All-Access Donuts: Pacers 98, Mavs 87
DONUT 1 - FOREWARD: Regardless of the opponent, two things seem to have been swimming to the forefront in the minds of Dallas Mavericks fans in the recent past: a) the production/health of Dirk Nowitzki and b) everything else. If we view the Mavericks game against the Pacers through that prism, all is right in the world ... just don't allow that tunnel vision to widen, or you'll notice the crumbling of the Dallas offense in the second half ... again ... as the Pacers pulled away for a 98-87 victory.
"It felt like we were in there for a minute,'' 'Trix said. "But it just went to s--- real quick."
The NBA Highlight Reel:
DONUT 2 - WARRING EMOTIONS: In a strange conflict of emotion, a dichotomy of fandom, you could hear roars from the AAC crowd even as the Pacers put the game away. No longer were they flying their hopes for a win, rather being bathed in the beauty of seeing Dirk find his form as he climbed to a season-high 30 points on 12-of-17 shooting.
Floating in from the horizon you could almost hear Charles Barkley taking credit for motivating the Big German by calling for the curtain on Dirk's career though the show rolled on.
By the intermission, Dirk had already reached the 20-point mark for only the second time in his last 13 games, using only 16 minutes of action to send the doubts so freely being poured over him only hours previously cascading to the floor to shatter in smaller pieces with each shot release ... suddenly the past was bound to yesterday no more, and death knell was placed back on its shelf, silent.
If not for the inexplicable lack of inclusion in the bulk of the second-half offense (more on that in a moment) we'd likely be talking about a lot more than a "mere" 30 points from The UberMan.
His final numbers: 30 points, 12-of-17 shooting, seven rebounds (tying for the team high), and two assists.
DONUT 3 - A LITTLE MORE DIRK: Beyond the numbers, which are impressive, there was the manner in which Nowitzki attacked the fourth quarter ... once the ball finally found its way to him.
"It was great to see because (Dirk) was doing everything," Rick Carlisle said, "he was shooting the ball, he was driving the ball, rebounding. Overall, he was very active. Very positive."
He wasn't sitting back, content to be a facilitator or a distributor. He attacked the rim, using a bevy of moves to leave defenders helpless, scoring eight points by shooting 3-of-4 and earning a trio of free-throw attempts ... not to mention that at least three attempts that came after the whistle blew, but before the defender yielded, all found nothing but net ... a nice sight, even if they didn't count. The game may have been slipping away, but the crowd seemed almost oblivious to it as they watched their star take it's place high in the sky once more. While the standings may reflect no silver linings, the hearts of Mavs fans can't help but let the hope permeate through ... if this Dirk is back, things must surely be quick to improve. Right?
DONUT 4 - CAN'T HELP BUT MISS KIDD: Despite the show put on by Dirk in the first half, he found the offense turn its gaze away from him in the second. Dallas hit only 5-of-17 shots (29.4 percent) in the third quarter with the ball rarely heading in Nowitzki's direction, and somehow granting him only two field-goal attempts in over eight minutes of action.
The fourth quarter began in much the same fashion. Terry drained a 3-pointer to pull the Mavs within four with 11:33 to play ... and Dirk didn't get his first field-goal attempt until Dallas was down 17 with 5:29 to play. It's not hard to find the issue there.
Delonte West, who's been a stalwart contributor this season, finding his offense within the flow of the team, resorted to extended dribbling sessions ending with contested fadeaway jump shots, as others fell into the same lack of ball movement trap leaving the offense to become stagnant and oblivious to the presence of the one player on the court more than capable of taking over the game on his own.
The offense became an unsteady grind, crumbling to a predictable halt. In this span, you couldn't help but notice the absence of Jason Kidd. Undoubtedly, you've heard people mention the facets of Kidd's game that can't be captured in his stat lines. Perhaps you've questioned the level of respect still tossed his way, or doubted the validity of his praise. In the second half, as the game drew to the moments that would ultimately decide the outcome, you could feel it. This was when you needed Kidd's calming hand to guide the offense home, to twist a direction that had gone astray back to true.
