All-Access: Mavs Tied For 5th (With Swagger?)
FOREWARD: For more than three quarters the Memphis Grizzlies didn't look like a team playing their third game in three nights. Then suddenly everything changed, ironically, after a poor play from Lamar Odom.
With 10 minutes to play, Odom stood alone beneath the defensive rim with an easy rebound dropping his way. Unaware of Quincy Pondexter charging in from the perimeter, Odom did not block out and failed to leave his feet, choosing to allow the ball to come to him. Pondexter soared in, stole the rebound, sank the put-back, collected a foul on Odom and then converted the 3-point play to put Memphis up 73-68.
"It's times when you're tired that you make a lazy play," Odom said. "That one play that I didn't box out the kid Pondexter was because I was tired. Fatigue makes cowards of us all, right?"
Odom headed to the bench, and whether it was coincidence or not, the Dallas Mavericks then surged to a 21-4 run and would not relent on their way to a 95-85 victory, tying the season series with the Grizzlies at one apiece ... making Saturday's rematch the deciding contest regarding the tiebreaker for two clubs now tied for the fifth slot in the West.
JET AND STREAKY 'RIGUE: After Monday's no-show in the drubbing at the hands of the Clips, we noted the lacking performances from the guards off the bench, mainly Jason Terry and Roddy Beaubois. Against Memphis, they turned around and completely redeemed themselves (to be said in your best Lloyd Christmas imitation).
Terry and Roddy would play the entire fourth quarter, and both played a significant role in earning the win (though, perhaps no one as large a role as Shawn Marion, we'll get to that next).
For his part, Terry's best stretch may have been when he personally keyed a quick 5-0 spurt in 23 seconds by hitting a 3-pointer that gave Dallas their biggest lead of the night to that point (six), then stole a Rudy Gay pass and pushed the ball ahead to Shawn Marion for an easy, breakaway basket.
Terry finished with 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block ... due to the outcome, and the rest of his play, we'll ignore the six turnovers. Nope, you won't find a mention of them here.
Perhaps not Roddy's biggest play of the night, but the one that stands brightest in our minds was his hustle, and pure athleticism, after he tipped a Dante Cunningham pass with just under a minute left. The ball appeared sure to cross the out-of-bounds line, but Roddy didn't give up, though no one would have likely held it against him if he had. After all, it was a lost cause ... only Beaubois somehow closed the gap, leaping in the air as he crossed the sideline, and flipped the ball back into play, right into the hands of a waiting Jason Terry. A blink later, Terry had fired the ball forward to Marion for an easy dunk ... and the game was sealed.
That athleticism was also evident in Roddy B's shot-blocking ability and overall athletic ability as a man defender, something Rick Carlisle complimented him on.
"He's very quick,'' Rick said. "He's surprised a lot of guys this year."
Roddy B finished with eight points, five assists, two rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Why did he finish the game in place of Delonte, who also had a wonderful game in place of the injured Jason Kidd? Rick just felt right about it. Another button rightly pushed.
HE'S STILL MORE UBER THAN YOU: Dirk Nowitzki is the best player this franchise has ever known. Not "was." He still is the best.
Dirk finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds, 10-of-18 field goals, two assists, one steal and one block.
There isn't much to add, as we simply saw more of what we've seen so often before from Dirk. He was aggressive, forcing his way by defenders and creating open looks for himself, whether it was going to the rim or fading away. When his legs are beneath him, he is still one of the most lethal offensive weapons the league has to offer.
These Dirk Nowitzki moments are here to be cherished. Enjoy them. Don't rob yourself of the pleasure.
THE IANIMAL, REBOUNDING AND 2nd HALF DEFENSE: Ian Mahinmi played 23:45 and did enough to keep Brandan Wright on the bench for all but two minutes. He scored four points and grabbed ten rebounds, including four on the offensive end. His energy, along with the defensive attentiveness of Haywood and Dirk, allowed the Mavs to more than survive Marc Gasol, holding him to 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting.
With his 10 boards, Mahinmi also helped the Mavs to win the rebounding battle against Memphis, 45-40, an essential facet to beating this Grizzlies team.
"We turned it around and did a much better job," Carlisle said. "It was a collective effort: Mahinmi with 10 (rebounds), Dirk with 10, Brendan with 5, Marion got a lot of big ones, he had 7. Odom had 5, Jet had 4. Everyone chipped in."
There are reasons for being a poor rebounding team, and those reasons pertain to the Dallas Mavs. Their tallest player is a perimeter offensive weapon. They play zone defense. Outside of Wright, they don't employ bigs who are tremendous leapers. But "collective effort''? That they can do.
