Monday Donuts: Skid-Bustin' To OKC
DONUT 1: Without a doubt, the cameras, the headlines and the attention may be have come into Saturday night uniformly directed towards Lamar Odom's return to the Dallas Mavericks. By the end of the night, Odom remained a primary draw -- we've covered 17 Super Bowls and the postgame media crush around Odom's locker has that same "reporters-should-use-more-deodorant'' aura -- but there were others points of focus to share the stage.
DONUT 2: Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 40 points. Jason Terry relocated his touch on his way to 22 points. And, after an inconsequential start, Odom's energy at both ends of the floor spearheaded a third-quarter surge from the Mavs that pushed the lead to as much as 23 points.
Perhaps it was closer than it needed to be in the end, forcing Carlisle to call upon the starters to finish off a blowout that slipped away, but Dallas will take it. After seeing the season slide to a new low, including a four-game losing streak, the theatrics around Odom's situation, and a wealth of other concerns; Dallas did the only thing they could to push it all momentarily aside. They won.
The final was 102-96. For a brief moment ... and pending tonight's visit to OKC ... all is well in MavsLand.
DONUT 3: Lamar Odom was the story. No longer would he head to Frisco for a warm-up game with the Legends. (U-Turn On The Tollway!)With Brandan Wright unavailable due to a concussion that took place in the Hornets' game, and the struggles of the team in general, Odom followed the orange cones and was redirected to the AAC where he would dress and play for the Mavericks.
Word leaked before the game that Odom had not addressed his teammates in respect to his absence (though he would end up doing so just prior to the game). This was an invalid story at the time; what, he didn't address his mates by our 6:30 deadline? If he addressed them at, say, 7:16, that doesn't suit us so it doesn't count?
More important: Words are not what Dallas has lacked from Odom ... and wouldn't be what would truly began the gradual process of making amends. That would always have to come on the court.
The players, the coaches, the team and the fans wanted to know that Odom was "in." All needed to see a sign of reassurance that he was ready to be a contributor, ready to apply his immense, versatile array of talents to the court.
Things began inconspicuously with eight minutes of "afterthought" basketball, leading to two points, one rebound and something short of a whisper of impact.
However, once he entered in the third quarter, it quickly became evident that something had changed. There was a clear pep to his step, a liveliness somewhat alien to the previous Mavericks version of Lamar Odom ... and completely absent in the recent past, reaching back to the Dallas loss in New York.
"Tonight, he addressed the team before we went out,'' Jet explained. "That address was, ‘Guys, I need you as much as you need me.' We all looked at him and gave him a big hug. He said sorry and said let's go. Then his play tonight spoke louder than those words.''
The numbers may not leap from the page, but there was undeniably something more. It wasn't a revelation, but a genuine sign of hope. Not a conclusion, but a clear first step.
In six third-quarter minutes, Odom had five points, made both shots he attempted, grabbed four rebounds, two assists and a block. Bigger than the numbers, with the help of Jason Terry, he was stood at the head of a 27-to-10 run that forged what would prove to be an insurmountable lead.
We saw what we needed to. Odom's presence clearly impacted the game in a positive manner.
"It's by far the most energy (Odom's) played with the entire year," Carlisle said, "and I don't think it's close. I would defy anybody to go against that statement ... If he can bring that kind of energy and engagement, it's going to lift our team to a different level."
His final numbers: nine points, five rebounds, three assists and three blocks ... and a level of impact the numbers fail to capture, to represent fully.
Oh, and one more thing: Some crumpled up papers sitting on his locker-room chair, the result of him having plopped himself on top of them. What were they? Those D-League assignment documents Lamar wouldn't be needing anymore.
Read more about the details of Odom's night -- the terrific work by Coach Grgurich, the mood of the fans, the feel in the locker room -- in Fish's column here.
DONUT 4: Again, this is not the resolution to the Odom saga. Yet, it may prove to be an important first step. Not the complete statement, but the first line of a larger text. All is not forgotten, but absolution comes not in an instant ... but in a prolonged building of trust.
Odom's performance in the second half against the Jazz is step one. Now, we wait to see where the next foot lands. And on a personal basis, we hope that the next step isn't a painful one for Odom. Really, if you are a Mavs fan, what is to be gained by wishing ill for him? Or even by booing him, which occured at the AAC for a bit, but then dissipated as he showed some passion for the game?
"Sometimes,'' LO said, "we need everything in order in order to give ourselves 100 percent. You can ask anybody, ask any mechanic who might be going through a divorce, ask any lawyer who might have lost a loved one, I mean we all go through it, it's a part of life. You can either understand or you can judge. You pick."
DONUT 5: Dirk Nowitzki personally shouldered much of the blame for the debacle that was the loss to the hobbled Hornets. As a team leader, he accepted his role within that disappointment ... unfortunately for the Jazz, he made sure he wouldn't have an echo of that.
Dirk hit his first three shots of the game before heading to the bench a little earlier than planned thanks to an issue with fingers on his left hand. He continually shook the hand, staring down at the fingers, inspecting them. When he re-entered, he missed his next three shot attempts and a small "uh-oh" slithered its way into our thoughts.
