All-Access: Video & Analysis From Mavs-OKC
FOREWARD: We knew Jason Kidd would be out for at least the rest of the week. A little over an hour before the opening tip Rick Carlisle let us know that Lamar Odom would be missing with a stomach ailment and dropped the hint that another player would be a game-time decision. That third player turned out to be Brendan Haywood who would sit due to lower back soreness.
Two starters, three core contributors out, Dirk Nowitzki maybe not being Dirk, and the team with the best record in the NBA in town; the stage for a letdown was set … only the Mavs weren't ready to concede the loss.
Let's get loose before the game, down on the floor ...
The Thunder pulled away, but it took until the final two minutes, behind some questionable officiating – that led to Rick Carlisle earning a tech and then an ejection minutes later when he (inadvertently?) kicked the ball into the stands -- and some clutch shots, OKC outscored the Dallas Mavericks 10-1 in the final minutes to stake claim to a 95-86 victory.
If the Thunder were looking to send a message, to assert their dominance, it is our opinion that they failed. Unfortunately, the standings could care less about moral victories, about hopes unfulfilled, about messages falling flat, about "mojo'' still existing … there, a loss is a loss. But we liked being tied at 85 with two minutes left and took some positives from it.
Coach, what did you think of the game?
Yes, yes, we'll get to the "Rick Kick'' in a moment. ...
We'll begin our look into this game by opining on how the trio of holes were filled (yes, we just gave a Beavis laugh as we typed that).
So, how did those granted the "opportunity" for minutes due to Haywood, Kidd and Odom's absence perform?
POWER FORWARD, BACKUP BIG: Yi Jianlian and Brandan Wright were lined up for additional minutes, and got them. As has been the case all season, Wright did nothing but strengthen his case for more.
To be blunt, Wright was easily the best power forward the Mavs put on the court as Dirk Nowitzki was errant with his shot all night, finishing 2-of-15 from the floor and 0-of-5 behind the arc.
If you've had the chance to see Wright play, you understand what was on display. From his near absurd level of athleticism, including the ability to leap from the court to the second deck of the AAC, to an unbridled enthusiasm at both ends of the court; he may not be a finished product, but good things seem preordained when he touches the ball.
He made four of the five shots he took, earned six free-throw attempts, making four of them, and added three blocks to his 12 points. You can point to the fact that he only had one rebound, though this fails to account for the misses he caused, leaving rebounds at the feet of teammates. He also appeared more than adequate for stretches protecting the interior of the zone with his mobility and ability to climb to meet almost any shot attempt.
On offense, if Wright gets anywhere near the rim, he has a knack for either contorting his body to find the single crease to deliver the ball to the net – as he did when leaping high once either directly beneath the backboard or slightly behind it, then stretching his arm amongst the trees to snake a shot in – or simply delivering an awe inspiring dunk. We'll admit, part of his game is the spectacle, which is always easy to fall in love with, but there is also the hope that his immense talent can sprout into more.
He's just 24 and signed for under a million dollars with a team option for next season … there's a lot to like there.
Yi played nine minutes but failed to have the offensive impact of Wright, ultimately yielding his minutes to him. However, Yi did quickly put up a trio of blocks and grab three rebounds.
As a pair, the two combined for 13 points, four rebounds and six blocks. Not bad. Really, with Lam-Lam home with a stomach problem, it's easy to argue that there was infinitely more energy on the floor without him.
FISH 1-On-1 WITH B-WRIGHT: B-Wright continues to pursue that career in broadcasting with solid DB.com work ...
CENTER: With Haywood out, Ian Mahinmi stepped into his spot and got the first start of his career in his 111th regular-season game to mixed results. "The Ianimal'' played 22:42 and managed to stay out of foul trouble, a genuine concern coming into the night – of the guys not in the D-League Wednesday night, he carried the highest foul-per-minute rate of all the Mavs.
His stats in his limited time weren't terrible: six points, nine rebounds, one steal and two turnovers … essentially cancelling out the eight points and seven rebounds from Kendrick Perkins. In this, you can say he did his job, but it's hard to come away not feeling a little disappointed with his overall play.
There was nothing glaring. Nothing that makes you single him out and point an accusatory finger, and perhaps our level of expectations for his first career start are unfair, but it simply felt like a certain impact was missing. Maybe it was the number of times he fumbled the ball away as the pick-and-roll receiver, as Dallas' gameplan clearly called for him to take advantage. He wasn't a factor on defense, and appeared neutralized on the interior once Serge Ibaka asserted himself on his way to an NBA season high 10 blocks (and the rare blocks/rebounds double-double to vastly overshadow his 2-of-8 shooting performance).
