All-Access: Mavs In 1st With OT Win Vs. Spurs
FOREWARD: Delonte West was kind enough to inform me before the game that despite his hamstring problem, he was prepared to give it a go.
What he neglected to tell us was that part of the "go'' included a pregame show!
Were the Dallas Mavericks "loose'' -- you know, in a "can't-be-rattled'' way? Mavs 101, Spurs 100 in OT on Sunday (an outcome that propels the 13-8 Mavs into sole possession of first place in the Southwest) says it it so.
And so does the song-and-dance team of "Charley Red & Big Wood.''
THE UBERMAN IS BACK!: Our desire for Dirk Nowitzki to immediately step back into the lineup after the team-imposed four-game, eight day "Dirk-Out Workout'' was, it turns out, asking too much.
Dirk started but was largely an observer for the first quarter, playing six minutes without shooting and then re-entering with 42 seconds left in the quarter and missing his only shot. After three quarters, The UberMan had just four points.
He did grab 13 rebounds, looking as active on the interior as he has all season. He also got his hands on some balls on the defensive end in the late-going. And in the end, while he did seem to be SA's targeted victim on its 3-point barrage, Dirk ended the game with 10 points on on 5-of-14 shooting, including two buckets in the OT.
Rick's review: "He rebounded well. He moved around the court well, I thought, offensively. He's a major factor in the game when he's out there, even if he's not shooting or even touching the ball. It was important to have him out there.''
An intriguing note for those of us wondering when Carlisle will start leaning away from Dirk as a defensive end-game stopper, from, at times, not "having him out there'': It happened here.
Nowitzki guarded the inbounds passer at the end of regulation, when with 0:05 remaining the Spurs' got off a potential game-winner one tick too late. And of course, Dirk was a key guy in the OT.
But a defensive ace to finish? No.
Maybe we should consider this Day 9 of the "Dirk-Out Workout'' in the sense that he is still somewhat limited; what did we expect, really, after a week away? Besides, even a half-hour before tipoff, Dallas was playing close to the vest the news of his role for the game ... and shortly before that we spotted Nowitzki working privately in the basement, likely trying to convince his bosses that his "unresolved physical issues'' are, well, resolved.
"It's coming back,'' Dirk said. "My legs are getting stronger, my base is getting stronger, so I just got to keep on working.''
The truth? They're not yet "resolved.'' But the week brought him nearer where he needs to be.
'THICKENING' THE BACKCOURT: J-Kidd couldn't play, and that calf injury is concerning enough that Dallas will hold him out for a week or so.
"It's not real serious, but it's going to take a while," Carlisle said, and for the night, all Kidd did was stroll to nowhere aboard a pregame stationary bike while wearing a sleeve on his calf.
Delonte did what he could, and was on the floor for a time in the OT, too. But his hammy left him something short of 100 percent.
So somebody in the backcourt -- Jet or Roddy B or Vince -- would have to contribute something large.
Or better yet, how about if all of them do?
Jason Terry, Dallas' top reserve, countered the Spurs' bench erasing an 18-point deficit midway through the second half by taking over. Jet scored 16 of his game-high 34 points in the final 6:43 of regulation and the overtime period. His two biggest shots? Well, the game-winner in the fifth period, sure. But how about forcing the OT at 0:05 to cap a sequence that shows Roddy B (a half a block?), Dirk (a rip-and-run) and Jet (the stop-and-pop) all at their best?
No timeout, you'll note. Confidence in transition against the Spurs. As predicted in this space.
At times especially late in the game, Dallas went with the 3-PG Attack and no centers. That meant even more time for Roddy B, and folks, at times the Spurs found him literally unguardable. In clutch situations down the stretch, Dallas virtually alternated back and forth, left side of the floor and then right, with Roddy B in charge of directing the spreading of his teammates ... and then slicing inside and to the hole or working inside-out to find Jet.
"It's just the will to win when the game is on the line,'' said Jet. "I like to take the shot when the game is on the line. The fourth quarter is 'winning time.'"
Roddy B got a taste of the same. His numbers: 14 points on 7-of-16 shooting, three boards, seven assists, only one turnover and three big blocks. (It's the on-the-ball blocks that are adding up, just as DB.com first told you about when he was a teenager playing professionally in France.)
