Simply All-Access: Mavs 107, Wiz 101
FOREWARD: For much of the young season, rebounding – with particular focus on the offensive end – has been a significant part of the story for the Dallas Mavericks.
A story? Yeah. A horror story.
Against the only winless team remaining in the NBA (Detroit captured its first win earlier in the night), offensive rebounds would again shove their way into the spotlight. Only, this time, it was the Mavs cleaning up the glass with timely efficiency.
Thanks to six offensive boards in the fourth quarter, including four from Elton Brand, Dallas kept the Wizards winless and held on to a 107-101 victory in a game they once led by as much as 22.
It certainly wasn't pretty … but a Dirk-less win is a Dirk-less win.
No Nowitzki and no Shawn Marion, and a 5-4 record overall is the result, and this Premium tidbit: Marion (knee) wants to return this weekend. And while Dirk is saying publicly that his knee rehab is going a little too slowly for his liking, DB.com was allowed a peek into Thursday's practice. And while The UberMan was not participating in the "practice proper,'' he wasn't just sitting on the bench twiddling his thumbs, either.
Nowitzki is putting in the work, along the side at practice, complete with some movement, and still targeting a just-after-Thanksgiving return.
THE HIGHLIGHTS PACKAGE: If you can tolerate Washington's soccer uniforms, that is:
STARTING LINEUP CHANGE: Chris Kaman let it slip earlier in the day that he would be making the shift into the starting lineup, moving Brandan Wright to the bench (where he would stay the entire night). Joining Kaman as a first-time starter this season was Dahntay Jones, returning Jae Crowder to a reserve role.
Chris Kaman was brought to Dallas to be a starter. With his calf rounding into shape, the time had come for him to take the role envisioned for him when he was signed. For the most part, he showed us why.
Kaman finished with a season-high 23 points on 10-of-12 field goals, tied a season high with eight rebounds, added three assists, one steal and one block in 32 minutes of action.
Considering the fact that Carlisle had seemed reluctant to play Kaman and Brand together thus far, they had shared the court for only 15 minutes coming into Wednesday night's game, it was interesting to see how the pair would work together.
"We didn't get off to a good start but we pulled it together and that group ended up doing OK,'' said coach Rick Carlisle in a rather lukewarm review.
More Rick, with OJ in the locker room:
Indeed, like everything else in this game, at times it may have looked ugly, but their final numbers would seem to indicate this pairing is worth granting further glimpses as the Mavs allowed their fewest points in the paint this season, holding the Wizards to 28, while both Kaman and Brand either set or tied season highs in points and rebounds.
Brand set new season bests with 11 points and 12 rebounds (his first double-double as a Maverick), adding two blocks as well. We mentioned before that Brand had four offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter alone. For the game he totaled eight. To put that in perspective, the Mavs as a team have grabbed eight-or-less offensive rebounds in five games this season.
THE OTHER PART OF THE LINEUP CHANGE: Dahntay Jones started at small forward, filling a role vaguely similar to what DeShawn Stevenson once filled. He aided in setting an early tone at the defensive end, helping to keep the Wizards to a 38.1 field-goal percentage in the first quarter on their way to 19 points (tying a season low for first-quarter scoring by a Dallas opponent).
And, like Stevenson, Jones saw almost all of his 15 minutes (all but 16 second-quarter seconds) come at the beginning of the first and third quarters … doing his best to help set a tone, then handing it on.
"The new lineup brought us some more toughness and from a defensive standpoint it helped us and I thought we got off to a really great start,'' said OJ Mayo. "We had a lot of energy."
This left Jae Crowder to come off the bench, a move that served to re-energize the rookie, who had struggled since stepping into the starting lineup in Marion's place the previous four games.
As an "energy" guy, Crowder had failed to make an impact in the areas you need him to during those four games: rebounding, opponent-frustrating defense, and/or turnovers.
Crowder entered Wednesday's game ranked 12th on the Mavs in Rebounding Rate (a stat that tells you the percentage of available rebounds a player grabs while on the court) at 6.3 percent (according to HoopData), with only a trio of guards rating worse (OJ Mayo at 6.2, Darren Collison at 4.1, and Jared Cunningham at 3.4).
In those four starts he had a total of one steal and never handed out more than a single assist.
He bounced back nicely against the Wizards, though he would struggle at times in the second half, totaling a season high 12 points to go with two rebounds (we'd still like to see a little more here), three assists and two steals in 20:31 of action.
"Crowder stepped up off the bench in a key way tonight,'' said Carlisle.
There's another tale to be told here about Jae The Shooter vs. Jae The Rebounder. DB.com is working on that project with both Crowder and Carlisle. Stay tuned!
ONE MORE SHIFT: Having been replaced in the starting lineup by Kaman, Brandan Wright did not get off the bench against the Wizards as Bernard James stepped into the role of backup center, while Troy Murphy backed up the power forward position.