To say the least, Haywood was missed.
POINT GUARD: Roddy Beaubois got his fourth consecutive start as Jason Kidd missed once more with his strained calf. Considering the fact that he went 3-of-13 from the floor, it's easy to look at the boxscore and dismiss this as a very poor performance from Roddy B. While this is an accurate portrayal of his shooting touch, it does not capture the complete evaluation of his performance.
Like everyone else in the league, he had trouble consistently staying in front of Russell Westbrook, particularly when the pick-n-roll was in play. (Westy had 33.) But when he was aggressive, he also proved that Westbrook returned the favor, being completely unable to stay in front of Beaubois … only Roddy couldn't capitalize when he found himself open at the rim, missing no less than three open attempts either at the rim or within a couple feet of it.
Despite his poor shooting, Roddy B continued to show a newfound ability to play within the offense, playing under control and willing to create for others. The four assists he totaled belie the fact that his penetration created a fair amount of solid looks for teammates … only, they failed to convert open looks into baskets.
The final numbers: nine points on 3-of-13 shooting, four rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Perhaps of larger note, Roddy B was on the court when the Mavs surged back to tie the game at 85. He was a part of the group that momentarily appeared poised to turn a 10-point deficit into an unlikely win … though he was also out there as the game ultimately slipped away.
It may have not been as impressive as you'd hope for, but we wouldn't go as far as labeling this a regression or a step in the wrong direction. He missed shots that fall nine out of 10 times, and his jumper was as off as everyone else's – excluding Terry and Wright – but the subtle signs of a growing maturity were still present in his approach and his delivery.
If this approach remains, better results will come.
TRIX, YOU OK?: Shawn Marion crumpled to the floor after a collision ... ankle? Knee? Quad? He's OK, and he thinks the Mavs are, too:
MDUG ON 'THE MAN IN SEARCH OF HIS UBER': Dirk Nowitzki played his third game since missing four … and if we knee-jerk a bit, it looked like his return may have been premature … or that the best decision may have not been to throw him directly into a back-to-back in his first two games back and then asked him to play his third game in four nights.
We (MDug and Fish) are of different minds on the Dirk issue (and on the officiating issue, too; see below). MDug goes first:
I took to Twitter to say it at the time, but if the decision to bring Dirk back truly was a "game-time" decision against the Spurs, there should have been no decision to make. We have no doubt that Dirk will find his way out of his current funk, but how do you overlook the fact that in the three games back he's averaged 9.3 points, a 28.2 field-goal percentage, is 0-of-11 behind the arc … and a nice 8.3 rebounds, so there's at least that.
True, Dallas is 2-1 in those three games, but it's been with Dirk as a secondary player. Against OKC, he was completely ineffective, hitting only 2-of-15 shots, including going 0-of-4 for two points in the fourth quarter as he played all but nine seconds.
We have noticed he has looked more spry at times, note the pickup in his rebounding numbers, and at most times he has moved over the court with slightly less effort, but his shot has completely abandoned him, causing a hesitancy with open looks completely foreign him.
Dirk has never been one to refuse to allow his teammates shots, but it's been a very long time since we've seen him not step confidently into solid looks. Even as they've claimed some levels of success without him near his peak, Dallas will need him to take, and make, those attempts without hesitation.
Again, in time, we have absolute faith that time will come again. Dirk will be ok. We may just have to wait a little longer.
FISH ON 'TRUSTING THE UBERMAN': Dirk conceded that he doesn't have full confidence in his usual offensive repertoire and that his go-to moves right now are "predictable.'' Yet he had plenty of good looks among those 15 shots.
Worth noting: He wasn't always covered by Ibaka, as has so often been the case in the past. OKC put a lesser defender on Dirk (sometimes even the sluggish Perkins), thus freeing up Serge to protect the rim. ... Hey ... "Serge Protector''! Clever! How have you OKC people not thought of this?!
Serge had 10 blocks. Go ahead. Suffer through them with us:
Anyway, Dirk flopped in this manner in such a way that allowed OKC's best defender to not even have to cover him. Bad sign.
But ... Nowitzki, who in his three games back from his "Dirk-Out Workout'' has scored 10, 10 and six points, promises his knee feels stronger and healthier and that unlike earlier in the year, isn't swelling after games. He also pledges to continue his regimen of playing in the games, lifting on the off-days, and gym-ratting it at night by going into the AAC after hours for extra offensive work.