"I like what he's doing,'' Dirk said of Roddy B, who in the last two games has conributed 36 points, 14 assists, nine rebounds, seven blocked shots and just three turnovers. "He's being aggressive, looking for his shot. That's his game. He will never be a Jason Kidd. I think we all understand that. He's got to play his game and be aggressive and make stuff happen off the dribble."
Well, I don't even see why we're putting him in the same sentence with Kidd, in the sense that they are vastly different sorts of players. But surely Dirk doesn't mean that as a diss of the youngster. You think he's getting this figured out? Note that on this Kidd-less night, Dallas used Roddy B at the point ... and Dallas experienced a season-low in turnovers.
Roddy B got to the rim, showed a little teardrop, demonstrated the range ... and rose to the personal challenge of besting Tony Parker (as he bested Devin Harris on Friday against Utah). Parker finished with nine points on 2-of-11 shooting with one rebound, four assists and two turnovers. ... and was essentially benched in the end.
"If Coach is making me play minutes, it's because he believes I can help the team,'' Roddy B said. "I just need to be ready for that."
Well, son, Kidd is out for a week. It's all yours -- along with a longer rope from Coach.
And then there is the work of swingman Vince Carter. Yes, Jet's 34 points were huge. But Vince's 21 is a season-high, too. In fact, As he's returning from his foot sprain, Carter stuffed the box score by shooting 8-of-15 from the floor and 2-of-5 from deep to go along with three rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block and a turnover.
THE SEESAW: As Cuban said on Twitter: "What a game...We blew it. They blew it. We couldnt miss. They couldnt miss. I thought for a sec we lost our 4th buzzer beater. ...''
Dallas outscored San Antonio 9-2 in the final 1:22 of regulation to force overtime. Great. But just moments before, Dallas had been comfortably ahead.
And in the final seconds ...
Let's see: Terry put Dallas ahead with a midrange jumper with 42 seconds left. Then Shawn Marion (his hands were everywhere) got a steal and Terry made two free throws with 17 seconds left. Dallas was up 101-98. Here comes Neal for a layup and (maybe) he was grazed on the head by Marion. Neal misses a potential tying free throw that was rebounded by Mahinmi. He misses 'em both.
So the Spurs get another chance, only this time it's Vince Carter's quick hands that pry the ball loose. SA's Danny Green chases it, wrestles with a ref, snares it and tosses it at the rim. ... and for the second time in 5:01 minutes, a game-winner doesn't go. It was Green, you see, who'd made that 14-footer in regulation, against inbound-guarding Dirk, only to have the shot disallowed when replay showed that shot didn't get out of his fingertips before the buzzer sounded.
"What a game!'' Jet said.
The seesaw of the game mirrors the seesaw of the season, does it not? The Mavs started 0-2 and 1-4 ... and are now 13-8 and in first place in the West ... oh, and as Tony Cubes notes, a buzzer-beater away from another loss.
Or, heck, three buzzer-beaters (against them) away from having a truly stellar record.
Said Jet: "It seemed like we'd play all night, but somehow we put this team away. Early on in the season we lost our fair share of close ballgames and it looked like it was headed that way for a second there, but we stuck with it, we persevered and we got the W."
My Fox Sports colleague Bill Reiter wrote a piece this weekend noting that the Mavs are "mediocre'' and painting a picture of an organization that really doesn't care about this year (because of the 3D Blueprint on the horizon). Bill doesn't fully understand what's happening here. I say this respectfully: Come in the locker room before a Mavs-Spurs game. Come sit in the lower bowl during such a game. Come stand in the corridor and watch the fellas after such a game.
And then tell me the Dallas Mavericks organization "doesn't care'' about winning this year.