Kidd would never have allowed the game to slip away before Dirk was reintroduced to the offense. Dirk and Jet, in fact, pretty much came out and said so -- with quotes that can be interpreted as unflattering to Roddy B as the QB.
Without Kidd out there directing the ball, it's hard," said Nowitzki. "Finally, in the fourth quarter I just ran to the ball, wherever it was, just basically (said), 'Give it to me.' I just decided to run to the ball every time down."
Added Jet: "Without Jason Kidd, who is good at picking out who's hot and who's not, we're going to have to figure out what we need to do to make sure people stay in rhythm. I just think there was a stretch where we could have taken advantage of Dirk while he was on the floor, and we didn't do it tonight. And that hurts."
Worth mentioning amid all this: Indy made more plays than Dallas did ... on both ends:
DONUT 5 - FISH on FOX TONITE AND THE MAVS TWITTERVERSE: Follow the Mavs-at-Cavs game tonight starting with Fish, Mark Followill and Bob Ortegel on Fox Sports Southwest at 6 ... and then keep up with the help of Fish and the Mavs Twitterverse!
DONUT 6 - WHICH WAY DID HE GO, GEORGE: If you have Paul George on your fantasy team, you've probably found a second silver lining to the return of Dirk. The Mavs simply had no answer for George, who exploded for a career high 30 points, including 7-of-11 behind the arc ... apparently channeling his inner Reggie Miller. He also tied a career high with five steals and almost single handedly put the Mavs away in the second half.
"You've got to be excited to play the defending champs," George said. "I went out there and really just gave them my all."
The man with two first names went 4-of-6 in the third quarter, falling only one short of matching the number of field goals the entire Dallas team put in.
"We played a lot of zone tonight and we lost him a few times on the zone," Carlisle said of George. "He's a good 3-point shooter, he made shots and there's other plays that we made some mistakes on. He had a big night and they had a lot of other guys that played well, too."
DONUT 7 - SECOND-HALF SLUMBER: Against the Thunder, Dallas hit a miserable 8 of their 38 shot attempts, good for a field-goal percentage of 21.1. Against the Pacers, things weren't much better, as they labored to a 32.4 percentage by hitting only 12 of their 37 attempts.
Remove Dirk and Vince Carter from the equation and the rest of the Mavs were only 7-of-29, or 24.1 percent from the floor.
It's hard to win games when you can't buy a basket after halftime ... and there were no referees to throw the blame at this go around, only poorly executed offense and defensive play that left the Pacers with far too many open looks.
"Way too many open shots," Lamar Odom said. "In the NBA you can't have the guy shoot the ball without being contested ... Even when a guy can't shoot he'll make some if he's wide open."
No argument here.
DONUT 8 - THE OTHER BRIGHT SPOT: Displaying an uncanny ability to finish after contact, and continuing the strong play that's become expected of him, Vince Carter was the only Mav to show up in support of Nowitzki. Carter finished with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and led the team in assists with five.
Carter has been a revelation, using every game to dispel the reputation that preceded him here.
DONUT 9 - THE FRENCH DISCONNECT: Roddy Beaubois started out well enough, hitting his first two shots before having to sit with two fouls only five minutes into the first quarter and would not return until 3:46 remained in the half ... he likely wishes he would have stayed on the bench a little longer.
With under three minutes to play, Vince Carter collected a steal and shot the ball forward to a streaking Roddy B, who climbed into the air, rising with the ball high in his hand ... and bricked the uncontested dunk ... then something seemed to click, or rather crack.
From that moment on, Roddy B wasn't the same player. The confidence seemed to slip out of him, leaving a drone going through the motions but without the will to attack the game before him. He would not make another shot, missing his final six attempts (including the dunk), and never reasserted himself as a factor in the game.
Ian Mahinmi played 16 minutes and may have still been looking for Serge Ibaka as he fluttered from impact, making his only shot, but grabbing only two rebounds ... though he did have a pair of steals and a block.