Whether it was tired legs from playing their third game in three nights or any other myriad of reasons, Dallas's defense clamped down in the second half, holding Memphis to 12-of-40 field-goal attempts, or 30 percent ... not to mention 28.6 percent in the final period.
"Yeah, it was a good bounce back for us," Terry said. "Obviously we're fighting with all of these teams for playoff positioning and this was a crucial game for us as are all of them. It was a good win tonight, but our focus now shifts to Portland."
If Dallas can find the rebounding and defensive effort they displayed in the second half, that shift in focus should deliver fair results.
MAVSELLANEOUS: Dallas is now 5-4 when Dirk Nowitzki has a double-double ... This was only the third time in 23 tries this season that Dallas has won a game they entered the fourth quarter trailing ... The Mavs are now 5-19 in games they trail at one time by ten-or-more points ... Jason Kidd again missed the game with his strained right groin, and is expected to miss the game Friday and Saturday as well ... Odom returned to action after missing one game with a stomach ailment and finished with five points, five rebounds and steal in 18:55, as well as the poor attempts at a rebound that coincided with Dallas finding their stride, outscoring the Grizzlies 27-12 from that point on ... Tony Allen left the game with an injury and Zach Randolph (2-6 FG, four points) is clearly not himself while coming back from a knee problem. ... Big Wood is expected to come out of that knee brace soon. ... Delonte West again started and played very well, hitting 6-of-7 shots to score 14 points to go with some superb defense. He may end up adding a pad to that healing right hand, though ... Carlisle said of Odom: "I see him gaining momentum again." It's fair to point out that LO is recovering from a stomach virus and that in the locker room before the game, he was very upbeat. So hopefully his tummy's getting better and his head's A-OK.
DPOY STRIKES AGAIN, AND AGAIN: Shawn Marion continues to be a bastion of defensive consistency, furthering his claim to a top defensive honor with every passing opportunity. Rudy Gay drew the unfortunate straw, falling into his crosshairs ... and finished with eight points, 4-of-12 field goals, four assists and three turnovers.
When Memphis turned to Gay in the final stretch, Marion was an omnipresent force, a living shadow devouring anything in his path. Not surprisingly, Gay finished with zero fourth-quarter points, missing his only two attempts, totaling more turnovers (1) than field goals.
To counter his offense, Marion also found his way to easy baskets on either the back of his defensive prowess or those of his teammates. After going scoreless in the first half, Marion scored 16 in the second, including 12 in the fourth quarter on 5-of-6 shooting.
When Marion outscores the opponent's leading scorer 12-0 in the final quarter, it's reasonable to assume the game would most often end just as this one did ... with the Mavs pulling away.
Oh, and when Trix scores 15 points or more this year, Dallas is 10-1.
Regardless of what happens in the final 11 games, if Marion isn't among the finalist for Defensive Player of the Year and doesn't make his first All-NBA Defensive Team something is wrong.
NEEDY: Dallas needed this win. There's no other way to put it. After the showing against the Clippers on Monday night something good needed to come their way, and that would only occur riding a wave of effort, hustle, and desire. And that was apparent ...
You can point out the fact that Memphis was on the tail end of their back-to-back-to-back, but Dallas can't control the scheduled of their opponent. They simply had to find a win any way they could ... and they did.
Dallas recaptured some of the ball movement that made them special a year ago, and did so without Jason Kidd leading the way.
"Ball movement is such a big part of who we are, who we've been," Carlisle said. "When it doesn't move, it's hard because the whole defense loads up on whoever's got it."
Especially in the second half, Dallas did not let the ball rust in their hands. They forced what must have been a fatigued team to chase it around the perimeter and found the cracks in the defense.
"Monday night was a bad performance," Terry said, "but we just put it away and not even worry about that."
Just as they pushed the memory of that game away, Dallas must remember what worked against Memphis and carry it forward. Time is short, but not run out.
"Iit's the time,'' Marion said, "to stack [up wins]. It's a race to the finish line."
THE FINAL WORD: It's funny to hear guys like Jason Terry and Delonte West blabbering crazily confident things after a win like this.
West said, "This team definitely has championship swag. They know what it takes to get to ‘the game.'"
Jet said the Mavs can "go forward and make another championship run."
Did these fellas not pay attention to what happened Monday against the Clippers? (Wait. Don't answer that. Maybe they didn't. Heck, maybe they shouldn't!)
We'll let Carlisle craft the final frame for this one.
"Tonight,'' he said, "is a step in the right direction."