threw it up there.''
Not that there was ever a doubt, Dirk swished the free throw to put the Mavs up three with 5.1 seconds to play.
The Celtics botched the inbounds play, the ball bouncing off of Ray Allen's leg out of bounds and Jason Terry put the final touch on the victory with an easy layup a moment later … leaving the Celtics no option but to watch the clock reach zero.
Dirk did not get the 19 points he needed to reach the milestone of 23,000 points, but the 16 he did total, including nine points on 3-of-3 shooting in the final period, was enough.
A LESSON THAT WILL COME: Above, we mention the frustration of watching Delonte West fail to get the ball into Dirk's hand down the stretch. This is a lesson that will come, and a reminder that as good as West has been, he's not Jason Kidd.
Don't misunderstand this critique as a slam on West, who once again performed extremely well as the starting point guard … until he allowed himself to be drawn into a duel with Rajon Rondo.
Rondo scored a game-high 24 points, including a few in the face of West and appeared to have a few words for West as well. (As we said on the FSSW postgame show, "If you're gonna try to get inside Delonte's head -- well, be careful in there!'') Perhaps as a direct result, West's 14 shots was the second most taken on the Mavs … and equal to the number Dirk put up.
But, the pissing contest is never between two players. Rather, two teams. West needn't rely on personal numbers to make his point, but continue to fill the role he's slid into so well and lift his teammates. The win is the final taunt, and the best way to get there is to get Dirk the ball as often as possible down the stretch. Jason Kidd knows this. He makes it happen. In time, so will West.
West finished with 12 points (5-of-14 shooting), four rebounds, three assists, three steals, three turnovers and a disruption of a Garnett layup that somehow didn't get tallied as a block.
Again, we continue to love what West is bringing; if he's mentally balanced is he not much of the good of both Barea and DeShawn at a fraction of their going rate? And we don't want to take away from how well he is playing … just note one misstep that will need to evolve.
"He never stops competing,'' said Carlisle of Delonte, and for an older club that needs energy, that is something.
THE NBA HIGHLIGHT REEL
THE EJECTION: Only 1:27 into the second half, Carlisle had seen enough. The whistles were collecting heavily in the favor of the Celtics (who had an 18-6 free-throw-attempt advantage before the tech's Carlisle would hand them) and when Kevin Garnett blatantly wrapped his arms around Dirk, holding him from making a break to the ball around a pick, Carlisle lost it.
With a quickness that made half the roster envious, the 52-year-old Carlisle raced across halfcourt and confronted the official. In a brief tirade he made his feelings known, earning the two technical fouls assessed to him with a series of "Frankfurters'' or somesuch word, before walking slowly to the locker room after being ejected.
His point was made.
The Mavs surged to a 24-6 run, including the two freebie tech free throws, going from down five to up 13 … and the whistles suddenly weren't as one sided as they'd been. The on-court lethargy also vanished (perhaps the latter fed the former). After the two tech's, Boston held a 20-6 advantage in free-throw attempts. From that point on, Dallas took a 19-12 advantage.
For portions of the night, Dallas appeared "slow, old and out of shape," bearing the burden of the game the night before and Boston was threatening to pull away. Carlisle played his cards and ignited a flame beneath his team. It won't always work, but it clearly had an effect on this night.
"It's my opinion,'' Carlisle said after the game, "but Kevin Garnett shouldn't be allowed to bear-hug Dirk coming off the screen. I wanted to make my point. If it costs me a few thousand dollars so be it."
THE CENTERS: In a story that's becoming just another echo of the game prior, the Mavs centers once again played well as Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi combined for 16 points and 17 rebounds … we'll not mention that they also combined to go 2-of-10 from the free-throw line (sshhh … you didn't read that here).
Haywood continues to be a force in the paint, playing solid defense and working the glass, though his over-confidence in his offensive game can be worrisome at times, as he continues to put the ball on the floor and attempt to make plays off the dribble. It's also nice to see his free-throw woes are not hampering his aggression, although they may be hindering his ability to stay on the court down the stretch of close games for fear of a team resorting to Hack-a-Haywood. ("Chop-a-Wood''?!)
That said, when the defense collapses to leave Dirk and company standing unguarded at the perimeter, it may be time to give the ball up.
