DONUT 1: Setting the Table ...
It may not have been as easy as it should have been, as easy as a lead that once swelled to 28 should deliver, but the Dallas Mavericks survived the Utah Jazz pulling within five with 4:42 to play in the fourth quarter.
Dirk Nowitzki immediately subbed back in and the Mavs responded with a 10-2 run to put the game away. The Mavs survived some very ugly second-half numbers. And an off-shooting night from Dirk. They and rode Samuel Dalembert's best all-around game with Dallas -- despite having to leave in the final seconds after being caught with an elbow in the lower right portion of his ribs -- to a 103-93 victory.
The Carlisle Video Summary:
Dallas is now 7-0 at home and 9-4 on the season … and five games over .500, something never accomplished last season.
DONUT 2: A Game of Two Halves …
Well, all games have two halves … but not all have such divergent paths.
In the first half:
|PTs off TOs||18||7||+11|
This is what you would expect to see from the Mavs when facing the team that has been the worst in the NBA at both ends of the court.
Then the second half happened.
|PTs off TOs||4||15||-11|
As shown above, the Mavs allowed the team that arrived with easily the worst offensive rating (92.8) in the league to shoot just under 60 percent for the half and forced themselves into a struggle over a game that was all but over in the second quarter.
"With a team like this, you've got to put them away, but we didn't,'' Monta Ellis said. "We've got to learn from this."
But, it could have been worse … they could have not managed to regain control in the final minutes and they could have not secured the win.
DONUT 3: Shouldn't have had to be on the court …
Another symptom of allowing the Jazz to make a game of it late: Samuel Dalembert, along with the rest of the starters, was back on the court … and suffered that collision with his right side that caused him to ask off the floor in obvious discomfort. Hopefully, this proves to be nothing more significant than the final 49.9 seconds Dalembert missed.
Sore ribs aside, this was Dalembert's best all-around game as the Mavericks starting center. He set a season high with 18 points, hitting all eight of his field-goal attempts, adding 12 rebounds and two blocks.
He was active at both ends of the court, including finishing a nice alley-oop from Jose Calderon in the opening quarter.
"I just saw that," Dalembert said in regard to his 8-of-8. "I was surprised, too."
Quiet man. Loud game. Oh, and it's been a week of loud games for him, as he's averaging 10.8 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in Dallas' last three games.
DONUT 4: So, Monta Ellis seems pretty good …
We start with our man Skin with Monta ...
Monta Ellis continues to be one of the best offseason additions by any team this past summer. He finished with a game-high 26 points, 8-of-19 shooting, 9-of-10 free throws, six assists, one steal and three turnovers.
One of those assists led to what coach Rick Carlisle labeled one of the biggest shots of the night, a 3-pointer from Jose Calderon just after the Jazz had trimmed to the lead to five.
It wasn't all sunshine, as Ellis was a culprit, via matador on-ball possessions or lazy rotations, in the poor defensive showing early in the fourth quarter that allowed the Jazz to make their comeback push. He was far from alone in this. The entire team seemed to plod through the second half with one eye on the clock and the other on the Saturday matchup with the Nuggets in Denver.
"It was disappointing,'' coach Rick Carlisle said of not securing the easy win, "but wins are hard to get so it's a good win from that perspective. Our execution was poor in the second half on both ends, it was pretty obvious. But now we have to get on a plane and go play another team. So, that's where we are."
Ellis is quickly becoming the engine that drives the offense. He and Calderon have been what keeps the rest of the pieces flowing, and what feeds Dirk some of the best looks he's had in the recent past.
So, when chronicling that he helped guide the offense home it seems only fair to also point out his role in the defense's second-half failing.
Monta, what say you?
DONUT 5: Larkin again …
Shane Larkin has suited up for three games with the Mavs, in two of them Gal Mekel has not left the bench. There would appear to be little doubt that Larkin has supplanted Mekel as the primary backup point guard.
