Rockets 100, Mavs 95: Ejection & Evaluation

For the first time this preseason, we got a look at the complete starting five on the court together for the Mavericks. Calderon, Monta, Marion, Dirk and Dalembert fanned out at midcourt as the tip went up. We take you inside an eventful 100-95 loss in Houston featuring a Dirk ejection, a Dwight evaluation and Tuesday Mavs Donuts!

DONUT 1: Rockets 100, Mavs 95 ...

For the first time this season, we got a look at the complete starting five on the court together for the Dallas Mavericks. Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Samuel Dalembert fanned out at midcourt as the tip went up.

Dirk would get ejected in the third quarter, probably about 24.5 seconds before he would have been pulled anyway, and the Dallas Mavericks fell to the Rockets 100-95 and are now 3-3 in the preseason.

Some raw highlights:

"We did some good things," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We've got to get better in some areas. We've got to get better with taking care of the ball, particularly in critical possessions. We looked tired tonight to me. We looked like our energy wasn't where it needed to be."

DONUT 2: Dirk the Enforcer ...

When Omri Casspi drove to the rim, you could hear the snarl snake through the cheers, a harsh fear-inducing panting, a tensing foot crumbling the hardwood like so many dried twigs … a seething bull daring any to challenge his rage. There was a roar, and the crowd, sensing the danger, the imminent tangle of pain and destruction, drew in a mass gasp in unison, sucking the wind from the court and creating a momentary vacuum, a pristine stage for the wrath of Dirk to be unleashed.

OK, maybe we're overselling that a bit … or a lot.

With 24.5 seconds left in the third quarter, Nowitzki rose in chase of his fifth block of the night (you read that correctly), only Casspi's head got in the way.

There was nothing intentional here. No malice intended. But, Dirk's arm caught Casspi solidly in the head, sending Casspi hard to the floor. A flagrant-one foul was initially called, then upgraded to a flagrant-two after further review, immediately ejecting Dirk from the game.

As you may expect from Dirk, he was there to help Casspi up, and Casspi was willing to take his hand and the apology it implied … a rarity, from either side, after a flagrant-two is called … and then Dirk jogged from the court without argument.

Nowitzki finished with 11 points, four rebounds, 5-of-9 field goals, two steals, two turnovers and four blocks in 25 minutes.
DONUT 3: Simplicity ...

It's something so basic. So in line with commonsense. So logical that its absence last season was equally mystifying and frustrating. It can be a facet of the two-man-game, but doesn't necessarily have to be. As much as anything, it's an afterthought of sound basketball.

It can be as simple as correctly using a screen by a sharp-shooting seven-footer, then navigating that space to the shore of an open shot attempt, even if that shot comes as simply as finding the passing avenue back to the screen setter … something Calderon did repeatedly.

It can be what's not done. Not pressing the accelerator to the floor regardless of the road ahead, not forcing the issue devoid of contextual awareness. Not moving in a direction that narrows your passing lane, or discards the effort a teammate has spent sealing a defender.

It can present itself in so many ways.

It's not the complete absence of turnovers, though it should provide for less of them.

Maybe you call it, as we do around here, "BBIQ.'' Maybe you don't assign it any special moniker, you just see a point guard who seems to understand the greater construct of his position within the structure of this offense with these pieces.

Maybe it's nothing more than fit … pressing five fingers rather than six into a five-fingered glove.

This isn't to say there won't be instances of chaos, that there won't be times when things don't work out as desired, that incorrect decisions or instincts won't be acted upon. All we've seen is a handful of preseason games, only two with Calderon on the court.

Yet, it's hard to deny the difference in feel between this group and that of a year ago. Without bringing a single statistic to the table, without the need to view anything beyond the simple movement on the court, the difference between watching Calderon and Darren Collison is so blatant that little more than a glimpse begs you to notice the change.

In no way does this guarantee anything, even a greater level of success. But it "feels" so much better. Soon enough we'll discover what this "feel" converts to in the form of wins and losses.

DONUT 4: The Mavs Twitterverse ...

Follow the Mavs on Twitter: Mike Fisher, Chuck Perry , David Lord and Michael Dugat keep you up-to-the-minute informed on all things Mavs!

DONUT 5: Welcome, Social Club! ...

We welcome to the family Oak Cliff Social Club, voted Dallas' best "dive bar'' and located in the heart of the Bishop Arts District.

This "place for local people to come without paying tourist prices" is anchored by a 40-foot, oak-backed, Brazilian black granite bar, and a "garage" area featuring couches, TVs, and twin pool tables. Local beers and home-style pizza will do the trick before or after the Mavs game.

Thanks to Oak Cliff Social Club for supporting the Mavs, and so many positives things happening in the Bishop Arts District!

DONUT 6: The Point Guard is here ...

Jose Calderon played his second game as a Maverick. He started hot, scoring nine of the Mavs first 13 points, and 11 of the first 19, showing us the offensive gifts he holds, as well as the defensive limitations.

"We had some good stuff, and some bad stuff,'' Calderon said. "I think for the first time (together as a starting five) we've got to be positive ... We were moving the ball. We were finding the open guy."

As mentioned above, there is a hard-to-miss difference in feel with Calderon at the point, either in comparison to Collison or Gal Mekel (who had started each of the first four preseason games for Dallas). In only his second game with his new teammates, Calderon instantly seemed to cut down on the wasted or ineffective movement we saw far too much of a season ago.