Murphy had his most productive scoring night of the season with 10 points, adding two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 18:17.
When looking for why Wright slipped completely out of the rotation, at least for one game, we find our eyes settling on what has been the most glaring deficiency for this team thus far: rebounding.
Of the Mavs "bigs," Wright ranked last in Rebounding Rate at 11.7 entering Wednesday night, behind James, Marion, Murphy, Brand, and Kaman. At the other end of the spectrum, James led the team grabbing 18.9 percent of available rebounds when he was on the court, while Murphy ranked third, behind James and Marion (18.2) at 14.9.
Another reason: Wright has shown an outstanding ability to put the ball in the basket near the rim, but cannot match Murphy's ability to stretch the defense … at least in theory, as Murphy is shooting 20 percent behind the arc this season, but is a career 39-percent 3-point shooter.
Is this simply a message to Wright that he needs to show a little more aggression on the glass? An indictment on his inability to space the floor in a manner matching Carlisle's vision for this team's bigs? Or, is it simply Carlisle using one game to feel out his roster … to keep his rotation fluid as he better learns its pieces and their fit together? B-Wright -- an early-to-rise worker -- has worked hard to get bigger and stronger and to even add some "stretch-4'' skills to his game. Is that experiment stalled?
"We will see; it is game-to-game,'' Rick said. "I would love to have a set rotation but with a couple of exceptions there is going to be an unpredictability to it. (James) doesn't look very physical, but he will go after the ball. Those are important things."
MORE MAYO PLEASE: In what is quickly becoming a common sight in Dirk's absence, Mayo led the Mavs in scoring with 25 points, joining Kaman with uber-efficiency by getting those points on 9-of-15 field goals. Mayo has now led the Mavs, or tied for the lead, in scoring in six of the last seven games.
And, in some ways, this may have been his most impressive scoring performance as Washington tried to run him off the 3-point line, forcing him to find his points in other ways.
"I've been pretty hot from three and obviously the defenses are going to make adjustments to run me off the three-point line,'' he said. "So I was trying to get my defender in the air and make some pull up jumpers."
Mayo wouldn't attempt a three until 4:06 remained in the third quarter, but found his points by attacking the interior of the defense or finding teammates for easy baskets, doling out four assists.
QUOTEBOARD: Carlisle on Kaman the hunter and Kaman the character, both a fit for a certain TV show:
"If he does a cameo on 'Homeland,' I guarantee you there's going to be two scenes: There'll be one secluded hunting scene in the woods. There's going to be another interrogation scene where he folds under questioning."
UP AND DOWN: Darren Collison continued what has become an up-and-down stretch for him. At times, he looked great, such as during the Mavs strongest push of the game in the second quarter, when he scored four points to go with four assists in only eight minutes.
At others, particularly a few moments in the fourth quarter, he seemed to stagnate in the halfcourt offense or make mental errors at extremely inopportune times.
We still like what we've seen from Collison, but there's little denying that he is still learning his place within Carlisle's system, his place amongst an entirely new set of teammates (outside of Dahntay Jones).
Collison finished with nine points on 2-of-10 shooting with five assists (none in the fourth quarter), three rebounds and three turnovers.
"Collison had his ups and downs, but he's our guy,'' Rick said. "The things that we struggle with we just have to study and get better."
MAVSELLANEOUS: With seven consecutive games of 18-or-more points, OJ Mayo has the longest such streak of his career … the last Mavs player not named Nowitzki to have seven or more straight games with 18 points was Jason Terry from Jan. 24 thru Feb. 8, 2008 … Kevin Seraphin and Cartier Martin outscored the Mavs 28-to-22 on 12-of-13 field goals in the fourth quarter … How this game almost got away: in the fourth quarter the Wizards hit 73.7 percent of their shots, including 6-of-9 behind the arc, while Dallas shot just 35.3 percent. Dallas also committed six fourth-quarter turnovers, leading directly to 12 Wizards' points … The Mavs didn't make their first 3-pointer of the game until 4:42 remained in the third quarter, having taken and missed only four attempts to that point.
CUBAN'S TAKE: Before the game, Mavs owner Mark Cuban tried to put Dallas' early mediocrity in perspective.
"I was just talking to Dirk and said, 'If someone said 4-4, a couple of disappointing losses without Dirk and Shawn Marion, would you take it?' Yeah, we'd take it. We're not happy about it, but we've got a long ways to go.''
"We'll get better as a team and we'll learn the system better, Dirk and Matrix will get better and we'll get them back and we''ll see what happens.'
THE FINAL WORD: We may seem to have focused on the positives above, but cannot overlook the fact that this was a game the Mavs had put away, leading by 18 in the fourth quarter before allowing Washington to go on a 15-0 run to cut the gap to three.
In other words … well, we'll let Chris Kaman put it in other words.
"Bottom line, we got the win," Kaman said, "but we should have won by 25-30. That's the bottom line."
That is the bottom line.
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