Larkin played just over 15 minutes and finished with two points, one assists, two steals and one turnover … and continues to show a knack for acting as a "disruptor" on the defensive side of the ball.
"His quickness helps us,'' Carlisle said. "Defensively, he's done some good things. But we're early in the process and there's a long way to go. But he's done some positive things to this point and we just need him to keep working and getting better.''
His size will almost always guarantee some level of liability on defense, but he's shown he can find ways to contribute on that end with this elite speed and better-than-average awareness.
He's only three games in, but it's hard not to like what we see from Larkin, even if his time is littered with small errors that remind you that he is a rookie.
DONUT 6: The Difference …
Going back to Ellis as an offensive catalyst, even if the true core catalyst remains the presence of a very tall German, we thought we'd throw in a quick addition to our friend Tim MacMahon's thoughts on whether Ellis can sustain his early season prominence where OJ Mayo could not a season ago.
There are many factors that figure into the on-court chemistry between Dirk and Ellis, many minor to significant differences that set this duo apart from what never quite materialized last season with Mayo, but if you want to find the one that likely signifies where the greatest gulf lies look no further than the guard's pick-and-roll numbers.
Last season, while many were drooling over the possibilities Dirk's return could mean to Mayo's early strong offensive showing (at the time), we preached a cautious optimism, pointing out that Mayo (and Darren Collison, for that matter) had struggled over the course of his career in the role Jason Terry had starred in with Dallas, as a ball handler in pick-and-roll situations, as one half of a two-man-game with Dirk (if you want to take that stroll down Memory Lane.)
Compare Mayo's numbers as the pick-and-roll ball-handler last season with Dallas (some of the best in his career) to what Ellis had done through the first 13 games (per SynergySports):
*PPP: points per possession
*%SF: percentage of plays that ended with shooting fouls
*%Scoring: percentage of plays that ended with a score (at least one made free throw)
DONUT 7: More of the difference …
Chemistry is not necessarily a tangible asset easily quantified in statistics. Sure, you could point to any display of personal or team efficiency, from field-goal percentage to turnover rate to wins and losses, but none truly capture how well two players fit.
However, seeing basic trends in skill sets can give us hints as to how a player may fit with the known strengths of another.
Mayo had never shown great prowess while handling the ball in the pick-and-roll. This doesn't mean he couldn't/can't be a dynamic offensive weapon, only that his particular skills never quite aligned with those needed to thrive in the pick-and-roll … an attack that happens to be best suited to capitalize on the attention that must be given to a screen setter named Dirk Nowitzki.
Quite simply, it was/is the most direct path to play off of Dirk beyond simply getting him the ball in his spots and getting out of the way (another facet more deeply honed in Ellis's game than Mayo was able to show with the Mavs).
SynergySports tracks back to the 2009-10 season, Mayo's second in the NBA. In that time, the 0.73 points per possession as the pick-and-roll ball handler he posted with Dallas represented the best of his career to that point (he's currently at 0.78).
That same number, 0.73, marks the worst over the same timeframe for Ellis, posted in his last half season with Golden State. At the other end of the pendulum's swing, Ellis has shown precedence for excellence in the pick-and-roll, averaging 0.96 points per possession in the 2010-11 season (ranking 9th in the NBA) and 0.82 during the 2009-10 campaign.
Perhaps not coincidentally, those two seasons he had 1,012 instances as the pick-and-roll ball handler. As that role fell out of demand from the offenses he found himself in -- 444 total instances over the next two complete seasons split between Golden State and Milwaukee, less than half the tries in only four less games -- his effectiveness also suffered.
In the right situation, given the chances to succeed, Ellis had shown he could thrive in the pick-and-roll, and could possibly capitalize on the complementing skills Dirk brings.
Time will tell if Ellis can sustain this level of production in the two-man-game with Dirk, and in the pick-and-roll in general with the Mavs, but, unlike Mayo, there is a history to suggest that he is certainly capable.
DONUT 8: Vince? ...
While Vince Carter has come through in a number of key moments already this season, he's failing to have the impact he did last year overall.
