All-Access: Deep Inside Mavs' OT Loss At LA
FOREWARD: Kobe Bryant did not play as he allowed his left shin to continue to heal. Brendan Haywood held Andrew Bynum in check for a fair portion of the game. Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and Delonte West combined to make 23 of their 36 shots, good for 63.9 percent. But Dirk Nowitzki couldn't buy a basket and didn't appear to have the reservoir of energy to draw from to fuel a consistent will to attack the rim, and the Dallas Mavericks lost in overtime to the Lakers 112-108.
This was a game that often seemed to be there for the taking, particularly in the first half, only Dallas proved incapable of pulling away or tossing in the dagger. Dirk missed the chance to end the game as time expired in regulation and the chance to reclaim an opportunity that had slipped away was lost for good as the Lakers outscored the Mavs 14-10 in overtime … thanks to a pair of Pau Gasol 3-pointers, one of which likely should not have counted.
THE DALLAS GUARDS: Roddy Beaubois was not available as he fights to return from a strained calf. This left Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Delonte West to carry the vast bulk of the guard minutes, and they would do so admirably … though they were unable to contain Ramon Sessions, who must now long for the days when he finds himself matched up with Jason Terry.
We'll begin with Jason Kidd, who continued to show the shooting touch we had grown accustomed to since his return to Dallas, prior to the slow start to this season that continues to drag down all of his season numbers.
Kidd's numbers against the Lakers: 13 points, 5-of-7 fields goals, 3-of-4 3-pointers, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 turnover.
Through the month of February, Kidd was averaging just over 28 minutes-per-game, 5.1 points, 5.5 assists, 1.7 steals, 2.1 turnovers and struggled to find his shot, hitting only 31.9 percent of his field goals and 29.2 percent of his 3-pointers.
Since the beginning of March he has taken part in 19 games (still at just over 28 minutes per) and is averaging 7.6 points, 5.5 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.7 turnovers but has reclaimed his shooting touch by hitting 41.2 percent of his field goals and 43.5 percent of his 3-pointers.
The field-goal percentage isn't impressive, but is still above his 36 percent a season ago, yet it's hard to deny the strength of his shooting behind the arc. Dallas will need this to both make the playoffs and have any real hopes of causing damage should they get there.
The bad news: with a very important matchup against Utah Monday, which will be the Mavs fourth game in five nights, Jason Kidd was forced to play 38:40 against the Lakers (possibly a granting a peak into Carlisle's reasoning for resting Kidd Friday night).
WINGS SPREAD WIDE: Jason Terry has struggled to play at the level Mavs fans have come to expect of him on the road this season, where he is averaging 12.9 points while shooting 36.4 percent and has a 31.6 3-point percentage. Against the Lakers, the evidence of this was not on display.
Terry finished with 21 points, 8-of-15 field goals (53.3 percent), including 5-of-6 behind the arc, four assists, three rebounds, one steal and no turnovers and it seemed like Terry was there to pull the Mavs from encroaching offensive doldrums continuously over the coarse of the second half and particularly in the fourth quarter, where he was 3-of-5 for 8 points.
While the result wasn't desired, seeing Jason Terry show signs of finding his road wings is a positive sign … especially as the dream of hosting a playoff series may have officially died.
GO WEST: Delonte West proved to be a force beyond the control of the Lakers in the first half. For all of his offensive contributions, Sessions was little more than a spectator to West's dominance at the other end of the court.
At the half, West tread a plain above the rest of the games combatants by scoring 16 points on 8-of-11 field goals.
In the second half Mike Brown switched Metta World Peace (yeah, it still feels odd typing that) on West, essentially ending his reign of superiority, as West would total four points on 1-of-4 shots after the first two quarters.
DIRK'S WANDERING SHOT: For the third time in the last five games, Dirk Nowitzki converted less than 33 percent of his shot attempts … and seemed to show a clear hesitancy towards attacking the interior of the Lakers defense. Undoubtedly Los Angeles's length played a role in this, with Andrew Bynum generally lingering around the rim somewhere. Yet, he allowed that presence to too significantly alter his game, passing up chances that should have been there, or it was something else.
The resurgence of Jason Kidd's shooting touch may clue us in to another cause. Since the dawn of this season, when Dirk struggled to shrug off limitations brought about by the deviations to his season preparations due to the lockout, it wasn't until he found rest that his body caught up with his mind.
