Sun Don't Shine: Memphis 96, Mavs 85
FOREWARD: Dirk Nowitzki showed signs of back trouble as early as the pregame warmups, according to official reports. (Our Mike Fisher says that The UberMan was walking stiffly 24 hours earlier as he got off the team plane in Memphis.) And he wouldn't last 10 minutes on the court before heading to the locker room for the second time … subdued by "lower back stiffness."
Minus their best player, the Dallas Mavericks fought back but found themselves outmatched by Memphis as they fell by the final of 96-85 … pushing their losing streak to three games, and four losses in their last five.
THE NBA HIGHLIGHT REEL: Very early, you see Dirk working the "rolling pin'' ...
DIRK'S SIDELINED AGAIN: Dirk played 9:39, took only one shot (a miss), split a pair of free throws, turned the ball over twice and grabbed four rebounds before "stiffness" in his lower back sent him to the locker room for good.
He could be seen rubbing his lower back prior to the game, appearing to say something to Ian Mahinmi, who looked at The UberMan's back quizzically in response, and clearly Dirk wasn't himself during his time on the court.
"He felt something in warmups and tried to play," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "He clearly wasn't moving the way he needed to be moving, so we pulled the plug."
Without their brightest star and two key bench contributors, Dallas crumbled. You can cradle the comfort of knowing most teams may have followed a similar path if chained to the same situation, but that doesn't erase the let down on the court … tumbling forward the notion that this nine games in 12 nights couldn't have begun much worse.
The only positive news here: Nowitzki left the Memphis locker room pledging to be all healed up for Friday in New Orleans.
"With 24 or 48 hours, that's a long time for a body (to heal),'' Dirk said. "So I'm fully planning on it.''
THE THINNING: As expected, Lamar Odom was not on hand to contribute as he continues to … to … well, Khloe Kardashian being on "Conan'' after being on "Leno'' the night before is the closest thing to Odom news available.
What is Conan O'Brien now, a grief counselor? A stomach virus doctor?
So no Odom, with an update on his status due Thursday. Delonte West isn't expected back in the immediate future, either. And then no Dirk. The Mavs bench may have scored 50 points against the Grizzlies. Yet, what may have once been their biggest strength, their greatest possible advantage to facing the rigors of the condensed schedule has been thinned, weakened.
Without two players thought to be a part of the bench's core (Odom and West) and another stolen to replace a missing starter (Dirk), your left with fewer bodies to spread the load over, fewer to bear the heightened burden of the schedule.
In life, so much comes down to timing. For the Mavs, the timing couldn't be worse.
"It sucks right now,'' Dirk said. "We're already down without LO, without West. We're in a tough stretch, and we need every win.''
They also need all hands on deck.
THRUST INTO RELIANCE: Jason Terry scored 18 and for the second straight night expressed the opinion that Dallas got away from the things that make them successful.
We assume he means, in part, more Jet.
But in a game that was often brutal to watch, the second quarter performance from Roddy Beaubois was impressive enough to demand the freeing of Roddy B. For 12 minutes, Roddy displayed the dynamic skills that have burrowed a place in our memory, having planted the seed of a potential we continue to await seeing blossom.
In the second quarter, Roddy totaled 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, collecting all but two of these points in the paint … and the other two came from a pair of free throws: all gifts of aggression.
He wasn't playing out of control, simply attacking a defense with his immense natural scoring gifts. When Roddy B becomes this kind of force on offense, he has the power to change a game, the prowess to breathe life into the hopes his raw talents have conceived. Within this style of play, there will be missed shots, the occasional turnover, the threat of embarrassment by having a shot blocked emphatically by an opponent, and the added physical toll required to throw your body into the heart of a defense, inviting the contact sure to come. These are the risks of aggression … they are the price paid for reward.
Considering his limited minutes in the recent past, prior to playing 61 over back-to-back nights, perhaps it's unfair to demand such physical exertion for all 37:48 he played against Memphis … (Carlisle said Roddy B did get tired) ... but it is what he can bring to this team, what he needs to bring.
Again, Dirk stated he expects to return for Friday's matchup in New Orleans, but should he find his body unwilling, should Odom continue to be a Maverick ghost, Roddy Beaubois could provide an essential scoring boost. He can be the life preserver thrown to a team thrown to an angry sea, or …
In the second half, likely aided by fatigue, Roddy B found his forays into the paint evaporate for extended stretches. He played 11 minutes in the third quarter, taking three shots … two of them behind the arc.
Before garbage-time arrived, Beaubois had taken only two shots in the paint in the second half. By comparison, he took and made five in the second quarter alone.
We're not saying attempts in the paint are the sole measure of his production, four turnovers to only three assists are less than desirable. Our contention is only that Roddy shouldn't try to act as a Jason Kidd clone. He hasn't the knowledge of the game, the experience, a mirrored set of skills to embrace such an approach. He isn't Kidd … but he can impact a game by playing to his own attributes, within himself and within the team.
He doesn't need to be a showman. If he simply plays the game with controlled aggression, the show will reveal itself naturally.
On the other side of the ball, Shawn Marion must be begging for Beaubois to lessen the point-guard-defending load as well. Roddy has the physical tools to do so, but again, he must find his aggression, control it and more consistently be what the potential promises.
With Kidd facing a strict minute limit, the absence of West and Odom, and the possible absence of Dirk, Roddy may find a newfound level of reliance thrust upon his shoulders. With that comes the opportunity to thrive. Jeremy Lin was an afterthought until circumstances shifted, granted the chance.
Roddy B is still young, yet in the uncertainty of the roster moving beyond this season, this may be his most significant chance to forge a footprint in Dallas beyond the fleeting notion of potential. Above, we noted an example of timing working against the Mavs, for Roddy, the time is now.
MAVSELLANEOUS: Brendan Haywood finished with 10 points, making him the sole Mavs starter to reach double digits and marking the first time since his first half-season (back on March 29-31 of 2010) with Dallas that he's scored double digits in back-to-back games … The negative side of that? The opposing two centers have totaled 60 points in the same two-game stretch … Dallas has now failed to score at least 20 points in the fourth quarter 14 times this season, including the last four games in a row … Dirk Nowitzki missed three or more free throws six times all of last season, he did so three times this February alone … Predictions about Grizz who might dominate statistically came true: Marc Gasol had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Mike Conley added 20 points and 10 assists ... Are the defensive demands being place on Shawn Marion taking a toll? Over the last three games he is averaging 8.7 points while shooting 28.9 percent. It may be reasonable to assume it is.
THE FINAL WORD: While it's dangerous to condemn a team too severely for how they perform without their best player, as Dallas essentially was in Memphis, it is fair to question the effort you saw, just as it is fair to question if the whispers around this team have found their way to the ears of the players.
It's fair to question if the Lamar Odom saga has become a distraction, while also noting the near constant flux in rotations due to injuries and a near complete absence of practice time to address the offensive struggles. There's no doubt a cohesion that was blatantly evident in last year's squad is absent.
As there always are in the face of adversity, bountiful shadows emerge for the wandering eye in search of them. Cracks are peeled wider as a thousand fingers pry their way in, each pouring in their own doubts, their own concerns. These are the brothers and sisters of losing. They are parasitic, destructive and an invitation for failure … if they take up residence within the locker room, they are season killers. If it's only those outside, it means almost nothing.
Yet, wherever shadows, cracks or doubts may reside, they are easily cast aside by one simple thing: winning.
Dallas heads to the court of the team with the worst record in the Western Conference … a small gift within the brutality of the current batch of the schedule. It's up to the Mavs to unwrap it.
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