There have been games he's been huge – see the opener or the Heat game – but there have been a significant number that have seen his shot waver and his overall scoring contributions wane.
Against Utah, Carter finished with eight points, 3-of-9 field goals, 2-of-5 3-pointers and four rebounds. It also marked the 7th time in his 12 games played that he failed to convert at least 40 percent of his shot attempts, hitting exactly 40 percent in two other games.
When Carlisle refers to Carter as the third member of the Mavs "Big Three" – and hey, shouldn't that be Shawn Marion? – you'd hope for better returns than the 39.8 field-goal and 32.1 3-point percentages he's currently posting.
Carter brings more to this team than his numbers, but that doesn't mean the team won't need him to produce.
It's still early, with a long way to go. It's not time to worry yet … we hope.
DONUT 9: Mavsellaneous …
*The Cuban Grudge doesn't last forever. Jason Kidd is now off the hook. The owner is still working out the details of Derek Harper's jersey retirement for this season and is also planning to honor Kidd, despite the way he "double-agented" the Mavs two years ago and left for NY.
"I just have to decide how to do it, because there's a lot of guys from those years' teams," Cuban said. "While J-Kidd is a Hall-of-Famer, he wasn't really a Hall-of-Famer who spent most of his career here. ... Do I want to do a Ring of Honor? Put a team in and honor all the guys on the team? I don't know. I haven't decided yet."
So Cuban is no longer anti-Kidd as he watches his friend struggle to coach the Nets?
"That was a one-year grudge,'' Cuban said. "It's over."
*In the first half, Dallas scored 18 points off of 13 Utah turnovers. Those 18 were as many or more as the Mavs have scored in six of their 12 previous complete games.
In the second half, they added four more.
*This was the first time in Samuel Dalembert's career to have at least 18 points and 12 rebounds without missing a field-goal attempt. He was 8-of-8.
*The latest on injured Mavs Brandan Wright and Devin Harris? Carlisle said that Wright (shoulder) "has got a ways to go with rehab and strengthening,'' and that Harris (toe) is still likely to return after Wright, hopefully in December.
*Friday's Player of the Game? Who Deserves "The Dirkie''? You vote here!
*Shawn Marion played despite a groin strain. Some Matrix Musings ...
*If not for a bucket by Trey Burke with 4.5 seconds to play in the first half, the Jazz would have had the same number of made field goals as turnovers for the half. As it was, they had 14 field goals and 13 turnovers before the intermission.
*The 34 points Dallas held Utah to in the first half was the lowest of any Mavs opponent in a half this season.
*Dallas is now 28-1 in games they lead by at least 24 at the half … only three of those instances, including the lone loss, was the final margin less than the 10 Friday night.
*Dallas now has the fourth best record in the West.
DONUT 10: Dirk trade to the Rockets?! What?! ...
First, Dirk on the non-silliness:
Mark Cuban said before the game that just three hours after the Rockets had won the summer courting of Dwight Howard, Houston GM Daryl Morey phoned Dallas to inquire about trading for Dirk Nowitzki.
"They didn't make an offical offer, they just asked if we would trade him,'' said Cuban, who is convinced that it was nothing more than the Rockets rubbing the Mavs' bridesmaid position in their faces.
Cuban apparently informed Dirk of the conversation, though The UberMan isn't much on the details, saying he's pretty much forgotten about it.
But, Dirk added, "I guess Cubes doesn't forget that easily."
DONUT 11: Quoteboard ...
"I love Dallas. I love being here. You can tell by the hymns I'm singing up in here. It's great, man." - Monta Ellis.
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
The ending may not have been pretty, and hopefully the Dalembert injury is nothing serious, but this was another win for the Mavs over a team they needed to beat. Safe are the good feelings sprouted from the amazing comeback over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.
It could have been easier, but there remains some comfort to be found in how Dallas was able to right the ship in the final four-plus minutes to ensure the victory did not escape them. When the standings look back, they'll show only a win.
On to the next one.