Mavs 107, Sixers 100 As Kaman Is A Closer

Including Saturday's contest against Minnesota, Chris Kaman had failed to register a single fourth-quarter minute in five straight games. And then came Tuesday, and a 107-100 victory over the visiting Sixers in which coach Rick Carlisle cites Kaman right alongside OJ as the keys. What gives? A Premium exploration:

In Saturday's OT loss at Minnesota, Chris Kaman played almost 26 minutes, totaling 11 points on 5-of-12 field-goal attempts, six rebounds, two blocks, two steals and two turnovers.

That's a pretty impactful night, especially as it came against a Wolves team that features the massive Nikola Pekovic, who at 6-11 and 290 pounds might be somewhat susceptible defensively if drawn away from the basket.

That concept worked well enough for Dallas to jump to an early 13-point lead with Kaman starting the game at center.

Why wouldn't the concept have worked in the fourth, too?

Though he would get some minutes in overtime against the Wolves, it's hard not to notice that Rick Carlisle has seemed hesitant to turn to Kaman late in games. Including Saturday's contest against Minnesota, Kaman had failed to register a single fourth-quarter minute in five straight games.

Kaman vs. Pek? Is that not a battle that Dallas can win? Or at least make competitive down the stretch?

The last time Chris did play in a Mavs fourth period? December 6 versus the Suns, where he played 3:42 and had one point and zero rebounds.

That also happens to be the game that Kaman sprained his ankle, an injury he has been playing through since with the help of an ice-water-movement device he wears on his foot when away from the court.

Leading to the question, is Kaman's absence in the fourth quarter merely a product of not wanting to put him back on the floor after his ankle has been allowed to grow cold while sitting on the bench after coming out in the third quarter?

Or, given the fact that Kaman has played in the second quarter of each of these games after resting to end the first and open the second periods, as well as the fact that he did return in overtime against the Wolves, is it a sign of something else?

Fast-forward to Tuesday. The Sixers in town. ... and then, to close the calendar, six coming opponents with records that insist they are even better than the Sixers.

"Must-win''? Nah, nothing like that.

"Must-play-Kaman''? Yeah, something like that.

"We try to involve those guys (Mayo and Kaman) in a lot of things because they're both playing well,'' Rick said after the win in which Kaman scored 20 points -- eight of them coming in the final 5:26 of the game. "Some of the things that were happening were probably a little more random than they looked, but we've got to be in a play-making mode all of the time. We don't want to slow it down and call plays. O.J.'s aggression - especially after they cut it to six with about two-and-a-half minutes to go - was really key."

Yes, the Mayo portion of this equation is easy. The numbers are actually pretty magical: Mayo finished with 26 points on an economical 8-of-12 shooting. In doing so he lead the team in scoring for the 17th time in 25 games. He scored nine points in the final quarter (as part of that "vaunted'' Mayo/Kaman tandem) and has exploded so from where he once was that the ex-Grizz has for the first time in his career had 26-plus points and eight-plus assists in the same game.

But why are we mentioning Kaman in the same breath when Kaman so rarely even gets to play in the final quarter?

Carlisle attempted to explain some of that before the game. He said something about it being a "coach's decision," which sounded harsher than he meant it, so he continued. Rick seemed to suggest that once he sits Kaman, who has been hampered by injuries to his back and ankle this year, that maybe he stiffens up. The coach cited "SmallBall'' as an issue, too, saying that Dallas has been "married" to that gimmick at times and that Chris has done nothing wrong to lead to that.
But there is one thing.

Kaman came into the week averaging 14 points per game. At 6.5 rebounds, the Mavs could use some more production there. And defensively? Well, it's instructive that whenever Carlisle is quizzed about Chris, the coach always says something positive about Kaman's offense -- and the omission of anything else speaks volumes.

Still, not playing in any of the fourth quarters in five straight games leading up to Wednesday? And then going off for 20 when he finally gets to? That speaks volumes, too -- we just don't agree with what it seems to say.

"He can shoot that thing,'' said O.J. of Kaman while envisioning Dirk's return. "When Dirty gets back it'll be the same way, a lot of space for us to attack & make the simple play."

We assume he means more than just the first three quarters of games.

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