All-Access: Analysis Of Mavs 94, Jazz 91

'It's as good a win as we have had all year,' says Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, and we'll let him do the categorizing. We just saw Dallas as needing to avoid giving up another last-second 3 (which the Mavs did, barely) and needing to get something positive out of Utah (which the Mavs did, barely). Your All-Access Pass inside Mavs 94, Utah 91:

FOREWARD: The Mavs have forged a 13-game streak of holding teams under 100 points and that ties a franchise record.
So why don't you go ahead and let yourself smile at your 9-7 team, which if not for a trio of treys would be 12-4 and worried only about Dirk's balky knee?

"It's as good a win as we have had all year,'' says Carlisle, and we take that as a sign from Coach that we're supposed to cherish this sonofagun, supposed to dig the defense that is being played at a rate about matching any in the NBA, and an offense that poured it on (for the first half, anyway.)

If the Mavs win at New Orleans on Saturday, they will have split a highly demanding four-game roadie.

"Cherish'' is the word we use to describe ...

THE NBA HIGHLIGHTS PACKAGE: Let's go to Utah! No, YOU go live in Utah! (Derek Harper memories ...)

THE CRITICS AND RODDY B: If you play him for one minute and he makes two mistakes and then you pull him and do not play him again, he will not, cannot, overcome the mistakes.

If you force him to be something he is not while playing a game that is new to him, he will appear ill-fitting and new.

If, however, you put Rodrigue Beaubois in a position to succeed -- that is, don't leather-strap him down to the PG position, create plays that free him to cut to the hole, encourage him to let his defensive wheels overcome his lack of instinct -- you get the full effect of FREE RODDY B.

This is not just a t-shirt slogan and this is not just rhetoric. The Mavs are an "old and slow and out-of-shape'' team and Beaubois is bouncy and zippy and too young to realize that he shouldn't be going into the pit that is Utah and scoring 17 points on 6-on-9 shooting with two assists and two blocks and all sorts of bursts of ball-hawking.

"He keeps teasing us,'' Dirk said. "This is definitely the Roddy we want to see."

Especially with Vince out, this is a "coach 'em up'' issue, we say. There is a way to put Roddy B in a position to succeed, as long as there is some tolerance of error. (If even a little less tolerance than is allowed the likes of Kidd and Jet, and boy, are they erroring at times!)

A point per minute for Roddy B? Why are we surprised? He can't get points if he doesn't get minutes.
"He was great and we couldn't have won the game without him," Carlisle said. "With him it's all about developing consistency. He'll throw two or three good games together and then the Clipper game was a step back. But tonight, he came out, he settled the score and got it right.''

Stop. Why was a sprinkle of minutes a "step back'' in LAC? If he's a player ... isn't he a player?

"He's really important,'' Rick continued. "He's quickness we can't replace, and when he plays the way he did tonight's he's an energy player for us, which is really key."
This time around, his warmups came off. He was allowed to work himself free off the ball rather than having to be the QB, and his creations were orchestrated nicely.

Roddy B came out in the clutch on the offensive end (in favor of Jet). But that was only after he was part of a 3-guard lineup in the fourth ... and only before he returned to the floor to accept the inbounds pass.

Roddy B is a weapon. Always has been. The backcourt is crowded, yes. But for now, at the very least, Vince's job should be his. And with some freedom to make mistakes, we say Roddy B will overcome those mistakes.

"It was just one game,'' Roddy B said.

Yes. And New Orleans on Saturday is another one ... another one that calls for another 15 to 18 minutes for Roddy B.

YOU WATCH THE GAMES ON TNT. BUT DOES TNT WATCH THE GAMES?: We're biased. We've got Followill and Skin and Ortegel (and our own Fish) on the Fox Sports Southwest telecasts, and we like it that way.

But we were once again stunned by the ignorance of the TNT team charged with bringing a Mavs game to the world.

