All-Access Donuts: Spurs 104, Mavs 87
DONUT 1: FOREWARD Buried are the good feelings of back-to-back strong wins over the Spurs and Nuggets. Lost is any momentum built up with a four-game winning streak. Apparently forgotten is the Dallas Mavericks ability to compete with their opponent on the glass, getting outrebounded by 17 against the Lakers and then upping that deficient margin to 20 versus the Spurs.
And just gone was Lamar Odom, who maybe for the first time in his basketball life, never left the bench.
DONUT 2: 'LET 'EM PLAY? In a physical game that saw Dirk Nowitzki have an off-night of career proportions, leaving him to spend more time complaining to officials than making successful basketball plays, the Mavs fought back to take a five-point lead in the third quarter only to allow the Spurs to put the game away with a 22-2 run, including 12-0 to close the third as Dallas missed nine straight shots, leading to a 104-87 final.
The Mavs are not soft, but this much is true: if an opponent is prevented from setting an early wrasslin'-match tone againt Dirk, if a few first-quarter fouls are called when defenders illegally get into his grill, it's Advantage Mr. Nowitzki.
Those early calls did not come Friday.
DONUT 3: THE NBA HIGHLIGHT REEL Such as it is:
DONUT 4: CREDIT TO THE SPURS Listen, in their two games in SA, they've kicked Dallas' butt. What separate the two Southwest Division rivals? SA is 31-14, and in their two homes games against the Mavs have won by 22 and 17 points. Dallas has its two home wins, too, but by one and seven points.
It seems like somebody is always injured for these games, but props to Pops: He gets somebody else to show up big in the big-margin wins.
Duncan with 15? Sensible. Danny Green scoring 18? Harrumph. Manu with 11? Well, that's double-figures. That Bonner Character with 14, including 4-of-5 shooting from the arc? Dammit.
DONUT 5: PHYSICALLY ABSENT: There are a lot of traits you could say were absent from the Mavs performance against the Spurs … and at least one body.
Rick Carlisle stated he spoke with Lamar Odom prior to the game and clued him in to the fact that he was going to move his rotation in another direction for this contest. That direction did not include Odom, who got his first DNP-CD (Did Not Play – Coach's Decision) of the season. ... heck, probably of his life.
"Well, that's something that I talked to Lamar about both yesterday and today," Carlisle said. "That I was going to look at a different rotation tonight … It was something I wanted to look at, but I think the thing that it shows: it shows that Lamar's minutes are valuable to us. So, you know, we've got to keep him in the fold."
A message may have been sent with the benching, but it comes as a magnified echo of one that has been sent many times over the course of the season. Whether being pulled quickly throughout individual games, or sitting in favor of Brian Cardinal, or Carlisle choosing strong words in reference to Odom (as he did not so long ago on his radio show with GAC); the message is not a new one.
Apparently, it had failed to penetrate, failed to invite change … simply failed.
Odom is one of the nicest people you'll find in a locker room. If you spend a few minutes talking to him, your heart leads you away from casting barbs his way. You want to like him. You read over his past and either sympathize or empathize … and you want him to succeed for reasons beyond the hopes for your team.
You want to give him another chance -- even as you begin to tire of his existential philosophizing.
"There isn't too much I haven't seen in life, so I'm prepared and ready and willing to get over anything,'' LO said, "anything that's standing in my way."
His talent is such that you hide a now faint hope from your game-to-game passion, from the results that seek to permeate, to drown. Yet, after numerous attempts have been made to comfort, to ease the path of adaptation, to soften the emotional bruises that may hide beneath the skin, to grant every opportunity: when do you turn the page?
Based on his own words, clearly Carlisle isn't quite ready to do so, and given that Dallas is now 0-6 in games Odom doesn't play, maybe he has reason. Most fans may not agree with it, but Odom will continue to get his chances to snap out of the season-long funk he's trapped within … and Dallas must hope the "value" he delivers becomes something more than the return any nameless body could provide: minutes on the bench for Dirk.
Those are some awfully low expectations, by the way. And they keep sinking. You thought there was no way Odom could ever do less than the 1-1-1 linescore he coughed up Tuesday against the Lakers?
He just lowered expectations. Again.
The message had been sent before, now passed through a megaphone we'll just have to see if it finally gets through.
DONUT 6: A NIGHT TO FORGET Dirk Nowitzki bears the permanent imprint of a city on his shoulders, having carried the complete basketball hopes of the Metroplex for so long. After a slow start to the season, and being labeled as a fallen victim to Father Time by Charles Barkley, Dirk had returned to his former … once again achieving his accustomed level of excellence.
Friday night against the Spurs, he had a night to forget, a performance that slips into the area of his career-worst. After starting 5-of-9, Dirk missed his next 12 field-goal attempts. If that's not enough, here are a few more numbers to support this notion:
In games Dirk had played at least 37 minutes (he played 37:07 against San Antonio), he had grabbed two rebounds or less nine times in his career. Friday night marked the tenth such occasion.
When he had taken 21-or-more shots in a game, Nowitzki had converted under 24 percent of his attempts only once in his career: Dec 6, 2004 against the Milwaukee Bucks, when he was 5-of-22 (22.7 FG%). His 5-of-21 (23.8 FG%) against the Spurs marks the second such occurrence.
Statistically speaking, this clearly lays down amongst his worst.
Peering outside the numbers, we saw a Spurs team that was allowed to be very physical with Nowitzki without drawing consistent whistles. In recent years we've seen teams deploy this approach and we've seen Dirk respond by upping the toughness quotient of his own game, momentarily setting aside his outside prowess to consistently attack the paint, rendering it impossible for the whistles to remain silent or converting at the rim.