Big Wood earned this nickname against the Celtics and finished with eight points and 11 rebounds.
Mahinmi has made a strong early-season claim as the most improved player on the Mavs roster, and the revelation continued against Boston. His quickness allows him to trace cutters through the paint and instantly recover to his man, cutting off passing lanes, as well as provide able support in pick-and-roll situations.
One aspect that continues to be a learning process is fouls. Mahinmi fouled out in only 18 minutes, his aggression and quickness on defense often working against him in this area.
The Ianimal finished with eight points and six rebounds.
THE TIME IS NOW-ISH: This was Lamar Odom's 11th game with the Mavericks; throw in two preseason games and he's up to 13. In other words, it's time we began to see a little more.
Interpreting the tealeaves, perhaps Rick Carlisle agrees. Brian Cardinal once again entered the game prior to Odom. And "The Custodian'' finished, too, with a turn at both ends of the floor. Regardless of how you spin this around in your mind, you come around to one hard to overlook conclusion: it's a message.
You can play it nice and say Odom is being granted the time to fully regain his legs, that Cardinal is being used to shave a couple early minutes from his total. Of course, hiding in the shadow of that statement would be the acceptance of the fact that Odom was still out of shape enough to warrant the need for lesser minutes, for the further need to regain his fitness.
Delonte West, once a starter on a 60-win team, and Vince Carter, an eight-time All-Star, have found productive ways to assimilate themselves into the offense. Odom has yet to do this with any consistency, too often becoming an afterthought.
We do not want to dismiss or marginalize the emotional weight Odom is currently carrying, but there comes a time when a player must set aside what tugs at the mind and begin to live up to what his job, his team, needs of him … which is a lot.
There's no denying a lot has been thrown at Odom, including asking him to learn just about every position on the floor (could the expanse of his versatility actually be working against him here?) and its place in this offense. But the return must begin to improve. Through 10 games Odom had a PER of 5.8. Brian Cardinal's 2.7 had been worse for the Mavs. That's not good enough.
In a big matchup, a game many viewed as a "measuring stick" against the Celtics, Odom was only put on the court for a total of 15 minutes, including four minutes in the fourth quarter, but none in the final stretch.
Odom finished with six points on only three shots, two rebounds, two assists and a block. Not horrible in limited minutes, and Carlisle went out of his way to compliment his effort in the second half, but Dallas needs more.
We're going to toss out a Premium Theory here: Among the burdens Odom is carrying is not only the feeling that LA didn't want him, but also the understanding that this summer, Dallas will let him go for cap room, meaning (in his mind) that "Dallas doesn't want him, either.''
Coach 'em up, Rick. Or cheer 'em up, Kidd. Something. Somebody.
QUOTEBOARD: What they're saying in the locker rooms? We'll leave it all to KG:
"I don't play Dirk by myself, I play him with the other four guys out there on the floor," said Garnett. "We don't do anything individual other than shower here. Other than that, we do things together."
MAVSELLANEOUS: Boston missed its first seven shots, not scoring until Rondo converted a turnover into an easy basket with 8:30 to play in the first. However, Dallas managed to score only four points during this time … The Mavs did pull away for a 10-2 start, despite three early turnovers thanks to a 1-of-10 shooting start for Boston … Mahinmi gathered a nice follow-up attempt as the buzzer to the first quarter sounded … Terry converted the Mavs first 4-point play of the season after Brandon Bass fouled him on a made 3-point attempt … Dallas hit only 30.4% of their shots in the second quarter, while allowing the Celtics to convert 61.5% of their own … Dallas did not convert a field goal from the 7:28 mark to 3:56 in the fourth quarter ... Both Boston and Dallas started this season slowly, clearly feeling the effects of a shortened preseason as veterans worked their way into shape. Is it fair to say that's behind Dallas now? ... Shawn Marion scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds and is eliminating the notion that Odom deserves any of his minutes ... Brendan Haywood added eight points and 11 boards. Haywood would have recorded his first double-double of the year had his free-throw woe not reared its ugly head. He finished 2-of-8 from the charity stripe. His struggles were shared by his teammates, as Dallas would shoot an uncharacteristic 56 percent from the line (14-of-25). ... Dallas was in the midst of four games in five nights. The Mavs are home Friday and Saturday against the Bucks and Kings, respectively. ... Don Nelson famously said a coach only has six emotional outbursts a year at his disposal to will spark his team. Rick Carlisle, showing the discernment that makes him one of the game's best, fired one of those bullets. ... This showdown between powers from the two conferences might've been expected to be about star power; after all, bursting from these contenders' rosters are five of the top 35 scorers in NBA history plus nine players (counting the sidelined Jason Kidd) with a combined 73 All-Star selections.