QUOTABLE: The tip of the Quoteboard iceberg:
*"It's disappointing. I don't know what you want me to do. Do you want me to cry? ... Very disappointing, is that O.K.?" - Coach Pop
MAVSELLANEOUS: Roddy B has 10 blocks in the last three games. ... Odom? An afterthought. LO played 19 minutes and offered up four points. ... SA came in fifth in the NBA in points per shot at .946. Here they scored 100 points on 94 field goals for 1.06 points per shot. Dallas finished with 101 points on 100 shots, 1.01 points per shot. ... Mark Cuban on the Mav most likely to earn fan votes into the All-Star Game? No, not Dirk. "Get Yi on the ballot,'' Cuban said. ... The Spurs were fifth in turnovers at 15.1 per game but here they protected the ball, turning it over only 10 times. Dallas did get seven steals, though and all those blocks ... This one was good for first place in the Southwest Division. No rest for the weary, though; the Mavs are heading to Phoenix with their luggage packed with a half-game edge on Houston and a full-game edge on the Spurs with hopes for more. ... I'll join Bob Ortegel on MAVS LIVE, the pre- and postgame shows on Fox Sports Southwest, starting at 7:30 p.m. Monday ... Chuck Perry contributed to this report.
THE NBA HIGHLIGHT REEL: How it looked from the home office:
THE NUMBERS GAME: The Big Calculator ...
*SA came in sixth in 3PG% at 37.38%. In this game they finished 12-of-25 for 48%. At the half they were shooting 22%, but then they shot 9-of-13 after the break to turn what was a Mavs blowout into a closer-than-necessary, playoff-like game.
Carlisle had said going in that closing out on SA shooters is the "ultimate challenge.'' Our NBA scout Kyle Leath also stressed the importance. In this area especially, Dirk appeared a step slow.
*Those season-highs are nice. Terry (34 points) and Carter (21 points) and don't leave out Haywood and his five blocks (Dallas' 12 is also a season-best) ... maybe he could've earned time for more but for the fact that in the final quarter, SA went to "Chop-A-Wood,'' the intentional-foul trick that sends him to the FT line (and probably failure). Unfortunately for Dallas, when Ian served as Big Wood's replacement and himself went to the line in the final seconds, The Ianimal missed both. Oh well.
*This is traditionally a place where Dallas thinks it can beat SA, and yes, it helped again: The Spurs are not very good at free throws: They came in 24th in the league at 72.8% and they shot only 53% on 10-of-19 freebies in this game. That's a killer in a one-point OT loss.
*In nearly 48 combined minutes of work, Haywood and Mahinmi finished with a combined seven points and 16 rebounds. Our standards have been raised, eh, when we're just a bit disappointed by that total?
*The Mavs are 8-1 when Kidd or Nowitzki are out of the lineup.
YOUR DAUGHTER IS A SPURS FAN?: Stop it. Now.
THE SPURS 'STARS': Where'd they all go?
Yes, Manu is injured. But what of Timmy and Tony? What about any of their starters?
Tim Duncan contributed 12 points and six rebounds. Tony Parker was good for nine points on 2-of-11 shooting And by the 2:44 mark of the third, Pop had seen enough of them.
They were done for the night.
"Pop is such a strategist and you never know what's going through his mind,'' Jason Terry, said. "But it was a situation where he knows he'll depend on those guys later on in the season so it was a great learning lesson for them.''
Now granted, it was that bench that fueled the SA comeback. Gary Neal totaled a team-high 19 points, four rebounds and a game-high-tying seven assists for the Spurs, and that's grand. Oh, and they learned something or whatever. But I will continue to maintain, as I always have, that when Pop does something bizarre, his jewelry does not make it less so.
Somebody smarter than me disagrees.
"I think he's the greatest coach, really ever in this game, because all their guys function within their system at a high level," Carlisle said. "They were executing like crazy and it's a great example of what playing the right way is about. I've seen Pop do this time and time again.''
Believe what you like. Annoint the move that ultimately -- because they lost -- did not work. You think the Spurs won titles because of the games David Robinson DIDN'T finish? Fine. But in a one-point OT loss on the road, you don't think maybe Timmy or Tony were capable of one game-winning play?
I'm glad we didn't have to find out.
THE FINAL WORD: "I'm ready to get to Phoenix and move on to the next one,'' said Carlisle.
Rick talks about not dwelling on losses and he means for the Mavs to do the same after wins. Normally, there's what, a "24-Hour Policy'' on such things? In this condensed season, if you are still celebrating or bemoaning something that happened 24 hours ago, you're likely to miss another game or two.
"It's a wacky year, and there are a lot of things going on with crazy scores and leads and deficits disappearing,'' Rick said. "You've got to be ready for anything. We're fortunate, but it's a good win."