Quickly paraphrasing: TNT says Dirk isn't in the top five PFs in the league ... thinks DeShawn was one of Dallas' top two defensive players last year ... thinks the Mavs are "too small'' to win (even though Dallas is the tallest team in the NBA) ... Thinks the Mavs' problem (remember, Dallas is 9-7) has been their defense.

TNT's basketball coverage is very good at showing Shaq riding a horse or letting Chuck freestyle on fatness. It's not basketball, exactly; really just a late-night episode of "Meet The Browns,'' which is fine if you enjoy such things.

THE UBERMAN UPDATE: Dirk Nowitzki finally made a concession to what's become increasingly obvious in recent Dallas Mavericks games: His right knee isn't completely right.

"It's OK, better than it was three weeks ago, so that's very good," said Nowitzki, the MVP of the NBA Finals who missed nine regular-season games a year ago when the knee was sprained. "But, it's still just stiff and I can't move the way I want to, but it will be OK. I'm going to keep on working, get a stronger base, get my legs strong where they were in June and hopefully I'll be back to my normal self."
Nowitzki's "normal self'' puts him at such a high level that Dallas coach Rick Carlisle calls him "one of the 10 best players in NBA history.'' Nowitzki's been something shy of that during the Mavs' 8-7 start. He's averaging 17.8 points per game, six or seven points shy of the perennial All-Star's usual production. He's shooting 45.8 percent compared to last year's 51.7 percent, and in the last three games is just 20-of-49 from the floor.

Maybe most telling: Six times this season, Nowitzki – one of the finest free-throw shooters in NBA history – has gotten to the line twice or fewer. That's significant in that it indicates that he's attempting to do most of his work on the perimeter while he works out the kinks, the condition, and whatever might be specifically wrong with a knee that at this time is vaguely described as "balky.''

"I'm having trouble bending my knees," said Nowitzki, who for the last week has worn a protective sleeve over the knee. "I've just got to get my legs stronger, get my base back. I've got to use my legs in my shot and hopefully they'll come back soon."

Some of this is "lockout fallout.'' Like many NBA players, Nowitzki's usual regimen was thrown off by the uncertainty of this NBA season. Additionally, after Dallas won the title, Nowitzki took extra time off to vacation and says he "didn't touch a basketball'' for months.

The Mavs are trying to ease him back into his usual spot of the hub of their team wheel. At the same time, they are been very cautious with his minutes, maybe because of his knee and certainly because he's 33 years old. So far this season, Nowitzki is at 30.5 minutes per game, a full six minutes less than his usual burden. 36.4

"You've got to recognize who you are, what you need to accomplish and where you're trying to go,'' said Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who believes that given the defending champs' age, roster changes and talent, the priority is to simply get into to the playoffs and surge at that time. "We've got a plan and we're sticking to it.''

Ideally, that plan includes a fully healthy Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas may not have gotten that on Thursday in Utah, as he scored just 12 points. But it did get a feisty Dirk. And then, interestingly, in the final seconds, it got a sitting Dirk.

Dirk got a T for slamming the ball to the floor at the end of the first half and then engaged in a ball-slapathon with a couple of Jazz in the second half. The good people of the good city of Utah (including the media) are still begging for another T there ... which would've mean a Dirk ejection.

That ain't happening. The refs are not going to eject the NBA Finals MVP because he felt Favors was stalling by holding a ball that belonged to Dallas. Eventually, it was Favors who lost control of his temper ...

All just another in a long line of odd experiences for Dirk in the "bad city'' of Utah.

"We get along great,'' deadpanned Dirk when asked about the fans who traditionally boo each each time he touches the ball.

Dirk sat at the end - as we believe he should've to close the Lakers and Clippers games. If he's not right enough to play offense (the thing he does so well) how can he be much help in crunch time on defense?

CUBAN ON THAT PLAN: You already know what it is. But he expressed it this week in a national TV visit.

