All-Access Donuts: Mavs 106, Bucks 93
DONUT 1: Setting the table …
The Dallas Mavericks came home to host their first game since December 3rd, welcoming in OJ Mayo and the 5-18 Milwaukee Bucks. The joy of Brandan Wright's return from shoulder injury was countered by the absence of Dirk Nowitzki and Rick Carlisle, due to illness.
Shawn Marion pushed over to power forward in place of Dirk, making room for Jae Crowder at small forward. Monte Mathis stepped into Carlisle's shoes … and the Mavs were off on their three-game homestand, matching their longest of the season to this point (they were 3-0 in the previous instance, hosting Philadelphia, Houston and Utah).
In the ninth occurrence of Seats for Soldiers, Dallas lept from the gate with their biggest opening quarter of the season, scoring 38, and never looked back on their way to the 106-93 victory.
The Mavs are now 8-1 when hosting Seats for Soldiers.
DONUT 2: What was missed …
The fact that this team has been without two players that should prove to be members of its core rotation (with good health) is easy to overlook. Add to this the fact that the two missing also seem to nicely fill voids in the make-up of the roster, Devin Harris as a perimeter defender and second-unit veteran ball handler and Brandan Wright as an above-the-rim finisher to complement the wealth of added passing/playmaking (namely Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis), and their return brings with it a growing sense of optimism.
Brandan Wright missed the first 23 games of the 2013-14 season.
Looking at the matching window to close the 2012-13 campaign, the Mavs were 15-8 with Wright averaging: 11.2 points, 5.7 rebounds (including 2.0 on the offensive end), 1.7 blocks, 57.6 field-goal percentage in 24.0 minutes, as well as the second-best net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) on the roster of +8.8 and third best plus/minus, +3.9 per game (both excluding Roddy Beaubois, who played in only four of the 23 games).
DONUT 3: That didn't take long ...
Wright didn't waste much time ingratiating himself to a fanbase that was quickly reminded of just what they were missing, hitting his first five shots and heading into the half with 11 points and five rebounds while showing his accustomed knack for finishing and ever-impressive above-the-rim abilities … his first alley-oop attempt coming from Shawn Marion, ending not in a dunk, but still with a make.
By the end of the game, Wright had exceeded the single-game scoring mark of any Mavs center this season, finishing with a game-high 19 points, hitting 9-of-10 field goals to go with six rebounds in 18:47.
Wright on the roll:
You see it on these two plays: On this roster, Wright is a unique talent. For the sake of the team, it was great for him to be back on the court.
For our sake, it was fun to watch him so quickly be what this team will need him to be, a finisher and reasonable rim protector – he may not have the bulk to bang with some of the centers in the league, but as a safety net behind the guards he can fill a nice void left in the defense by Samuel Dalembert's absence (after he received his first DNP-CD of the season, Did Not Play – Coach's Decision).
"It was great to see him out there,'' Mathis said. "His athleticism on defense, on offense, all of those in-between shots that we know he's really good at – he showed us that again. He did a great job with the gameplan, the schemes on defense. He's just an experienced guy, so it's great to have him back."
And, B-Wright, how are you feeling?
"I felt fine,'' he said. "Physically my body felt good. I've still got a ways to go to get in the type of shape I need to get in so I can play bigger minutes, but it's going to come. I'm prepared for what's about to come up this season."
DONUT 4: Would this be "The Monta Show"? …
With Dirk out, you'd expect Monta Ellis to carry the bulk of the offensive load. After the first two possessions ended with Ellis attacking and finishing at the rim, those expectations only rose.
Instead, after foul trouble limited his early minutes, Ellis missed his next four attempts and went into the intermission with five points, two assists and two turnovers … yet the Mavs led by 18.
With the team not really needing his scoring on this night, and the game well in hand, Ellis played only 6:46 in the second half (leaving him with easily a season-low of 23 minutes, his previous low was 31:15) finishing with seven points, five assists, three rebounds and three turnovers.
This marked only the second time this season Ellis finished with single-digit points. Oddly enough, the Mavs are 2-0 in those games … and Ellis has averaged 7.5 assists.
"Monta didn't have a great night,'' Mathis said. "But he shared the ball and took his opportunities when he had them.''
DONUT 5: Let the others stand up …
No Dirk. No Carlisle. Ellis scores only seven points.
If you had these facts listed out prior to the game, you'd likely assume that the Mavs were on the wrong side of a blowout. As it was, the game was a blowout, much more so than the final score would indicate, with leads ballooning to as much as 34 and hovering around 30 for much of the night, only it was Dallas doing the dominating.
Jose Calderon led the way early, scoring a game-high 16 in the first half, including 4-of-6 behind the arc and 6-of-9 overall, and already matching his third best scoring output of the season. He would finish with 18 points, 7-of-10 field goals, 4-of-6 3-pointers, one assist, one rebound, one steal and one turnover in just over 23 minutes.
His 18 points matched his second most as a member of the Mavs.
DONUT 6: Also playing well …
With Wright's triumphant return, perhaps it's not coincidence that Vince Carter may have had his best all-around game of the season.
Carter hit a couple of early shots behind the arc and seemed to feed off the Wright's presence, assisting on three of Wright's field goals, as well as the unearthed shot making of Wayne Ellington (who was 3-of-11, but with all three makes coming on Carter assists).
The numbers for Carter: 15 points, nine assists, six rebounds, three steals, one block and two turnovers while hitting 5-of-10 field goals, 3-of-5 from distance.
We've all been quick to jump on him for his struggles this season -- and justifiably so, we believe -- but he was one of the Mavs who managed to hide those who weren't present by coming up big and assuring that this game didn't become a source of regret.
