All-Access: Bulls 93, Mavs 83 & Ramping Up

Do the Mavs have another 'Mr. Fourth Quarter'? ... Will Roddy B require the 'Old Yeller' treatment? ... Can there be meaning in a 'meaningless' game and ramp-up progress in an 93-83 Saturday loss at Chicago? ... Oh, and did you hear what Kidd said about wanting to 'retire as a Maverick' and about serving as Deron's backup? It's your All-Access Pass!

FOREWARD: The first quarter was brutally ugly, as the Dallas Mavericks managed to score only eight points (their lowest in any quarter this season and a franchise low for the first period), and we had what felt like a game worth little more than the health of the roster coming out of it, little more than a "practice" against a live opponent. In the second quarter, when Roddy Beaubois, who had struggled immensely to that point, dislocated the ring finger on his left hand, it felt like the inevitable loss would not even deliver that.

However, with little to play for against the team with the best record in the NBA, the Mavs did not hang their heads, did not subserviently fold, and did not simply go through the motions while kneeling to any "certainty" that a loss was to come. Instead, they fought back and made a game of it despite the fact that Jason Kidd and Jason Terry were not available (Kidd in a suave suit for a scheduled rest, and Jason Terry in uniform, but also being held out for rest).

With three minutes to play in the third quarter, Delonte West drilled a jumper and Dallas had erased a 15-point deficit to take hold of their first lead of the night: 56-55. Chicago would respond with an 11-0 run to close the period, and still Dallas did not yield. Not until Luol Deng scored five straight points with two minutes to play was the outcome sealed, Dallas falling by a final of 93-83.

YES, THE MIND WANDERS: Wanders over to ESPN, where they visited with the slick-suited J-Kidd:

"Retire as a Maverick'' but only after serving as Deron Williams' backup? That'll work. Now back to the game.

RODDY SHOWS SOME TOUGHNESS: Some may have questioned the physical display from Roddy Beaubois on the court after his left ring finger caught in the waistband of a driving Ronnie Brewer, becoming grotesquely dislocated.

To that point, Roddy was 1-of-6 for two points with a pair of turnovers and appeared almost completely disconnected from the game unraveling around him.

Before the Mavs final home game Friday night, Rick Carlisle had expressed a strong interest in how Roddy would perform against the Bulls, against playoff level competition; when asked what he, Carlisle, needed to see from Roddy to cement a place in the playoff rotation. When Beaubois left the court with a dislocated finger, the writing was on the wall … and his perpetual spot on the playoff bench, not on the court, was all but finalized.

"He was screaming so much, I thought we were gonna have to put him down!'' joked Dirk Nowitzki.

Yet, Roddy was not out long, checking back into the game with 3:19 to go in the same quarter … meaning he missed a total of 4:12 of game time to get his ring finger popped back into place and taped to his middle digit. From that point on, he performed much better than he began.
After the injury, Roddy scored 14 points, hit six of his nine shots and did not have another turnover. He scored 10 of his 16 in the fourth quarter of a still-contested game and totaled six rebounds, five assists and a steal for the night.

It may not be enough to change Carlisle's playoff rotational construct, but it did show us something … something many wouldn't have expected. There was toughness and gradually a willingness to attack after the injury (requiring some level of adversity climbed), and at least a taste of success against a high quality opponent.

Perhaps it's not huge, perhaps it is, but it is something.

ANOTHER MR. FOURTH QUARTER: A day after scoring 13 points in the final period against the Warriors, Vince Carter rose beside Roddy to contribute nine fourth-quarter points against the Bulls, hitting four of his five shot attempts … erasing the memory of his 0-of-6 on field-goal attempts through the first three quarters.

With the playoffs a mere game away, Carter has found a new level of aggression. Four games ago, he had taken more than five free throws once all season, when he took nine in a win against Oklahoma City on Jan. 2nd. In these last four, he's taken six, six, eight and seven. No longer is he settling quietly into the Peja Stojakovic role on this offense, steadfastly bound to the perimeter … he's forcing the issue with the defense, overcoming any shooting-percentage woes by his aggression.

