All-Access Pass: Nuggets Shake Mavs
Monday night, the Dallas Mavericks came into the back end of a home-and-home with the Nuggets after a closely-fought, perhaps even understandable, loss (on the second night of a back-to-back in Denver), wanting to get off to a better start in the hopes of avoiding the constant uphill battle fought Saturday night.
Quickly jumping out to a 12-4 lead, it felt like the Mavs had accomplished that goal … then the rest of the first quarter happened. Denver outscored Dallas 28-15 the rest of the period, and the fight uphill began again.
After climbing one step further up the record books in the second quarter, Dirk Nowitzki drained a jumper for the first points of the third to pull the Mavs within three. Less than five minutes later, they were down 15. Dallas would try to claw back into the game, but put themselves in a position where a fourth-quarter hot streak from Nate Robinson could seal the game, and so it was that the Mavs suffered their first home loss of the season, 110-96.
"This is a coaching loss,'' Rick Carlisle said. "I didn't have these guys ready to play. It's clear. I'll take the blame for this.''
Dallas falls to 9-6 overall, and 7-1 at home.
We'll start with the great …
Dirk Nowitzki is a living legend, and when legends walk the rarified air only they call home, their feet are bound to make an impact. At this point, it seems like almost every time Dirk throws up a shot he's making another step up the mountains of NBA immortality.
With 3:03 to play in the second quarter, Dirk hit the first of a set of free throws for his 10th point in the game … and moved one point beyond Kevin Garnett for sole possession of the 14th spot on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
Next up, Alex English.
With 18, Dirk now has 25,361 points for his career and sits nine ahead of Garnett's 25,352.
Garnett was off Monday, but will play Tuesday for the Brooklyn Nets, making it conceivable that Dirk will have to pass him more than once, though with Garnett averaging only 6.5 points per game, Dirk, with good health, should pull away fairly quickly and further close the gap on English with Garnett in his rearview.
If Dirk averages 20 points he'll move past English in 13 games … seems giants move so far with every step.
Here's Dirk in the postgame locker room:
Dirk's deal ...
By the way, while it was big news in LA on Monday that Kobe Bryant signed an extension worth $48.5 mil, it's non-news in its relation to Dirk's deal being up this summer.
A similar extension "was never a discussion," Dirk said, because he and Cuban have long played to let him enter free agency this summer and then sign a deal only after knowing how much room might be eaten up by new signees.
The short version of this story: Dirk isn't Kobe, if you get our drift.
The longer explanation from The Uberman:
"I don't really want to look forward too much," Nowitzki said. "I'm not going to extend obviously. I'm going to play the season out and we can talk about it this summer. I want to have a good season, an injury free season and then Holger (Geschwindner) is going to take his leather coat and go in the bunker suite and we'll go from there."
In Cuban's "bunker suite'' inside the AAC, they will then discuss just how much of a "hometown discount'' the franchise will need from Dirk, who makes $22.7 million this season. Dirk is already well aware of some of the cap ramifications of Dallas' situation.
"My contract is coming off, Trix is coming off, Vince," Nowitzki said. "Obviously, there's a lot of money under the cap and we can make this team better."
The rest of us can take swipes at Kobe and LA's seemingly dwindling cap room. Not Dirk.
"I want to go back to the playoffs with this team and we have a real shot at it," he said. "That's really what I'm focusing on. I'm not really worried about any extensions. Obviously, it's good for Kobe. That's a lot of money for a guy that's 36 years old. But if one guy has earned it, it's Kobe."
Three and the rest …
Going into halftime Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon had combined to shoot 13-of-17 (76.5 percent) for 36 points.
The rest of the Mavs: 6-of-18 (33.3 percent) for 15 points.
With only three players converting efficiently on offense Dallas was in the precarious position of standing on the precipice of things going wrong quickly if any of those three went cold.
Unfortunately, that's what happened to open the third quarter.
After Dirk hit his first attempt of the period, he and Monta would miss their next seven shots combined as the deficit went from three to 13.
Primarily due to Shawn Marion's work on the offensive glass (three offensive boards), with help from DeJuan Blair, Vince Carter and Dirk (all of who added at least one offensive rebound in the third) the Mavs managed to survive a quarter that saw Denver outshoot them 70.6 to 39.3 percent … losing the quarter by "only" three.
Vince Carter's Video Visit:
Sometimes you forget, sometimes you can't …
With the 9-4 start (prior to consecutive losses to the Nuggets) it was easy to look beyond the fact that Dallas was missing two key members of the bench in Devin Harris and Brandan Wright.
Behind the play of Blair and company, the bench has held its own for the majority of the season. Prior to Monday night, the Mavs bench had outscored the opponent's bench by an average of 31.9 to 30.7.
After Monday night's bench walloping, 41-to-21, that has flipped.
Against a Nuggets squad that rotates through 11 players, with bench contributors like Nate Robinson, Darrell Arthur and Andre Miller the Mavs bench was stressed. A strong showing from Vince Carter on Saturday helped even the matchup.
With DeJuan Blair starting Monday night (after Samuel Dalembert overslept, didn't make shootaround on time and was benched by Rick Carlisle in response), the bench leaned even more heavily on Carter … and he could not come through again, hitting 3-of-13 shots for eight points.