Now, as we've witnessed a wholly foreign series of critical slips in the form of a few errant passes in closing moments and a few very poor-shooting nights, we're forced to wonder if another form of fatigue has manifested itself?
From all that's taken place, from Lamar Odom to the pains of the scheduled to everything in between, would it be too far fetched to believe their may be an abnormal level of fatigue … both mental and physical.
Don't misread this as doubt in Nowitzki, of which we have none, but we won't deny that we smile when seeing that Dallas plays only one game over the final five days of the season.
Sweet, sweet rest … they just have to make sure their season doesn't end before the advantages of that rest may be reaped.
Despite the shooting troubles, Dirk finished with 24 points (9-of-28) and 14 rebounds.
"He had some opportunities that he missed,'' Carlisle said. "We have got to get him some better looks. Nine-for-28 is not a Dirk Nowitzki night."
Added Dirk: "Tonight I was more of a volume shooter and that's not how I want to play. I want to be an efficient scorer. I have some work to do."
OK, work. But get that rest, too, please.
DID DALLAS WIN THE BIG-MAN RUNNING GAME?: We made this a pregame key, with guidance from NBA scout Kyle Leath. But no, Brandan Wright -- who was pivotal to us if this idea was to work -- barely played, Rick deciding that he lacked the muscle to survive.
So, who won the Big Man Running Game?
THE THREE THAT WASN'T … RIGHT: With 3:48 to play in overtime, Pau Gasol launched a 3-pointer from the corner that found nothing but net, putting the Lakers up 103-101. Only, net wasn't the only thing that touched the ball.
Matt Barnes hung in the air for a rebound attempt and clearly appeared to touch the ball before it could go in, an easy offensive interference call should have been made … only it wasn't.
Both Rick Carlisle and Mark Cuban were unhappy with the non-call after the game, which they have a right to be.
"Yes, Mavs fans,'' Cuban tweeted. "I have already asked the NBA to make basket interference reviewable in the last 2 minutes.''
Added Coach Carlisle: "It was a goaltend that was missed. And we had a one-point lead at that time, so it's a big play. ... They'll see that in black and white in New York."
Moments earlier, it appeared that a key Barnes offensive rebound was gathered while he was standing out of bounds. As with the in-the-cylinder issue ... nothing.
Let's have a look at the flurry of OT 3's and the absence of OT whistles (not in black and white, but in color!):
Two wrongs. Right? However -- as we frequently point out when it comes to zebras not named "Tim Donaghy'' -- this wasn't a game lost because of one bad call.
MAVSELLANEOUS: We think the Mavs may have to re-think their policy of avoiding doubling-down on centers. At least if it's Dallas-LA in Round 1 ... Dallas is now 10-11 in games decided by five points or less this season. They were 17-11 in these games a season ago … The 12-18 record in games they trailed after three quarters a season ago may not be breath taking, until you compare it to their 3-23 record in those games this year … The Mavs are 3-2 this season when games require extra periods … Despite his shooting struggles, Dirk finished with 24 points (9-of-28) and 14 rebounds. His 11th double-double of the season. Dallas is now 5-6 in those games … Pau Gasol was 5-of-23 on 3-pointers this season coming into Sunday's game, he then made two in overtime to clinch the game for the Lakers … Dallas allowed 15 offensive rebounds, the most they've allowed since March 24th against the Rockets. The 18 second-chance points was also the most they've allowed since that game. ... Want a monster second-guess? Given Dallas' ball-movement skills, did the Mavs try to iso a struggling Dirk a little too much?
THE FINAL WORD: There are only five games left in the season for the Dallas Mavericks. Pending the results of the Utah and Phoenix games tonight, the Mavs loss leaves them two ahead of the Suns and three ahead of the Jazz in the loss column. Barring a complete collapse, the playoffs should be a given.
Assuming the playoffs are in the cards, the scheduled will soon grant its largest gift, one that could help erase all of the hardships it's delivered to this point, when the Mavs will play only one game in the final five days of the season … and if that single game against Atlanta on the final day of the regular season is stripped of importance, they may be able to essentially make that five days off … and could attack the postseason refreshed, rejuvenated.
Before they closed the season out with a resounding win over the New Orleans Hornets a year ago, Dallas had lost eight of their last 9 matchups with playoff teams … and we know how that ended up working out. That may not breathe any assurances into this season, but it does remind us that hope is not dead. The playoffs are a different entity completely.
The season will begin anew, perhaps with a healthy portion of rest still warm in the Mavs belly … and then anything can happen.
They just have to get there.