Donuts: Mavs Lose In 3OT, Drop To 7th
DONUT 1: FOREWARD ...
Sometimes, history can be a wicked being, a twisted echo of itself. In 1989 the Dallas Mavericks fell to the Portland Trailblazers in a triple-overtime game. The next night, they would prevail over the Denver Nuggets … in overtime.
Sunday afternoon, Dallas fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in overtime. Monday night, the next day, they fell once more to the desperate Utah Jazz … in triple overtime: 123-121.
While the loss may not end up being as deep a bruise as it currently feels, it does represent a golden opportunity lost, a brilliant Dirk Nowitzki performance wasted and a game that could see its impact bleed further down the schedule.
How unusual was this game? Again, asked and answered immediately on Twitter:
Fast and accurate, baby. That's how we do it!
But the wickedness fades a bit when you hear The UberMan's review.
"It was a fun game to be a part of,'' said Dirk Nowitzki. "Both teams left it all out there and competed at a high level. Big plays and big shots on both ends of the floor. The crowd was into it so you couldn't ask for a better game.''
And listen, that is exactly the right attitude ... if you understand the full Dallas Mavericks ramifications of what is going on here.
Dallas almost has to go 0-4 to truly risk missing the playoffs. So they're fine. Right?
DONUT 2: THE TRIPLE BRUISE ...
Fatigue can come on the back of a short burst of energy, such as a 100-yard sprint. Or, it come in a prolonged test of endurance, such as four overtime periods on top of back-to-back games completed in about a 34-hour period … compounded by the fact that this mini-marathon comes enveloped in another marathon extended over a 66-game schedule that has been near brutal at times.
On the same day the Boston Marathon was run, three Dallas players bear the brunt of the hit more than the rest:
Kidd: 38:40 + 45:20 = 84 minutes
Dirk: 42:53 + 52:57 = 95:50 minutes
Terry: 37:02 + 53:49 = 90:51 minutes
A total of 270:41 spread over just three guys in only two days. This averages out to just over 45 minutes-per-game per player. For anyone, that's a daunting test of endurance sure to leave some residual effects in the immediate future. Consider the fact that this comes near the end of an already constricted schedule that has already reeked some level of havoc on the bodies of two of the three (Jason Kidd and Dirk), that they are 39, 33 and 34 years of age respectively, and that all they have to show for it is a pair of losses; and what was already a bruise becomes something deeper.
Dallas now has one off day before hosting the Houston Rockets Wednesday night in a game that could prove crucial to their playoff hopes, as a Houston win could drop the Mavs into a tie in the loss column with the currently 9th-seeded Rockets with only three games to play (for Dallas) … and Houston only playing one more team after Dallas that currently has a winning percentage over .373, including a pair of matchups with the worst-in-the-West New Orleans Hornets.
That's the bad news.
DONUT 3: WHAT'S THE GOOD NEWS? ...
The possible good news could come from the schedule facing the currently 8th-seeded Phoenix Suns, who Dallas would also find themselves tied in the loss column with should they fall to Houston (depending on the outcome of the Suns' game on the same night). The Suns draw OKC on Wednesday, then the Clippers, Denver, at Utah and close the season against San Antonio (though the Spurs may have nothing to play for in this game); an absolutely brutal closing stretch.
Utah is currently two games back of the Mavs, and has a mixed schedule remaining. They play Portland twice, Orlando and Phoenix.
Dallas plays Houston Wednesday night then Golden State and Chicago back-to-back before four days off, closing the season in Atlanta.
There are three other bits of good news. First, the Mavs hold the tiebreakers with all of these teams, meaning a tie in the standings falls in the Mavs favor. They must finish a game above Dallas to move ahead of them.
For example, if the worst-case scenario occurs and Dallas finishes 0-4, here's what each of these teams would need to close with to surpass them: Phoenix no worse than 3-2, Houston no worse than 3-2, and Utah no worse than 3-1.
Second, with the Suns and Utah facing each other once, one of them is guaranteed to pick up a loss in that game.
And finally, there is the fact that Dallas needs only prevent two of these three teams from passing them in the standings. Given the fact that a single Mavs win causes Utah to have to win out and requires Phoenix to sail through their extremely tough stretch with a 4-1 record … you can't feel too bad about the odds of reaching the postseason … right?