Nine assists are the most Carter has had in a game with the Mavs, his most since Dec. 3, 2010 when he was with Orlando.
DONUT 7: And still more chipping in …
Shawn Marion and DeJuan Blair joined Calderon as starters to score in double digits, and help fill the vast void left in Dirk's absence.
Marion contributed his fifth double-double of the season (Dallas is 3-2 in those games) with 13 points, 12 rebounds, one block and one steal in 22:33.
And that steal was a sweetie:
"We did what we needed to do and got a win,'' Trix said. "We hope (Carlisle and Nowitzki) get healthy, but at the same time we've got a lot of guys capable of doing a lot of things on the floor and we went out there and showed it."
Blair got his fifth consecutive start at center and ended with 11 points, nine rebounds, one assists and a team-high four turnovers.
When a player the caliber of Nowitzki is out, regardless of the opponent, others must assume the burden, particularly in the area of scoring. Dallas responded by having seven players, in addition to Wright, share that weight and score above the season averages they entered Saturday's game with: Jae Crowder, Marion, Blair, Calderon, Carter, Shane Larkin and Wayne Ellington.
DONUT 8: Some clarity, or further uncertainty …
We mentioned above that Samuel Dalembert received his first DNP-CD of the season. Given his fluctuating playing time that had seen him on the court under 20 minutes in four straight games prior to getting 24 Wednesday against the Warriors.
As one might expect, with wavering court time has come an even greater inconsistency in production.
"Going into it," acting coach Mathis said, "it wasn't set that Sam wasn't going to play, but it just ended up being that way."
With Wright returning and playing extremely well, and the game getting out of hand early, there is no surprise that Dalembert didn't see the court.
Will this become the trend, or will Dalembert practice his way back into the rotation? Only time and Dalembert's effort level will tell.
DONUT 9: Seats for Soldiers …
This was the ninth instance of Seats for Soldiers hosted by the Mavs. Over 100 wounded service men and women from the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, as well as other troops on reserve in the Metroplex area filled the courtside seats.
An annual event (though it did not take place in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season) that began when season-ticket holder Neal Hawks joined with other front-row season-ticket holders to donate their tickets for the Dec. 18, 2004 game … a contest the Mavs won against the Atlanta Hawks, 90-68, featuring Dirk leading the Mavs with 15 points, to go with 12 rebounds, and Antoine Walker as the Hawk's top scorer with 13.
Another familiar face to take part in the inaugural Seats for Soldiers was Devin Harris, though he would miss Saturday night's game as he continues to recover from toe surgery.
It's a great way for the Mavs, and their generous ticket holders, to give back … and apparently a great way to add one to the win column. Again worth noting: Dallas is now 8-1 on Seats for Soldiers nights.
DONUT 10: Quoteboard ...
*"We came in here and we laid an egg.'' - Bucks coach Larry Drew.
*"Great team win. Good to see b wright back. Go Mavs'' - Dirk on Twitter.
DONUT 11: Mavsellaneous …
*Chuck Cooperstein noted in the radio broadcast that OJ Mayo's grandmother died the night previous to this game, so we'll send our condolences out to Mayo and his family … and leave it at that except to ask you to
review our addressing Mayo's "homecoming'' by digging into his work as the centerpiece of an experiment that the Mavs have vowed to never revisit: the "One-Year Contract Concept.'' It worked for him for half a year, but then near-All-Star-level effort devolved into "didn't show up.''
*Vince Carter has totaled 15 points, nine assists, six rebounds and three steals only three times in his career.
He did so Jan. 12, 2000 with Toronto, then again Feb. 12, 2008 with the Nets … and now Dec. 14, 2013 with the Mavs.
*Blair has started six games at center for the Mavs, including the last five straight … Dallas is 3-3 in those games.
*Who Deserves The 'Dirkie'? One "Dirkie,'' all shined up and ready to be awarded to the Player of the Game. Argue here. Vote here. Then argue some more.
*The Mavs will take Sunday off -- probably in part to let Dirk and Rick get some more rest -- and get back in the gym on Monday. (It seems, however, that Dalembert might show up to the gym on the off-day ... a wise move.)
*Carlisle has for the last week been pretending he wasn't sick. But it's an upper-respiratory problem and it requires some down time.
DONUT 12: Bucks scouting Mavs ...
Milwaukee coach Larry Drew told his team before the game that the Mavs without Dirk are still capable of doing Mavs-like things.
"When key guys are out, in this case Dirk wasn't playing, you have to expect other guys to step up,'' Drew said. "I said that to our guys before we went out on the floor. We can't expect this team to be any different with Dirk not being here because they are a good team. They have got really good personnel.''
Maybe so. But there is little debate that Dallas employs better personnel than Milwaukee, which is now 5-19 having finished a stretch of eight games in 12 days.
DONUT 13: The Final Word …
Without Carlisle or Dirk and with Ellis having his second lowest scoring night of the season, the Mavs matched their highest and fourth highest scoring quarters of the season (38 in the first and 34 in the third) and ensured there would be no letdown against a lesser opponent.
Every game poses its own chances at failure, fed by the return of Brandan Wright, Dallas denied any opportunity for doubt or regret to take root and did exactly what they were supposed to, put it on a team playing the second night of a back-to-back.
If not for their worst quarter of the season (minus-19 in the fourth, with a lineup primarily comprised of bench players – Ellis, Calderon and Marion did not play) Dallas likely would have had their most convincing win thus far.
The Mavs will now be game-less until Wednesday, when the Memphis Grizzlies come to town … hopefully, that's enough time to get Dirk and Carlisle back to full health, and whatever their illness is won't spread any further.
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