Over the last four games, Carter's averages: 18.8 points, 41.5 field-goal percentage, 31.6 3-point percentage, 6.8 free-throw attempts, 92.6 free-throw percentage, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1 steal.

The field-goal percentages may not excite, but anytime you can take an average of 13.3 shots and convert it into 18.8 points … there's little room for complaint.

We still contend that Shawn Marion must have a role in how Dallas closes games, but there's nothing but positivity to take from what we've seen from Carter over the past four games.

PLAYOFF ATMOSPHERE?: It's hard to say a game that featured the Mavs resting two of their best players had more than a hint of a playoff atmosphere, especially when the outcome was essentially meaningless for Dallas. Sure, the final seeding (sixth or seventh) is still in the air, and Dallas technically slipped to seventh with the loss (one up on Denver in both the loss and win columns, leaving the Nuggets percentage points ahead); but Chicago is a team that requires opponents to embrace playoff-basketball or settle for a sound beating.
For an example of the physical nature of this game you need look no further than a play with 5:24 remaining in the third period, when Dirk Nowitzki and Richard Hamilton bumped chests. The brief altercation resolved itself in a made-technical free throw by Dirk after Hamilton took a hard swipe at the back of The UberMan's head as the two tangled for post-position … a double-foul was called and Hamilton was assessed the tech.

Dirk didn't back down as he forced his way into position and didn't hesitate to get in Hamilton's face after the cheap shot. Perhaps it was a little dirty on Hamilton's part, a little unnecessary … but it was an example of playoff intensity and the physicality with which Chicago plays.

Nowitzki finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, but was not asked to contribute much in the fourth period, where he attempted only one shot.

Shorthanded, Dallas stepped up to that atmosphere and has nothing to hang their heads about after this loss. If anything, they may gain a bit of confidence by holding their own without two of their best players in a game that mattered to the team with the best record in the NBA.
MAVSELLANEOUS: Chicago leads the league in rebounding differential, grabbing an average of 6.4 more boards than their opponent. In an area Dallas has struggled, the Mavs kept the final margin close (46-43). The Bulls routinely kill their opponent on the offensive glass, averaging 14.1 offensive-boards per game. Dallas held them to four through the first three quarters, but allowed four more in the fourth alone, combine that with some timely 3-pointers from Chicago and you have the key contributor to the loss … Dominique Jones saw his first significant action since he played 26 minutes against Golden State March 10th (a game he started with both Jason Kidd and Delonte West sitting). He gave 25 solid minutes, scoring 8 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block and 2 turnovers … Kelenna Azubuike played four minutes, missing the only shot he took, an semi-open mid-range shot from the baseline … Brandan Wright played 16:47 with 6 points and 7 rebounds.

THE FINAL WORD: While we focused on the positives above, and there are a few to take from this game, don't misinterpret this as obliviousness for the result. Chicago did enough to win the game. Dallas did not. Obviously, in any game the desired result is a victory. That didn't happen here.

However, taken in context, this was a solid showing for Dallas in a situation that didn't necessarily demand that they give one. Jason Kidd and Jason Terry watched from the bench, abiding to a priority or rest over result, and the early play indicated a team more than willing to conceded to that goal … a goal of rest and health.

But look for yourself. Even in the briefest of highlight packages, we think we see the ramping-up in there somewhere.

A loss is a loss, but forgive us if we see enough positives in the manner the game unfolded to somewhat bury the result. The win would have been preferred, but absorbed in its entirety, this isn't a loss that should cause Dallas fans, or the team, too much heartbreak. Rather, it's another in a string of signals that this team is readying itself for the playoffs.

The ultimate outcome is not guaranteed, nor should overt optimism be a truly justified stance, but you'd rather see signs of momentum being constructed a piece at a time than not … right?

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