DONUT 10 - MAVSELLANEOUS: Dirk is aware of Barkley's "It's Over'' analysis. Did The UberMan prove him wrong? "We'll just have to wait and see,'' Dirk said. "I obviously couldn't prove him wrong the last couple of weeks." ... ... Let's don understand that Indy counts as a quality foe. The Pacers have won four consecutive games, three of those on the road. Their 10 road victories are tied with for the most in the NBA. ... Big Wood won a double-T shoving match with Dahntay Jones ... So when is Jason Kidd (calf) coming back? Not tonight for Cleveland, but after tonight Dallas doesn't play until Wednesday night at Denver. That's the target. ... Mike Fisher contributed to this report. ... Jet's biting criticism of his own team's defense: "It looked like we were playing the Lakers' defense in the playoffs.'' ... It's a copycat league, so little wonder that Indy coach Frank Vogel would say of Indy's ball movement: "I've used (Dallas) as a model all year on what championship level passing can do for you." ... This is the first Pacers win in Dallas in eight years.
DONUT 11 - WIN THE MAVS NBA CHAMPIONSHIP DVD SET!: Want more of this level of Mavs coverage? Sign on to be a Premium Mavs Fan! It's just about a dime-a-day, and if you do so this weekend, we're giving you a chance to win the Mavs 2011 NBA Finals DVD Collectors Set!
Very simple process for this giveaway: Be a Premium Mavs Fan, of course. If you like this level of coverage of the World Champion Dallas Mavericks, try our Premium Mavs coverage! This is what we do, every day, with 28 years of experience on the beat! It's pennies a day to get All-Access to what the Mavs are doing upstairs, down in the basement, in the locker room and on the court – and it's free to come inside for a 7-day tryout.
So do that. And then post in this thread on the Mavs Premium Boards "Why I Want To Win The DB.com Prize!'' Once you post, you are entered -- you don't even need to be clever (though "clever'' is fun!) Marcia will draw a winner on Monday!
Go Mavs, Go Premium and Good Luck!
DONUT 12 - THE FINAL WORD: The Mavs are now 14-10 and sit a game behind the Spurs for the top place in the Southwestern Division, and we're still waiting for this team to play as a whole, and to find their stride as a unit.
Considering the trials the season has thrown their way thus far, it's not a horrible place to sit, but that doesn't make it easier to swallow moral victories, or silver linings, as a full meal. Yet, even as the Pacers delivered the loss, there was a shift in the arena, a return to the familiar ... and a breath filling a hope some had allowed to become fragile.
Dirk had returned. We don't yet know if it's a welcome to the rest of the season, or simply a surge mixed among the steps leading to a complete return still a little ways off shore. For the moment, it doesn't matter. As the sun tugs tomorrow up over a the horizon, drowning the night, it brings with it a return to normalcy. It brings the whisper of a promise that things may soon be all right.
Lamar Odom says he's "feeling better phsyically," and is "pretty close." Despite a setback in the wake of a missed dunk, Roddy B has shown clear signs of progress. Vince Carter still sips from a reservoir of ... of whatever feeds his "half amazing" side. Shawn Marion's knee didn't shatter after Kendrick Perkins rolled into his leg. Haywood and Mahinmi have shown that they may be enough to carry the torch of last season forward into this one at the center position. Delonte West, Brandan Wright and Jason Terry are ready and able. And, Jason Kidd's return inches closer and closer.
Through the prism of Dirk's Friday night return to prominence, even a loss can feel like a win. Dirk's quote is valiant. "A loss is a loss,'' he said. "I've never liked big numbers in a loss. It doesn't mean anything in a loss."
Ah, but here, Dirk is wrong. Even a setback can give birth to hope ... for the world is once more right-side-up.
If you like this depth of coverage of the World Champion Dallas Mavericks -- the analysis, the numbers, the exclusive Video Visits, the whole experience -- try our Premium Mavs coverage! This is what we do, every day, with 28 years of experience on the beat! It's pennies a day to get All-Access to what the Mavs are doing upstairs, down in the basement, in the locker room and on the court – and it's free to come inside for a 7-day tryout. Now more than ever, there's no reason not to give it a go! Thanks for your support of the site at less than a dime-a-day! Go Mavs and Go Premium!