Mavs 114, Knicks 111 - All-Access Pass
The Dallas Mavericks created a "big fish'' sandwich in the last two offseasons. The first piece of bread was the fall-of-2011 departure of Tyson Chandler. The second piece of bread was sliced this summer, when Jason Kidd followed TY to the Knicks.
Both transactions are the result of CBA-related decisions. The "big fish'' hasn't yet been caught. There's nothing in the middle of the sandwich yet. And while Mavs fans have almost grown accustomed to TY being gone (I said "almost''), Wednesday marked future Hall-of-Famer Jason Kidd's first post-championship visit to the AAC.
"I know Nash is a great player, but Kidd delivered a championship here,'' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said before the game. "So, for me, he's the greatest PG ever in Mavericks' history."
And how do Mavs fans feel about that?
There was big applause for TY and for Kidd, and therefore a Mavs fans bout with emotional (and class) is averted.
"Dallas has the best fans and this is a great sports town,'' said Kidd, who is trying to lead the Knicks to the lofty heights he experienced in DFW as a 2011 champion. "A warm welcoming is always appreciated. It's always good to come back to Dallas.''
And it's even better to give any visitor a warm welcome followed by a cold kick out the door.
In the end, it was Kidd and Chandler and Melo and company against a smallest of the SmallBall defenses, Dallas trying to protect a one-point edge with 24 seconds left as Dahntay and Collison joined Mayo on the floor, with Marion guarding Melo and Vince Carter, of all people, guarding Tyson Chandler.
Carter didn't let TY roll to the hole. Trix forced Melo into a bad double-pump jumper.
And it was feel-good all around: Respect for the old Mavs. Maybe some respect for the 7-6 new Mavs, too.
OJ THE INITIATOR:
There are times with the Lakers when they bypass the bother of an inferior PG and simply let Kobe initiate the entire offense. There are times when the Heat do the same, with Wade playing PG and putting him in complete control.
The Mavs have worked on doing some of the same with OJ Mayo. The reasons are twofold: One, let's face it: Darren Collison is struggling enough that even DoJo is getting some legit burn at PG. Two, O.J. has always been billed as a 2 with handles and distribution skills ...
So instead of just letting Mayo finish with the ball, why not let him start with it, too?
"Particularly on night when he's really going well, we've got to give him the ball," Carlisle said.
by and large, OJ is always "really going well.'' He entered Wednesday at 21.8 points per game -- numbers that line him up as a fine Robin when Dirk returns in about a month. And he did his thing again, with 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting.
"I thought our defense really triggered our offense,'' said Mayo, who recorded his eighth 20-point effort of the season (two more than he had all last year with Memphis). "When you kind of play with that kind of pace and get stops defensively, it's going to make it a lot easier on the offensive end for us."
FOURTH-QUARTER SOLUTIONS ...
The Knicks came into the game with the best fourth-quarter defense in the NBA -- allowing just 18.7 points on 35.4-percent shooting in their final quarters.
The Mavs went into this final quarter with an 84-80 lead.
Being held to 19 points? Nope. The Mavs allowed 31 in the final quarter but scored 30 themselves, blowing NYK's defensive ranking out of the water.
Here's the video highlights of how it went down:
MVP MELO? ...
Before the game, Rick Carlisle mentioned "Melo'' and "MVP'' in the same sentence. And TY did the same, saying, ""To me, he's the best player in the league right now."
Melo scored 31 when these teams played in NY on Nov. 9 and is the NBA's fourth-leading scorer at 24.2 points per game. He got 23 here, but failed in two clutch situations in the final moments.
"I always like Shawn's odds in those situations where he can play a guy one-on-one,'' Carlisle said. "He's the best we have."
Jae Crowder was a DNP on Monday but was called upon here and responded with some solid defensive work (helping on Melo) and clutch perimeter shooting, too. The rookie scored 12 points and hit 3-of-5 from 3-point range. "That's what drove me to come in and play hard like I always do and try to prove myself again,'' Jae said of the DNP. "Of course, that gave me motivation." ... Mavs owner Mark Cuban says he doesn't "want to talk (Mayo) up too much because I don't want him to opt out next year." That makes it sound like Mayo really could be part of this team's long-term plans as he makes $4 mil this year and has a player option for just over $4 mil next year. ... Kidd is still wearing a headband to cover up the seven stitches he received in a weekend collision with the Pacers' Lance Stephenson. The play occurred when Kidd pulled off his patented jump-into the defender while attempting a three-pointer. ... Dirk Nowitzki plans on playing two more years after his current contract expires following the 2013-14 season. That works for Cuban. "Obviously I'll keep on signing him,'' he said. "I think the limit is 73 years old. I think 74 is just beyond reach.'' .... Frame this: The Mavs earned a 42-37 rebounding advantage.
MURPHY VS. BRAND: ...
Troy Murphy started the game in place of Elton Brand, a seemingly sign of desperation in the sense that there might be no one in the NY starting lineup that either guy can guard.
Murphy did little before exiting at halftime with a respiratory problem. Brand, for most of the game, seemed terribly limited in everything the Mavs are attempting to accomplish on offense. Three times in the final moments of the first half, Collison tried to run a pick-and-roll with Brand, only to discover that Elton wasn't rolling, wasn't popping, wasn't doing much of anything.
Some of this is DC's fault; Collison has a certain "antsy-ness,'' if you will, when it comes to the patience it takes to let the screen-setter get set. As often as not, Collison seems to go too early ... and then Brand, in this case, doesn't go at all.
The Knicks defense anticipated all of this and challenged Brand to create out of the high post, and that isn't his game, either.
Murphy starting and scrapping and doing too little. (Especially so as he checked out at halftime with a respiratory illness.)
Brand not starting and not scrapping and doing too little.
Those were Rick's choices.
"Our starting lineup previously had really struggled, and I think some of it was just the makeup of the parts,'' Carlisle said in explaining his decision to bench Brand. "And part of it was New York's starting lineup is smallish and I didn't like Elton guarding a perimeter guy, so we put Murph in there to space the court and rebound.
Eventually, Brand made some contributions. He totaled just four points but did add eight rebounds.
"Elton gave us a huge lift,'' Rick said. "He was 'the man' out there on the court. I mean, he was getting huge rebounds, he was making physical plays and he had a real presence.''
All of that is a ridiculous stretch. Brand was "the man''? Well, he was one of 10 men.
FISH AND THE MAVS ON TWITTER ...
"Somebody That I Used to Know." - The Gotye song that played on the PA system when Kidd let the Knicks onto the floor.
VINCE IN GO-TO MODE ...
Vince Carter scored 25 points. That's his most in a game since March, 2011. Dallas simply couldn't have won this game without him, right down to his unorthodox involvement in that final defensive alignment.
VC's shot selection is still an issue to me; I think he sees himself differently than I see him, and heck, maybe I'm way off. I will say this: His confidence level has him thinking he's OJ's equal as a scorer ... and for this game, that worked out.
"It's big for us," Carter said of the win. "I think we've been up and down. It was just great to see us gut it out. We knew we had an opportunity the first time and we wanted to come out and compete and give ourselves a chance to win at the end of the game."
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DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD ...
"What does it mean? It means we're making some strides. I don't get too excited about wins and I try not to get too down about losses. I try to see things for how they are and gain whatever perspective that we can. Tonight, this showed toughness and grit and guts, and to get to where we want to get and to stem the tide until Dirk comes back, this is how we've got to play." - Carlisle.