Instead of this approach, he seemed to wear his frustration on his skin, barking at officials, choosing to stare down those who let the contact go without a call rather than hustling back on defense or following up his own miss … failing to make an opponent pay for poking the bear.
Dirk has earned the right to let this game slip from mind. He's built a history great enough to bury this slip. The simple rarity of this night makes it stand out, but also labels it the clear aberration.
"I feel great, it's just a (expletive) of games,'' said Nowitzki in reference to the crowded 66-game season. "Some nights you're not just going to have your legs.''
Dirk is still Dirk … The UberMan is still The UberMan. ... just not on this night.
DONUT 7: MAVSELLANEOUS Friday was Jason Kidd's 39th birthday. With the result in mind, we guess we hope he got a chance to celebrate prior to the game, though he was one of the few to play fairly well. He finished with 14 points; hitting 4-of-8 3-point tries (and two of those misses came on desperation heaves forced as the shotclock expired) to go with seven rebounds. Strangely, he had only one assist. This was only the second time in Kidd's career that he played at least 30 minutes and only had one assist … Welcome back Shawn Marion. The result may not indicate it, but it was great to see Marion back on the court. Carlisle designated him as the manu chaser and Ginobili was mortal with just 11 points. "Marion's probably the (NBA) Defensive Player of the Year,'' Rick said. Trix had 13 points, four rebounds, two steals and a block in 30 minutes. … Mark Followill mentioned on Fox Sports Southwest that this was the 12th starting lineup the Mavs have used this season. Impossible to say injuries haven't made an impact … The Mavs have been outrebounded by an average of 18.5 over the last two games. ... Vince off the bench didn't quite work as he managed to score just three points. ... Parker's absence helped allow Jason Terry to lead the Mavericks with 18 points. ... That 22-2 period of domination for the Spurs lasted eight second-half minutes and featured but a single Dallas field goal. ... The Spurs got some help from newcomer Boris Diaw (signed this week), who in his first game finished with two points, three rebounds and an assist in almost 16 minutes while taking a turn guarding Nowitzki. And no, Dallas never had a shot at Diaw; he's Parker's fellow Frenchman and one of his closest friends. ... Dallas does have 6-5 swingman Kelenna Azubuike and he's in Frisco this weekend. Mavs owner Mark Cuban terms him a potential "steal'' but what's important to remember is that the Mavs have a team option on him next season. So after two years away from the floor due to a terrible knee injury, "Booookie'' isn't a Mav so he can immediately step into the rotation. We say this is more LIBB stuff. ... Yes, we're scoreboard-watching. Dallas was fourth. now is sixth, and plays No. 8 Houston on Saturday.
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DONUT 9: THE WILY VET AND THE YOUNG ‘UN Roddy Beaubois has been fairly consistent in his play since returning from the All-Star break. Rick Carlisle leaving him in the starting lineup as Shawn Marion returned, moving Vince Carter to the bench, is a clear indication of that, and of the trust that has begun to grow.
In their last meeting, Roddy was able to contain and outperform Tony Parker. Parker missed this game to rest his hamstring, leaving Roddy B to often find Manu Ginobili matched up with him. From the start, Manu seemed to be a step ahead of French Cuffs.
At times it appeared to be the nonchalant approach of Beaubois, an almost casual release, as he made little to no attempt to mask his passes. There were no fakes, no quick pumps to gauge the reaction, only stare and toss. Manu read his eyes and had little trouble either tipping or outright stealing those attempts.
Ginobili is a smart player, a man who has made many an opponent appear foolish. Roddy B need not lose confidence over being so severely outplayed, but he must learn from it. Not that Manu lacks physical tools, but this should come as an easy lesson in how the game stretches beyond the realm of athletic ability.
We continue to like the progress we've seen from Roddy B -- and with four rebounds, five assists and 10 points, the numbers are there -- but this is a matchup that must not eat away at what's been gained. Rather, it must feed the knowledge that there is much more to take in.
It must not be a thief, but a teacher.
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DONUT 11: REBOUNDING? YES. PLEASE! A major reason the Lakers were able to handle the Mavericks so soundly was their complete dominance on the boards. Los Angeles out-rebounded Dallas by a margin of 17 (46-to-29), including 9-to-7 on the offensive glass.
In this regard, the Spurs' game was eerily similar as the Spurs grabbed 54 rebounds, compared to only 34 for Dallas. For those who don't feel like doing the math, that means they took down 20 more than the Mavs. On offensive rebounds, San Antonio held a 12-to-4 advantage.
Thanks in large part to this utter dominance the Spurs totaled 21 second-chance points compared to only seven from Dallas.
"They kicked our ass on the offensive rebounds,'' said Ian Mahinmi. "We've really got to focus on boxing out."
Indeed, it's hard to win games being dominated to such a degree.
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD In the first half, San Antonio outscored Dallas in the paint 32-12, in second-chance points 19-2, outrebounded the Mavs 27-14 (including 11-2 at the offensive end) and somehow the Mavs were only down seven.
For all of the early failings, the Mavs had managed to keep themselves in the game. They began the third quarter with energy and erased their early struggles to build a five-point lead … and then the wheels flew off.
When you are outscored 50-16 in the paint (yes, Brendan Haywood is missed), 21-7 on second-chance points and get out-rebounded by 20, as Dallas was by the end of the night, the likelihood of a win slides to somewhere in the realm of slim to none.
The Mavs now head to Houston for the second night of their in-state back-to-back and mustn't allow one loss to bleed into two. If you're looking for some hope on this front, there is the fact that Dallas is now 5-12 on the first night of back-to-backs, but 10-6 on the second.
"Tough game, but I liked a lot of what we did out there,'' said Carlisle, who going forward is going to need substantially more to like.