Of course, the bitterness of these "positives" is that they need to be counted at all.
Regardless of any positives or negatives the schedule and/or standings may provide, the very real fear of the severe minutes demanded of Dirk, Kidd and Terry is that the fatigue from these two days is not solely a concern for the Houston game, but the back-to-back following closely behind … or possibly longer.
DONUT 4: WHERE WAS 'TRIX? ...
So where was Shawn Marion?
"Coach's decision," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "Vince was playing well."
Well, yes, he was.
But ... this was a 63-minute game. How is there not time to give Dallas' DPOY candidate (and a darn strong one, if you read our Premium take on the subject) more than 23:51?
Marion played virtually the entire third quarter but that was it. From the FOX Sports Southwest studios, we made a first-OT call to the Mavs bench in Utah to ask if 'Trix was injured. We were told he was not, and Carlisle and Marion both said the same afterwards.
To us, it's really not about Vince. Carlisle punched a useful button there, as Carter received drive-and-kick passes to hit two huge 3-pointers late in regulation. Carter had eight points in the fourth and finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
But Marion wasn't worthy of giving somebody a blow? Or better, of playing situational sub with Vince? Or best of all, of locking down Hayward, who repeatedly drove past Kidd to set up so many easy Utah chances late?
We wondered if maybe Marion got crossways with the coach because of a lack of production (four points and two rebounds). But postgame comments suggest no animosity ... just Coach making a "coach's decision,'' just like the one he made asking Ian Mahinmi to serve as the 36-minute backup center of record, with explosive Brandan Wright getting only six minutes.
We'll hope it's all innocuous. But we'll also insist it's a bit weird. Which fits the night, we suppose.
DONUT 5: DIRK'S SIX-GUNS ...
The last time Dirk Nowitzki saw the Jazz he scored 40 points in only 29 minutes. He required a few more minutes this time around, but once more ended the game with 40 points.
The numbers: 40 points, 13-of-26 field goals, nine rebounds, six assists and three turnovers … in 52:57.
Dirk scored 20 of his 40 points in the first half, in his first 16:39 of playing time, by hitting six of his nine shots, a field-goal percentage of 66.7, and carrying the Mavs offense almost single handedly. With the Mavs down one after two quarters, every Dallas player not named Nowitzki was 7-of-23, a field-goal percentage of 30.4, for 22 points.
While a magnificent bounce-back performance after poor shooting night against the Lakers, it feels like little more than another opportunity lost, a gift left unwrapped.
After that Lakers' game we opined on the possibility of Dirk possibly facing a wealth of mental and physical fatigue, if we weren't right then it's hard to believe this game didn't at least deliver him to that doorstep.
In less than 48 hours (closer to 34), the UberMan was subjected to 95:50 minutes of intensely fought basketball … a mere 10 seconds from the equivalent of two complete games.
And he almost had this damn thing won, too ...
DONUT 6: DEVIN BUST THE PLAYBOOK ...
Prior to this game, Devin Harris had hit three or more 3-pointers only seven times this season, exceeding a total of three only once. He hit three in the first quarter and didn't hit another until the first overtime. Unfortunately he saved one more for the third overtime to help put the Mavs away for good, matching his season high of five.
Our old friend Milkface averaged six points in the first three matchups with Dallas this season. He gave 'em 23 here. The perimeter stuff from him and from DeMarre Carroll (15 points) was not part of anybody's gameplan. Big Al for 28 points and 26 rebounds? Huge but not shocking. Gordon Hayward slicing about for 24? He's a comer. But Utah winning with perimeter shooting?
That's a fluke. We mean, congrats to Devin, but ... that's a fluke.
DONUT 7: CLUTCH, NOT SO MUCH ...
Dallas is making "clutch'' plays right before "clutch time'' ... but is failing to make one more "clutch'' play after that.
That's the only way we can describe what's behind these painfully close losses. We've harped on it repeatedly, but this team continues to struggle to close out close games, as evidenced by that 10-12 record in games decided by five points or fewer. (Compared, again, to last year's 17-11 mark.)
This time, there was the failed outlet by Kidd and the errant pass from Dirk with 1.9 seconds to go in the second overtime ... and the failure to box out ... and the inability of the center to win a jumpball against a guard ... and, given the fact that in a three-OT game there are countless "clutch moments'' ... we could go on all night and morning, as this game seemed to.