"I'm just going to keep working,'' he said ... about eight times over the course of his postgame media session.
Amid some Mavs fans calling for everything from Dirk's shut-down to Dirk's head, I feel obliged to note that the true "experts'' -- Nowitzki and the Mavs medical staff -- are on the case. I would also point out that after 13 years, The UberMan has earned the trust of those who would doubt him.
Shut him down? Ship him out? For what purpose? With what goal? Twitter, like talk radio before it, serves as a megaphone and the most incendiary yellers snare attention. (Not that our own beloved MDug is one of those bellowers.) But the yellers don't know about Dirk what Dirk knows about himself.
So he'll keep gym-ratting it. ... oh, and as Bob Ortegel predicted, he'll do it with the help of Holger Geschwindner, who has rolled into Big D. dirk will "just keep working.'' And I'm tempted to say "shame on'' anybody who isn't willing to give Dirk Nowitzki every benefit of the doubt for the rest of his basketball life.
FISH 1-ON-1 WITH VINCE CARTER: We asked him about that stare-down with the offending rim ...
THE MERCY KILLING: Rick Carlisle was fed up. He watched as Dirk Nowitzki was clobbered in the paint, as Delonte West all but begged for a call after clear, significant contact as he drove to the rim. Rick's patience was at an end, and with 11:33 to play he picked up his first tech.
A second less than two minutes later, with 9:34 to play, the ball bounced lazily in his direction. Instead of reaching down to pick it up, he kicked out in frustration. Perhaps it was intended as nothing more than a more convenient method of returning the ball to the ref, but he ball sailed into the crowd and Carlisle instantly knew he was wrong, raising his hand in a stance of apology.
Knowing Carlisle, we have little doubt there was no malice intended, but the glue had momentarily come undone. He deserved to be ejected, which he was, and now we'll all have to wait to see if the league takes further action.
"I want to apologize to our franchise, Mark (Cuban), our fans," said Carlisle, who was ejected for his flash of anger. "The incident where the ball got kicked into the stands -- that can't happen. My intent was not to kick it into the stands. I was trying to kick it to the referee, but I'm not a very good kick. But, that can't happen. The officials made the right call on that one. That's a regrettable situation."
MAVSELLANEOUS: Jason Terry and Brandan Wright combined to hit 11 of their 15 shots, good for 73.3 percent. The rest of the Mavs hit only 19 of their 69 attempts, or 27.5 percent … At the other end of the spectrum from Terry and Wright, Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter combined to hit 5-of-25 shots, a field-goal percentage of 20 percent, and missed all eight of their attempts behind the arc … Dallas hit 13-of-19 shots in the first quarter, then made just 17-of-65 over the final three quarters, 26.2 percent, yet the game was tied with 2:14 to play. ... OKC is carried by All-NBA standouts Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who scored 23 and 33, respectively. But their talent base is wide. ... The Thunder is 17-4 and trying to run the West. Even with a loss Dallas is still at 14-9 and leading the Southwest Division. ... "We had plenty of firepower,'' said Jet, Dallas' only big scorer with 25. "We just didn't get it done. No excuses. Every team is going to go through (injuries) at some point in the season. So for us, this is a disappointing loss.''
MAVVIRUS: Not sure we understand the public negativity over the loss. The Mavs labored to overcome horrific shooting woes by coming back to tie the game at 85 with two minutes left. At that time, however, OKC mounted a run during which the Thunder outscored the home team 10-1 to close.
Which, of course, triggers your MavVirus. ... the questioning of Dirk and the concerns about whether this team will ever win again and the ADD that some of us suffer from giving the fact that Larry seems a distance memory ...
But this was a tie game against "the best in the West.'' This is hardly an embarrassment, you know? ...
MDUG ON 'THE PLETHORA OF MISSED CALLS': It's easy, and not misinformed, to dwell in the anger of a plethora of missed calls in the final quarter, when the referees ignored significant contact on drives to the rim by Mavs players after rewarding such aggression for three quarters. It's easy, and it's justified.
We won't dismiss the fact that the officials failed to adequately do their job. Perhaps they were lulled to slack-jawed observation by the show put on by Ibaka and unable to muster the wind to call their whistles to life, or they were just ready to head home … if not for the pesky basketball game still keeping them at the arena.
It's easy to feed the frustration of this, to embrace its fury. We won't begrudge you that. Rick Carlisle had seen enough, drawing a pair of techs within the span of two minutes, clearly frustrated by the whistles that didn't come.