MESSRS. FOURTH QUARTER: Jason Terry joins Nowitzki as two of the game's great closers.
"That's what we're about,'' Terry said of his belief that the Mavericks match their star power with resiliency. "We've got too much heart and too much courage to count out.''
Terry scored 18 in the game but seven in the final quarter. Dirk scored just 16 points (his lowest output in Boston), but nine in the fourth. And in the end, he continued to follow in the legendary footsteps of Celtics foes like Michael Jordan (career average at Boston: 32), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (30.7) and Wilt Chamberlain (29.8). He didn't reach his at-Boston average of 27.8; he just needed that one last shot.
THE NUMBERS GAME: Calculate away ...
* Ian Mahinmi, finishing with eight points and 6 rebounds, fouled out despite playing only 18 minutes. He came into the night tied for third in the league with 32 personal fouls despite playing the fewest minutes of anyone in the top 10.
* Playing against his former team, Delonte West finished with 12 points, three assists and three steals. Though he would shoot only 5-of-14 from the floor, he led the Mavericks in plus-minus with a +10 due to his activity on the defensive end of the court.
*The Mavs outrebounded the Celts 43-35, including a 12-2 advantage on the offensive glass.
*The game featured five of the top seven active NBA scoring leaders: Kevin Garnett (2nd, 23,436), Dirk Nowitzki (3rd, 22,981), Ray Allen (4th, 22,429), Paul Pierce (6th, 21,486) and Vince Carter (7th, 20,611).
* Dallas struggled mightily from the free-throw line, an oddity for a team that for the last decade has been among the NBA's best. The Mavs made just 14-of-25 for the game and just 6-of-14 in the final quarter.
* Since their 0-3 start, the Mavs are 6-2 and holding opponents to an average of 88.3 points per game.
PRAISE FOR ALL: Rick, feeling comfortable in his old Boston stomping grounds, opted to make everyone feel at home by heaping praise on everybody and who are we to argue?
"We needed everybody,'' said Rick Carlisle. "There were timely plays made the entire second half, and we needed guys like Beaubois coming in and getting a steal here and there and making a couple of shots.
How about Ian? "Ian gave us good energy,'' Rick said.
How about L.O.? "I loved Lamar Odom in the second half,'' Rick said. "He played with great energy.''
How about all the little guys? "A game like this, it comes down to a lot of little things,'' Carlisle said. "The sum total of our game is a lot of good solid plays being sandwiched together. ... The guys did a good job of that in the second half.''
How about Dirk? "He's a great player and every team in the league's game plan is to keep the ball out of his hands,'' Carlisle said. "Our execution has got to be good, and we've got to find ways to get (the ball) to him.''
THE CROSSOVER: With about three minutes to play and the game tied at 79, Dirk found himself with the ball near the 3-point line. As it would be on the game's biggest play, there was Garnett in front of him. Dirk looked him over, a predator surveying his prey, began to lean one direction then used a quick crossover dribble to go the other … Garnett was left behind. As the defense collapsed in, Dirk fed the ball out to an open Terry in the corner and the Jet did his part, sinking the three to put the Mavs up 82-79.
Yeah, Dirk can do that.
THE FINAL WORD: This was not the Pistons. It was the Celtics with four days of rest in their bellies and a point to prove after entering that break with a 13-point loss to the Pacers. There was no Jason Kidd. Lamar Odom was a non-factor for the majority of the night. Vince Carter and Dirk were a combined 3-of-13 at the half. They were on the second night of a back-to-back.
And, they won.
It doesn't always have to pretty. Only those who claim victory in highlight reels tally style points, not those who win championships. Against a tough, physical team that did not find their physicality limited by the officials, the Mavs gutted out a victory.
It took Dirk reminding us all of why he's Dirk in the final seconds … but it took us to a win.