On offense, the starting five as a whole has a nice "feel" to it, something evident in the fluidity of the ball movement at times, with five willing passers and five players capable of scoring.

Calderon finished with 14 points, three assists, two rebounds, one steal, one block in 26 minutes … don't be disappointed by "only" three assists here, as that number could have easily been double if a few more open looks at he end of nice passes had fallen.
DONUT 7: The Counterpoint ...

With Monta Ellis's gambling nature and Calderon's less-than-blazing foot speed complimented by average-at-best strength, the duo will cause "help defense" to be a priority for this team's ultimate success.

Monday night, Dirk contributed four blocks. Dalembert added three of his own and the Mavs often displayed sound rotations and help -- though Dwight Howard was able to be Dwight Howard, finishing with 15 points and 17 rebounds – as Dallas held the Rockets to a field-goal percentage of 39.7 through three quarters. (And yes, you are forgiven if you saw Dwight in a Texas home uniform and wondered for just a second what might have been ...).

It wasn't perfect, and the Mavs still found themselves down five, based primarily on elite 3-point shooting from the Rockets (12-of-21, 57.1 percent), but was a hint of what this team will need plenty of to keep teams from abusing the Mavs guards at the defensive end of the court.

Monta Ellis has gone out of his way to show his play-making prowess this preseason. Through six games he is averaging 6.3 assists, including seven against the Rockets, against 9.7 field-goal attempts and 11 points per.

While this may be an unforeseen development, it's unlikely to last, and is at least in part due to the four-game absence of Calderon … when Ellis was asked to act as more of an orchestrator than his normal role may.

In the four games Calderon missed, Ellis averaged 8.75 shot attempts, never attempting more than 11. In the two games with Calderon, he's averaged 11.5 … and, oddly, has seen his field-goal percentage plummet from 54.3 percent without Calderon to 21.7 with (we know, very small sample sizes … too small to draw conclusions).

While we wouldn't put too much into the fallen conversion rates (yet), the rising rate of attempts is likely to be sustained … and, frankly, if we're all expecting Ellis to be the second leading scoring on this roster, which we are, that isn't a problem.

DONUT 8: You take the good, you take the bad, and there you have ...

Looking only at the Houston game, Mavs fans got their first glimpse of the frustration that can come with watching a player with Monta's particular skills, his elite ability to attack the rim, struggle with perimeter shots. He finished the game 3-of-13, including 0-of-6 behind the arc, on his way to eight points, seven assists and three turnovers.

If you want a fear that's far too premature to embrace, here's one you could take from the above: does Monta need to have the offense go through him to be at his all-around best? Does the presence of a gifted orchestrator in the offense, and a player (Calderon) who will undoubtedly have possessions filtered through him, hurt Ellis?

Or, is this just the norm, being only the second game these two have played together, and the first while sharing the court with Dirk?
Ellis said Dallas "got out of whack'' for a bit but eventually, "We got it together and made plays. So I've just got to go back and get better.''
DONUT 9: Thanks, Red Rock! ...

Our neighborhood hangout to watch the Mavs and the Cowboys - and to listen to live musis? It's REDROCK, home of the largest projection screen in North Dallas, That 16x9 projection screen (that's 20,736 inches of viewable space!) makes REDROCK the best place to watch a sporting event. Swing in and check 'em out ... for live music, the occasional pro jock playing pool, the famous wings, juicy half-pound burgers and damn-good Karaoke, let's meet up at REDROCK.

REDROCK is located on the corner of Frankford & Midway just off the tollway in Dallas. See you there!

DONUT 10: Who knew? ...

There were a couple of times we were caught off guard in this game, a couple of perfectly aimed bounce passes through traffic to cutters at the rim from … Samuel Dalembert.

Who knew?

Dalembert finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, two steals and three blocks in 25:16 of action.

He proved generally incapable of slowing down Dwight on the glass. But Sam showed occasional flashes of brilliant rim protection and solid activity on the boards, as you see in this defensive sequence here:

DONUT 11: Better Suited ...

With Calderon starting, Gal Mekel acted as the backup point guard.

Pulled from the deep end of the ocean against the Rockets, Mekel looked much more comfortable in this role than he had as a starter. He would finish with nine points and six assists … and only one turnover, the first time he's had fewer than three in a game, and his fourth consecutive game with exactly six assists.

DONUT 12: The Final Word ...

For the first time this preseason, the Mavs did not lead after three quarters when the starters were pulled. Monta Ellis is enduring a mini-slump, hitting 5-of-23 field goals over the last two games and Dirk was ejected after trying to behead a competitor.
Oh, and rebounding was an issue again. Carlisle made a point of noting it.

"I'm not using being tired as an excuse,'' Carlisle said. "What I thought is our energy wasn't as good as it has been in the other games. I'm sure that led to some of our rebounding problems. But I think Howard and Asik led to some of them as well, because that's what you're up against with this team.''

Excuses? Reasons for fear? Or standard preseason stumbling blocks?

"We've got to take the positives and build on them,'' Rick said, "and take the negatives and squash 'em."

In the end, the building and the squashing are just steps towards whatever this team will become. Depending on how you approach it, inside the ejection and the evaluation, there are a wealth of positives and negatives to be found. Time will tell what any of it truly means, what is white noise or what is genuine foreshadowing.

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