Nate Robinson outscored the entire Mavs bench 15-13 in the second half.
Dallas is asking a lot of Carter, perhaps unfairly so, forcing a good role player to act more as a star, and having now converted under 40 percent of his shots eight times (and exactly 40 percent two others) in only 14 games (remember, he was suspended for one), he's not coming through consistently enough.
Blair has given the Mavs all they could have hoped for and others have stepped up at times, but let's not overlook the fact that two significant players are missing.
The sooner Harris and Wright get healthy, the better.
More on the need for a better alarm clock …
When Blair was announced as the starting center Monday night, most assumed Dalembert's bruised ribs were the reason. After the game, Rick Carlisle announced that the move was actually a disciplinary action after Dalembert overslept and failed to make shootaround on time.
Dalembert sounded contrite enough after the game, but was unable to convert that guilt into a raised level of impact on the floor. That's not to say he didn't have a couple of stretches where his defensive presence made an impact, but the activity was sporadic.
"I'm very disappointed in myself,'' said the veteran center. "I don't have an excuse. It shouldn't happen. I'm still trying to get over it. I'm very upset. ... I deserve the (benching) the coach and the organization made for me. I'm 100 percent behind him. I apologize to my teammates."
Let's hope that this wasn't the first sign of worse things to come, only a singular gaffe that quickly slips by. At this point, there's no reason to assume anything more.
However, in a moment like this, it's hard not to be reminded of the reputation that has followed Dalembert in other stops of his career as a player unable to sustain effort and focus for extended stretches. An athletic true-center with talent on his fifth team in five years can cause alarm bells to sound …
What did our season-starting Self-Scouting Report say about him? What did we say while Dallas was courting him?
"Low energy.'' "Motor doesn't always run on high.'' "Laid-back approach.''
But, for now, we'll grant the benefit of the doubt and hope the only alarm that requires addressing is the one beside Dalembert's bed.
Battle of the rookies …
Shane Larkin once more was the first backup to Jose Calderon to see the court. A pair of bad passes and a little wildness later he was pulled for Gal Mekel.
Mekel made his case for further playing time with a fair effort in his limited time, totaling five points, one assist, one rebound and one turnover in 9:32 of action … with the assist being a pretty alley-oop to Dalembert.
Larkin would not play in the second half, as Carlisle again turned to Mekel.
Matrix Musings ...
Today, we'll focus Mavsellaneous on the Mavs defense … mostly.
*Dallas allowed Denver to hit 54.7 of their field-goal attempts. Counting the league's games through Sunday, as well as the Mavs Monday loss, teams are 2-21 when allowing their opponent to hit at least 54 percent of their shots.
The Mavs are 1-3 in such games.
So, we guess the good news is that the Mavs account for 50% of the wins on this list … though it's probably not a good thing that they solely make up 17.4 percent of the list in its entirety.
No other team appears more than twice … the Mavs double that.
Though to be fair, the rest of the league is only being counted through Sunday and the Mavs (and Denver) are also having Monday counted, so …
OK, that doesn't really make us feel too much better.
*Through Sunday, teams were 1-58 when allowing their opponent to having a shooting percentage at least 8 percentage points better than their own. For example, the Mavs hit 46.3 percent from the floor Monday, compared to 54.7 for Denver … meaning, the Nuggets shot 8.4 percentage points better than Dallas.
The Mavs are now 0-3 in such games.
Make that 1-59.
Not good odds.
*Another way to look at this: Dallas converted a respectable 46.3 percent of their own shot attempts. Before Monday's games, the league was 125-43 when shooting at least 46 percent this season.
In other words, the Mavs offense was efficient enough to win … or, win around 74.4 percent of the time.
*Monta Ellis finished with 22 points on 8-of-15 shots to go with four assists, on steal and only one turnover.
Monta's Video Visit:
*Jose Calderon started out aggressively. He hit 3-of-4 shots for 10 points in the first half, but would take only two more attempts and finish with 12 points, four assists and two turnovers.
As smooth as Calderon's jumper has looked, we certainly wouldn't mind seeing a few more shots drift his way.
The Final Word …
This wasn't a case of a lack of effort, even if the Mavs looked slightly flat at times.
In the third quarter, the Nuggets hit 70.3 of their shots and only won the quarter by three points. That doesn't happen unless a team is doing something good, especially as they hit only 39.3 percent of their own attempts.
In this case, it was working the offensive glass, leading directly to 11 second-chance points for the Mavs, while holding the Nuggets to none.
For what it's worth, this Mavs team continues to show a willingness to attack deficits, to work to cover their shortcomings, of which there are a few.
Maybe enjoying the "adversity of prosperity'' is a flaw?
"It's a 48-minute game and you've got to be ready,'' Carlisle said. "Sometimes success is a form of adversity. Prosperity is always one of the challenges in pro sports because teams can strike back so quickly. You've got to be able to sustain, and we didn't do it.''
The good feelings of the comeback over the Rockets may be swallowed by consecutive losses to Denver, which is now over .500 for the first time this season (including 7-3 in their last 10), and a tough schedule in the near future (hosting Golden State Wednesday before heading to Atlanta Friday and hosting Minnesota on the second night of a back-to-back).
But, that's not to say the promise we've seen from this team, particularly on the offensive end, is wilted, only that there is work to be done.
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