We need not have worried.
Dirk scored 14 points in the second quarter alone, including 13 straight for Dallas ... the importance of this was compounded by the fact that Jason Terry was the only other Mav to score in the period, adding five points of his own ... and Nowitzki wasn't ready to stop there.
Dirk finished with a season-high 40 points, using only 21 shots to there, converting 66.7 percent of his attempts. Did we mention he did this in only 28:50 of game action?
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DONUT 7: With wings spread wide, Jason Terry joined Dirk to ensure that what had occurred the evening before would not bleed into this night. Like a cheer-vampire, Terry seemed to feast on the chorus of ovations echoing through the AAC. He was home, and he was here to make sure his team got what it needed from him.
Terry finished with 22 points, 8-of-15 shooting, including 3-of-6 behind the arc, two assists and two steals.
"Tonight was good,'' Jet said. "The ball went in and we got the win. It's no secret. If I put the ball in the hole, we're going to be in position to win a lot of games.''
DONUT 8: Dirk commented after the loss to New Orleans that the "team leaders" were to blame for the brand of play spilled over the court from Dallas. Against the Jazz, it was these same leaders that made sure they wouldn't be enduring another such defeat Saturday night.
Dirk and Terry combined to score 62 of the Mavs' 102 points, needing only 36 shot attempts to get there, posting a combined field-goal percentage of 61.1. When Utah surged back on the force of their bench to score 41 points in the fourth quarter -- the most Dallas has allowed in any quarter this season -- Carlisle was forced to put Dirk back into the game, and The Uberman obliged by bringing the win safely home.
"We were having a very efficient game in terms of not turning the ball over until the fourth,'' Rick said. "Their second unit got into our second unit and we coughed it up a few times and we missed some assignments.''
Jason Kidd added eight assists, and may have added one to a string of turnovers from Dirk, Terry and himself -- Dallas gave away nine in the final period, leading to 13 Utah points -- but he also grabbed two key steals and completed the Mavs triumvirate of "team leaders" ensuring the losing streak would go on no more.
It may have not ended as pretty as we would have liked, but it ended as it had to. When engulfed in a whirlpool that promises a waiting drain below, you don't curse the method you stay afloat ... only gives thanks for the fact that you were able to do so.
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DONUT 10: Mavsellaneous: This was the first time Dirk scored 40 points or more since Nov. 23 2010, when he threw 42 up on the Pistons here in Dallas ... For the first time this season, Odom had more than a single block, denying a trio of Jazz shots ... After hitting 48 percent of their field goals, Dallas is now 11-1 when they shoot at least 45 percent ... Dirk's 40 points were split perfectly, 20 in each half ... The Mavs are now 20-5 when leading at halftime, and 1-10 when trailing ... Utah, who entered Saturday night getting the highest percentage of their total points in the paint in the league, ended the night with 52 of their 96 coming from within the paint, more than doubling the 24 for Dallas ... Utah also worked their way to 24 second-chance points ... The Mavs had six turnovers through three quarters, but nine in the fourth alone.
DONUT 11: Other teams' centers have been putting up numbers. And when we watch the road games at the Fox Sports Studios while pulling up a Barcalounger alongside Bob Ortegel, Coach O often notes how uncomfortable Big Wood is outside the lane on defense. But Al Jefferson gives respect:
"Brendan Haywood is something,'' Big Al said. "He always made me work. When you got him doing that it gets me thinking a lot. But I just got to go out and find ways to get my shots or find a way to get my guys open. If they are fronting me and doing a heckuva job on me, that means somebody else can take advantage of that. I still had good shots, but I missed them. I give credit to him. He did a good job."
Credit it is!
DONUT 12: With the chaos of the Odom situation in full bloom, the four-game losing streak and a myriad of other issues crescendo'ing in a terrible loss to the Hornets, the win here is significant. So is the manner in which the team leaders stepped forward to stop the bleeding and the play of Lamar Odom are.
"It was big because it was tough losing a couple games in a row," said Nowitzki. "We have to establish ourselves again and tonight our fans really helped us out tonight. ... "If we can defend and rebound, I think we're going to be OK. We still have a chance to win every single game."
We won't waste too much time style-pointing a win that comes when it absolutely must have. (Utah scored 41 in the fourth?! Style-pointing!) It was the fourth game in five nights, and five more will speed though in the next seven days. With them comes strenuous physical demands and the chance to use a week to completely bury the strains of yesterday. For a night? all is well.
For a season? Like Dirk says, they still have a chance.
That next chance comes tonight in OKC. Our coverage continues later today with NBA scout Kyle Leath's Advance Scouting Report on the Thunder, with a bushel of trade-deadline gossip in Trade Rumor Traffic (D-Lord is working on a Mavs cap scoop) and with Fish, Ortegel, Harp and Followill on TV - MAVS Live on Fox Sports Southwest beginning at 6:30 tonight. Stay with DB.com all day and all night!