Yet, when you take a step back, it's hard to dismiss the chances the Mavs threw away themselves by hitting only 3-of-19 (15.8%) shots in the third quarter and making the Thunder's 38.1-percent shooting look brilliant by comparison. For all of the calls that were missed in the final frame, there's a handful of open looks, of golden opportunities, left wanting earlier in the game.
If you want to see it in a positive light and note that Dallas played without Jason Kidd, Brendan Haywood and Lamar Odom, and somehow managed to keep the game from getting out of hand. We also won't damn that course, even if the standings won't grant the same quarter.
In the end, this is only one game, and it was a game the Mavs were setup to lose from the start. They held their own against the team with the best record in the NBA despite their disadvantages, including the severe struggles of their best player.
Yet, even as curses for the refs swim through your mind … it's hard not to feel an opportunity was missed.
FISH ON THE REFS: 'BACK IN MY DAY ...': In my 20's, I busied myself as a middle-school-level coach, a men's competitive-league softball manager, and a baseball, softball, basketball and football official. I had a slogan that I used on refs when I was the coach and it was the same slogan I used on the coaches when I was a ref.
"All I ask,'' I'd say, "is for the officiating to be as good as the playing.''
Or, "For the playing to be as good as the officiating'' ... depending on which uniform I was wearing.
I thought this a disarming way to avoid conflict and authority challenges. I also thought it a way to remind all involved of their personal responsibility to hold up their ends, and too be too busy doing so to worry about things beyond their control.
So let me ask you: As "questionable'' as the officiating was in the second half of this game ... as much as Rick thinks there was a "huge'' margin in FT shooting (is 33 to 25 in favor of OKC "huge''?) ... as much as Cuban wants to soap-box this subject yet again ...
As questionable as the second-half officiating was, was is 8-of-38 questionable? Because that's what Dallas shot in the second half, 8-of-38.
Was the officiating of the Mavs worse than the performance of the Mavs? Or did they deserve each other?
After the game I convened with colleague Kevin Brolan and I said, "Maybe we should try to video Cuban. I know what he's going to say. I'm not nearly as interested in that as I am of getting video of him saying it. That might be interesting.''
I knew that Tony Cubes would find a microphone and I knew which microphone it would be: Tim MacMahon's.
Now, I consider both Cuban and MacMahon to be friends of mine. But this sort of situation is moth-to-flame for both of them. You can read Mark's comments in Tim's story here ... except you already know what it says.
"This is the worst-reffed game I've ever seen!'' Cuban says, or words to that effect. But in fact, it can only be TIED for the worst-reffed game Mark has ever seen, because he's now made that claim 500 times.
So it was a 500-way tie for first.
Again, no disrespect to anybody involved, but ... While Tim was talking with Cuban in the weight room, I waited patiently in line behind Tim for a turn. Maybe I was too respectful to Tim and should've barged in, because when MacMahon was done, Cuban also declared himself done.
Too bad, because my line of questioning has nothing to do with what I consider a non-story. I wanted to ask Cuban about the possibility of a new contract for Rick Carlisle.
But Cuban was out of talking time. So that story sits on the shelf while the "This is the worst-reffed game I've ever seen!'' will undoubtedly make SportsCenter.
It's a tired-yet-hyperbolic angle. It bores me. It doesn't bore my man Tim MacMahon because Cuban bashing people is a web-hit lure. It doesn't bore Cuban because Cuban doesn't find Cuban boring. But the officiating wasn't the worst thing about this game. 8-of-38 was the worst thing about this game. And that oughta be the Mavs' focus.
THE NBA HIGHLIGHT REEL: You know how this one ends ...
THE NUMBERS GAME: Big calculators, y'all!
*The Mavs have won 20 of 27 against the Thunder after tonight and are now 1-2 on the season series.
*The Mavs' shooting trended downward – 68% in the 1st quarter, 33.3% in the 2nd quarter, 15.8% in the 3rd, oh, and then some rebounding to 26.3% in the fourth. The team shooting was propped up by Terry's 70% (7-10), and Wright's 80% (4-5). The rest of the team shot 27.5%.
*Dirk's 2-of-15 from the floor included an 0-of-5 from the arc.
*The Mavs were outrebounded 55-44
Ibaka had a career-high 10 blocks. Marion had his shot blocked 4 times, West was blocked 3 times and Mahinmi and Carter were both swatted twice.
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