Mavs Bloodied In Loss To T'Wolves
A nice thing about the NBA is that there's very little time to dwell on losses. The Dallas Mavericks' 88-87 loss at Atlanta on Friday was about as disappointing as they come, but fortunately for Dallas, the fellas had less than 24 hours to think about the failure.
But now they have more time to be more disappointed. Here's Dirk's Video Visit following Saturday's 112-106 home loss to Minnesota:
Fish noted this weekend that with the competitive nature of the Western Conference, winning games against mediocre teams in the East will be vital all season. But by that same logic, games against borderline Western Conference playoff teams may be even more important. While the bar is set high for both teams, even an optimist would admit that the playoffs are not a lock for either the T-Wolves or Mavericks. Both will likely be competing for playoff seeding (or even a playoff spot) at the end of the season, which means that each matc-hup between the two teams serves legitimate importance…even if it takes place in November.
This season Minnesota forward Kevin Love has been making his claim for the "best power forward in the world" title. Love made a pretty good case for such claims in the last meeting between these clubs when the T-Wolves won on November 8th when he scored 31 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out eight assists.
It's hard not to be impressed with Love's play recently, but his counterpart just so happens to be one of the best power forwards in the history of the game. On Saturday, Nowitzki was at least on Love's level on the court. Despite taking a Ricky Rubio elbow to the face, bloodying up his nose in the third quarter, Nowitzki finished the game with 23 points off of 10-of-13 shooting to go along with five rebounds and six assists compared to 21 points and 11 rebounds for Love.
However, it was completely different big man that gave Dallas fits. Center Nikola Pekovic scored at will on the Mavericks. He had 10 points in the first quarter alone and finished with 21 points off of 10-of-13 shooting and nine rebounds.
"He wiped us out early," coach Rick Carlisle said after the game. "We didn't do a good job on him."
The Mavericks were without starting point guard Jose Calderon who is still recovering from a right ankle injury suffered in Atlanta. In his place, rookie Gal Mekel made his first career start. Makel did a decent job of distributing the ball at times (he finished the game with seven assists), but overall Calderon was clearly missed. Makel scored just six points while shooting 3-of-12 from the field.
Mekel's Video Visit:
"It's challenging (without Calderon)," Carlisle said. "I think both guys (Mekel and Shane Larkin) did some good things, but experience is so valuable and so important. Down the stretch I felt like we had to put Monta at the point guard to finish so that's what we did."
(Not coincidentally, here DB.com has a Mavnalysis on Monta's effectiveness as a PG.)
The T'Wolves controlled the game most of the first half behind Pekovic's solid play and Kevin Martin's 3-point shooting. They took a 54-47 lead into halftime.
But soon after Nowitzki left the game with blood running down his face, the rest of the Mavericks woke up in the third quarter and the team took the lead with their leader on the bench. Yet a late third quarter surge by Minnesota, including a deep three-pointer by former Maverick J.J. Barea, put the Wolves back up. The deficit remained the same as both teams scored 30 points in the third quarter and Minnesota led 84-77.
Ellis lifted the team with his overall play, efficiently scoring and distributing with ease at times. He finished with 26 points, six assists and six rebounds.
Unfortunately, it was Minnesota that performed better to close out the game.
During a five-minute stretch in the fourth quarter Kevin Martin was scoring more efficiently than the Dallas offense. Once he got into a groove with a few open shots, he started shooting with a lot of confidence, even hitting an off-balance 20-footer late in the game. Holding Love to just 21 points is great, but it might have been offset by Martin's 27 points.
Ultimately, it was another disappointing loss for the Mavericks. They wasted efficient performances by Nowitzki and Ellis and while it wasn't a terrible team performance by any means, the Wolves looked sharper, better defensively and seemed to want the game more.
Dallas shot an impressive 49 percent from the floor, but allowed Minnesota to shoot 50 percent. The Wolves also shot 42 percent from behind the 3-point line while Dallas only shot 29 percent. And as has generally been the case all season, the Mavericks turned the ball over more times (14) than their opponent (11).
Calderon has proven to be a calming presence late in games this season. Unfortunately, he was not there to emphasis the importance of every single crunch-time possession and the Mavericks may need to find a way to execute without him, as the timetable for his return is not certain.
This is the first rough patch of the season for the Mavericks, having lost four of their last five games. How they respond will be crucial because the Western Conference is too competitive and as we already discussed, these losses can always come back to a haunt a team.
Afterwards, Dirk was left to take a poke at the NBA's having issued him a flopping warning, saying of his nose, "I don't think it's broke, but since it wasn't a foul I might get another flopping call from my boy Rod Thorn on Monday." Monta was left saying nothing at all, as he left the locker room hastily. And Rick Carlisle joined Shawn Marion and Shane Larkin (their full Quoteboards are here on DB.com Boards) to make some sense of Dallas' skid to 10-8.
"We're going to learn about our team right now," Carlisle said after the loss. "It's going to test the togetherness and the collective will and all that kind of stuff … Tuesday we got to get back at it."
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