We've just got to make the playoffs, that's all I really care about,'' he said. "Honestly, I was telling people if we're 10-10 I'll be thrilled to death. And if we were 5-15, I wouldn't have been shocked, because you can't just walk into a season and be ready, particularly if you're a team that bases its defense on precision and team defense, and its offense off ball movement.''

Here's why you like We've had quotes from Mavs personal -- players, coaches, execs -- on that same subject for five weeks.

More Cuban: "If you're young, your legs are always in shape, and if you're an athlete, and you just run by people and jump over people. I think that's why you saw the more athletic teams get off to great starts and the more ‘team' teams struggle a little bit.''

Again, that's the same stuff Kidd gave us in an exclusive interview a month ago.

More Cuban: "I'm always win now, but you don't destroy the future. I think you can do both, and that's what we've tried to do.

In other words, "the Mavs are simultaneously executing Plan A and Plan B.'' Just as phrased it on the first day of camp.

And finally, more Cuban: "I think literally we can be, I think we are a better team."

Now, didn't have Cuban or anybody else saying that ... though we believe we've had Cuban say that exact same thing for about seven straight years.

So ... that's why you subscribe to ESPN's "explosive'' interview from this week is month-old news to you.

WHO DESERVES 'THE DIRKIE'? The defense has arrived. The offense? A team effort.
But you have to choose. One Dirkie, coming up.

Player of the Game, Dallas at Utah

*Shawn Marion -- young at heart notches 22 and 7

*Delonte West -- 4-5 for 8 points, some time in the sky

*Lamar Odom -- 11 points, trending right

*Brendan Haywood -- Center A with 6 and 5 plus 3 dimes

*Ian Mahimni -- Center B with 11 and 1 plus a dime

*Rodrigue Beaubois -- 17 points, did you see that block?

*Dirk Nowitzki -- 12 and 5, please get sound fast

*Jason Terry -- came through in the clinch

*Jason Kidd -- 11 dimes, but perplexing turnovers

Go here on Boards to vote ... and stay tuned for in-depth coverage of the Mavs' win all night and all day on!

THE SUPER EXPANDED NUMBERS GAME: Coming into this one, the Jazz had lost one game in 2012, tops in the league. Well, now they've lost two as the Mavs finally closed out a tight game against a quality opponent.

*Points in the paint: Coming into this one, the Jazz were second in Points in the Paint in the league while Dallas was second in defensive PIP allowed.

Immovable force vs. irresistable object, and all that.

Well, Dallas finished with a +10 margin in that department 48-38 against the powerful Jazz frontline of Millsap and Jefferson, who finished with 16 and 22, respectively.

Those two accounted for all but four of Utah's points in the paint. Interestingly in the first quarter, the Mavs scored eight of their 12 first-quarter FGs in the paint.

*Age vs youth: Dallas is the oldest team in the NBA while the Jazz have three players under 21. The experience differential showed in this one as Utah committed three technical fouls and seemed to lose focus as this one became chippy in the second half.

Unfortunately, though, the sloppiest player in the game was the most experienced. Jason Kidd struggled with his handles, with his decision-making and with passes intentionally deflected by cameramen. (More on that below.)

Fortuntely for the Mavs, old friend Devin Harris -- the kid sent packing when Kidd was brought to town -- was even more of a mess. "Milkface'' went 0-of-7 from the floor against his old team, matching the worst shooting performance of his career.

*Ball protection: Dallas is middle of the pack in turnovers per game at 15.1, but top five in opponents turnovers at 17.1. How do they not get buried by their -2.0 overall TO differential (26th in the league)? Because they they're second in the league in steals per game.

They would nearly match these averages tonight with 16 turnovers in this one to the Utah's 13. Again, much of that blame falls on Kidd, who had a season-high six TO's. However, they would only register four steals in this one to the Jazz's 11.

In the end, the Mavs didn't value possessions nearly enough ... but Utah was even worse in that department.

