Contemplative Mavs Tuesday Donuts
DONUT 1: "That's how (basketball) go'' ...
This time, the Dallas Mavericks actually needed one fewer bounce.
Dirk Nowitzki stumbled, bobbled but found himself open enough for a 15-foot baseline fadaway on Game 2's final shot Monday in OKC. The shot was long, and the ball bounced off the far-side rim once ... then bounced on the rim again ... and then did so one more time.
And then it didn't go down.
There's irony in that KD's Game 1 winner caromed about in a similar way before dropping for an OKC victory. There's irony, too, in the fact that had The UberMan's shot bounced just twice, Shawn Marion very well might've tipped the ball home for the G2 win.
But this season for the defending champs has been about the Basketball Gods balancing the scales for all the wonderful things that happened to Dallas in its title run a year ago. So the Mavericks lose a second consecutive killer to the Oklahoma City Thunder, registering a 102-99 loss as they to fall behind 2-0 in the best-of-seven first-round series.
You want "contemplative''? You get coach Rick Carlisle.
"As my good friend (Rangers manager) Ron Washington would say, that's how baseball go,'' Carlisle says.
DONUT 2: 'One more bounce' ...
I've written it often this year. Maybe I'm fooling myself, but I've truly believed it: It's not so much that these Mavs are suddenly "not clutch''; it's that seconds after Dallas makes a clutch play, the opponent habitually makes a clutcher play.
It happened again in Game 2. It happened time and time again in the final two minutes when Dallas had a lead (and heck, in the final moments of every quarter, really).
But this loss is about something more than that.
DONUT 3: Trying to be Superman when you needn't be ...
Final minute. Mavs go small, with Dirk at center. Marion is shutting down KD. (Again. And again.) Nowitzki provides help defense on a drive and stops a shot in the paint. Dallas' defense has eaten up OKC's shot clock. There are just two seconds left for the Thunder to inbound the ball, catch it and shoot it ... and surely not make it.
The Mavs truly can permit the catch; there's no reason to risk much else.
OKC runs a screen to get the ball to Durant, who on the switch is chased by Jason Terry. There is no strategic design here; setting this sort of screen is done by rote. And again, on defense, there is nothing fancy to be executed by Dallas, except for one thing:
Do not, under any circumstances, foul.
What did Jet do? In attempting to be Superman, he fouled Kevin Durant.
Jet attempted to intercept the pass, a bit of foolish heroism because it was so unnecessary. At 6-2, he believed he was going to outreach the 6-10 Durant for the reception, be credited with a game-preserving steal and prevent KD from doing ... what?
Jet didn't come at all close to the interception. Instead he collides with Durant, mindlessly sending KD to the line to make the two freebies that give OKC the lead it would not relinquish (not even with Dirk's fateful triple-bounce miss, which I'll get to in a moment.)
Jet's greatest strength is his greatest weakness. His belief that he's able to leap tall buildings in a single bound is among the reasons Dallas has a title and among the reasons his jersey will someday hang in the AAC rafters. But that same arrogance-to-the-point-of-ignorance is also part of the equation.
Jason Terry CAN'T leap tall buildings in a single bound. And in this example, damaged his team by even trying.
DONUT 4: Failing to be Superman when you must be ...
And then there is Dirk, brilliant again in so many ways, and here, needing to not be brilliant but rather to just be ... Dirk.
I feel like I've attended thousands of Dirk practices and games and therefore seen him effortlessly stroke home thousands of 3's ... and in practice, the open unguarded ones? Well, they are automatic.
Game 2, with 1:15 to play and the Mavericks leading 97-96, was time for automatic.
Jet and Dirk did the two-man thing. Terry rolled away and two defenders errantly rolled with him. So there stood Nowitzki, receiving the kick-out pass and positioned all by his lonesome at the left arc.
Perkins was 10 feet away. Westbrook was 10 feet away. This is a practice shot. This is automatic. This is going to give Dallas a four-point lead with a minute to play.
"That 3-ball I had in the corner,'' Dirk says, "that's game time if we go up four. The game's over.''
DONUT 5: The barroom brawl that let's you talk about it ...
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DONUT 6: And speaking of "brawling'' ...
"He tried to bully me,'' Dirk Nowitzki said of his wrasslin' with Kendrick Perkins. "And I bullied back. We talked about some stuff and moved on."
Carlisle, however, is not quite ready to move on.
"It's playoff basketball. It's physical," Carlisle says. "I mean, we don't like the cheap shots when they give them, and they don't like them if we give them. That's the nature of competition.
"Hey, I love hard play, clean, competitive playoff series. You throw the ball up and may the best team win, but the dirty bulls--- has got to stop. We don't want anybody getting hurt out there either way."
Somewhere in that video, depending on where you are sitting (and maybe what team you are rooting for), you see Perkins throw a wild punch into the air. Is there a suspension looming? Should there be? I bet the Mavs believe so. I bet the Thunder think Dirk is the dirty player in this sequence.
DONUT 7: Blaming Cuban ...
Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 points on 10-of-19 shooting, including a perfect 11-of-11 from the line, and certainly believes he should've scored one more basket.
The performance (again!) is enough to cause Mavs fans to gripe that maybe the Dirk Window should've been totally exploited, that maybe Tyson Chandler should've been retained at any cost (even at a cost that would've made him this team's No. 2 and then No. 1 star for the next five years).
Does TY make a play in each of these two games that Ian or Big Wood or BWright failed to make? When I phrase the question that way, it sure oversimplifies the issue, doesn't it?
But you are 0-2 and a title defense seems a ridiculous longshot and you are pissed and hey, you've earned the right to a moment of oversimplification.
DONUT 8: Stopping PGs...
Oklahoma City was led by Russell Westbrook's 29 points, so many of them coming via his much-improved mid-range game. OKC also nursed from Derek Fisher a 5-of-6 shooting night for 11 surprising points.
The Mavs little guys aren't stopping anybody. Aren't containing anybody on the perimeter. Aren't dealing very well with the non-complexities of the pick-and-roll. Jet didn't survive Fisher. Delonte didn't survive Westy. Mavs film review will tell them, I believe, that Roddy B's brief stint (during which Dallas made its comeback, though with no statistical contributions from him) was successful in that at least his motor was running high.
DONUT 9: How close? ...
How close? The Mavs' four games in OKC this year were decided by two and four points in the regular season and now one and three points in these playoffs. Four games, 10 total points.
Ah, but you know the playoff drill: You can play four or five games, all of them close. ... but lose the four. And history remembers that you got swept 4-0 or ousted 4-1 and cares not about the littler picture of each 48 minutes.
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DONUT 11: How Close, Revisted ...
In the final two minutes of quarters, not that close at all.
In the last two minutes of the series' eight periods, Dallas has been outscored by OKC by a combined score of 55-29.
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
"They held serve and we got to go home and hold serve,'' Carlisle says. "It's two games. They did what they were supposed to do. Now we got to do what we're supposed to do. We need a loud building. ... and we need to play our best basketball.''
It's a terribly optimistic viewpoint. But once you've contemplated all this, "optimism'' is among the few options left.