DONUT 8: MAVSELLANEOUS ...
Dallas is now 3-24 in games they trail after the third quarter and 10-12 in games decided by five points or less … Why is the outlet pass such a hazardous play in the clutch for this team, especially when the ball is coming from the hands of Dirk Nowitzki or Jason Kidd? ... Al Jefferson matched his career high with 26 rebounds … Dirk got beat up in the first half and shot eight FTs. He got beat up worse in the ensuing FIVE periods but shot just four more FTs all night. ... Thanks to our friends at RED ROCK Bar & Grill ... Mavs games on the 200-inch screen -- biggest TV in Texas! -- and live music, too!
DONUT 9: ARMS SPREAD, EVENTUALLY WINGS FOLLOW:...
Jason Terry began the game by hitting three of his first 13 shot attempts, but closed it by hitting eight of his next 12, including 14 of his 27 points coming after regulation had ended.
With 4:20 left in the first overtime, Terry connected on his fourth 3-pointer of the game and tying him with Chauncey Billups for fourth on the NBA all-time 3-pointers-made list.
After the poor shooting start, Terry once more found a way to bury his struggles from the field this season by closing strong. It may not seem like much of a silver lining at this point. However, should Dallas find their way into the playoffs they will not hold home-court advantage in any series … should Terry have reclaimed his touch on the road, it certainly wouldn't hurt.
By the way, we thought Jet got mauled on a game-tying 3 try at the end of this entire affair, and that he deserved three FTs to tie. But this wasn't the refs' finest hour ... and maybe because it was their latest hour, they had planes to catch.
DONUT 10: THE DEEPEST MAVS COVERAGE ANYWHERE! ...
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DONUT 11: WEST WILLY ...
With 3:40 to play in the second quarter, Delonte West decided to give Gordon Hayward the rarely seen cousin of the "Wet Willie,'' the "Dry Willie,'' or the "West Willy.'' Delonte was later claiming to merely serving a good Samaritan and assisting Hayward with some wayward lint caught in his ear.
"He had some lint in his ear,'' Delonte said later. "I was just trying to get it out for him. I was giving him a wet willy. That's all. We are two warriors. We're out there battling on the battlefield. I forgot the NBA is a gentleman's game so we have to scrap and do it nicely."
Truthfully, it's not quite the heinous crime the Jazz announcers made it out to be. "A cheap shot in the biggest way'' and "the low of lows of sportsmanship''? Nah. In fact, lip-reading Delonte is as offensive as the ear poke-'n'-push.
It's a little disturbing in the sense that Delonte wasn't going tough-guy to stand up for the pushed-around Mavs or anything like that. It was as funny as it was a punk move, a third-grade-bully sort of thing that made you wonder if next, Delonte was going to light a bag of poop on fire and leave it on someone's doorstep.
Weirdest of all: The debate over whether it's a referee reviewable play. We're not sure how we'd know; it's not like Wilt and Russell used to Wet Willy each other ... so there's not really any precendent, you know?
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD ...
Last season at this exact point in the schedule, with four games to play, hope had grown dim. Dallas had just lost four consecutive games. Analysts around the country were jumping to label them as a favorite for a first-round exit, quickly noting that they were 1-8 in their last nine games against playoff-qualifying teams.
Dallas reacted by closing the season with a four-game winning streak ending with an exclamation-point win over the playoff-bound Hornets, where Chris Paul did a lot of talking and the Mavs recaptured a portion of their mojo … though it may have taken Game 4 against Portland to bring it all the way back.
It's not ideal, but it's not over yet either.
The point is, everything can change in an instant. We have no reason to believe this team can be what last year's became … but it's also yet to be proven that they can't.
For all that's gone wrong, this team still has their stated goal in reach. With one game over the final five days of the season, they have a real chance to just get into the postseason and do so as healthy as they've been all year.
And amid all the excellence and all the craziness and all the silliness (topped by Dirk's activity, Marion's inactivity and Dr. Delonte's work as an Ear, Nose and Throat But Mostly Ear specialist) ... Dallas still needs to finish sixth. Or seventh. Or eighth. And in that sense and with that long-stated goal, the pain of this one can fade.