*Season Highs: As the Mavs beat their first Western Conference foe on the road, they would also record several season highs. Jason Kidd had two. He registered his season-high assists with 10 and turnovers with six (previous high was three).
TRIX IS NO. 1: Shawn Marion is the Mavs MVP of the first quarter (or so) season.

He scored a season-high 22 points (16 in the first half, the most he's had in a half since March 12 of last year). He's slashing, getting garbage and quick-handing on the offensive end. On defense, he's a shutdown guy ranking with about anybody in the league. The line: 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists ... and nobody on the other teams who want to be checked by him.

*Utah came 11th in the league in opponents' field goal percentage at 43.3. Middle of the pack? Not good enough against a Dallas team that busted out a bit.

Tonight the Mavs shot a season-high 59 percent in the first half and would finish shooting 51 percent. A big reason for this was ball movement, as the Mavs would finish with 23 assists on 37 made field goals.

*Second-best blockers: Utah is second in the league in bpg at 6.6 while Dallas is also seconnd in the league in opponents blocks per game at 3.4. Tonight, however, that trend would be inverted as Dallas would finish with six blocks to the Jazz's two.

That's a victory for Dallas agressiveness against a springy Jazz team that prides itself on "gang-blocks.''

*More third-quarter struggles: Dallas, in their last three games, has averaged 17 points in their last three games after scoring only 12 points in this one. Coming into the quarter, the Mavs were up 10 and should have padded that but allowed the Jazz back into the game. In fact, coming into this game, Dallas was shooting 33.9 percent in third quarters in the last three.
MAVSELLANEOUS: Utah had won seven of eight at home ... Kidd was 1-of-4 with 11 assists but six turnovers and no, he's not in mid-season form yet. ... Vince Carter has a "mild sprain'' of the left foot and while no timetable is set for his return, he seems certain to miss the Saturday game at New Orleans. ... Steiny-Mo reports that Utah is trying to trade Devin, by the way. ... A three-point win and Dallas doesn't get it if Brendan Haywood doesn't defy the odds and his all four free throws. ... Rick Carlisle on the Utah gym: "This is as loud a place (as there is). Tonight this was louder than I have heard all year." ... Dallas scored 59 points in the first half and 35 in the second. Something to tinker with. ... You wish Jet wouldn't stink it up for three quarters but you are coming to understand that he's gonna drill a 3-pointer with 2:26 or less to go, are you not? ... We're not giving up on you, Lamar Odom! We love you! Especially when you make your first three shots and finish with 11 points. We would like a tad more energy in the Contesting Shots Dept, though ...

THE FINAL WORD: On the very last play, Dallas inbounding while holding a three-point lead, Kidd got blame for yet another turnover. He released the ball into the lane, there was a scramble, Roddy B somehow came out with it.

But when Kidd side-arm fumbled the ball inbounds with a sort of discus-throw motion, it was the result of his back-coil of his arm being hit by a cameraman stationed at the baseline.

In the end, Kidd simply shrugged it off because it was a win. But while TNT announced that the ball "slipped out of his hand,'' it wasn't that simple at all. The cameraman accidentally impeded the play.
You can see Kidd looking back after the play is done, waving toward the offending cameraman ... then heading to the ref and pointing to the guy that interfered ... then shrugging it off and walking away with the victory in the Mavs' pocket.

Had a call needed to be made, what would it be? What is the remedy? What if it mattered?

We're so glad we didn't have to find out.

Instead, we're left with "fight'' talk from an angry Al Jefferson, whose Jazz are a surprisingly good 9-5.

"We've just got to get that reputation around the league we're not going to be pushed over, we're not going to be disrespected,'' Big Al said. "We're going to be out there and we're going to fight and we're going to fight to the end. … Dallas might have won the game, but they know they've been in a fight."

Hey, the way this week was going, Utah can have the fight. Dallas needed the win.

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