Mavs 105, Memphis 91 ...
For the first time since the opening game of the season, the Dallas Mavericks were playing on more than two days of rest, hosting the Memphis Grizzlies, who were playing without Marc Gasol, Mike Conley Jr., and Tayshaun Prince on the second night of a back-to-back … a prime candidate for Dick Motta's famous "Wounded Tiger" theory (a team facing adverse circumstances playing well above their expected level, such as Sacramento after the Rudy Gay deal left them shorthanded).
The Mavs fresh legs made an impact immediately, carrying them to eight fast-break points in the first quarter, more than they had totaled in four of the previous five games. Memphis would not fade completely until the fourth, but Dallas managed to widen the gap in each progressive quarter – leading by as many as seven in the first and then 15, 16 and 21 in the second, third and fourth respectively.
And, Samuel Dalembert joined the party, showing hustle and making a clear impact on the game, as the Mavs finished the night with a 105-91 victory, pushing the Grizzlies losing streak to five … and, more importantly, moving five games over .500 (15-10).
Rick Carlisle's Video Visit opens with Sam Talk:
The Big Two …
The Mavs offense is built around the prowess of Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis. Ellis was limited by early foul trouble and a 1-of-5 shooting start, compounded by some visible frustration with the officials over whistles he expected that weren't sounding, but rebounded well.
Ellis hit 5-of-7 field goals over the final three quarters to finish with 18 points, four assists, four rebounds, three steals and three turnovers … in other words, it was what we are coming to expect of him.
The doubt in Ellis's ability to remain the revelation he's been is gradually eroding in even the most pessimistic of minds.
Dirk was … Dirk.
We know we express it fairly often, but remember to soak in this Dirk, though he's outpacing Father Time for the moment, it won't last forever. Entrenched in the Nowitzki Era, it's a privilege we shouldn't take for granted.
In Dirk's mind, it may have been nothing more than an opportunity to save the effort of having to run a few extra steps and then jump (without a hint of thought towards the statistical impact), but watching something as simple as a superstar passing on a wide-open breakaway dunk to toss the ball to a hustling Jae Crowder was a typically selfless Nowitzki moment … it's a small part of why we feel lucky to have witnessed, to be witnessing, the carving of a legacy destined to transcend.
It's history … it's a memory we're still lucky enough to be able to experience in real time with all the texture, emotions and joy that carries with it.
It's cool to see that even his teammates understand that. Said Jose Calderon:
"I was watching from the bench tonight, and I was like, 'He makes everything look so easy.';; I was amazed how the guys guarding him kept jumping, and he just waited and knocked down the shot."
Dirk finished with 20 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block and two turnovers in 27 minutes. He did all that despite being in recovery from an illness that caused him to miss the Saturday blowout of the Bucks.
"I felt fine out there,'' Nowitzki said. "It's obviously not what I planned on Saturday, but the good thing was I didn't feel great Monday in practice, I was still weak. ... By Tuesday I was a lot better and today I felt fine like nothing happened. I used the break, I guess, to get healthy.''
And by Wednesday? Simply … he was Dirk.
Here's The UberMan's Video Visit:
Wright making right …
We'll get to Brandan Wright's game in a moment, but if there's anyone happier to see Wright return than Vince Carter, we're not sure who that is.
Sure, some of it is coincidence, but there's no denying that Carter has looked infinitely better the last two games … which happens to line up with Wright's return.
In a vacuum, the sample size is miniscule, just two games and 28 minutes of court time together, yet there is a history to suggest it is not meaningless (even if currently exaggerated).
Carter's numbers this season playing with or without Wright (per 36 minutes):
(Net Rating: Offensive Rating minus Defensive Rating)
However, if you look back to last season, perhaps this isn't an aberration, only an exaggerated version of a truth: Vince Carter plays better with Wright sharing the court.
Those same numbers over the 2012-13 season:
The gaps aren't as drastic, but they are still significant enough to warrant notice. Carter has a certain level of comfort with Wright, and maybe that's enough to provide a spark to what has been a disappointing season.
Carter finished with 14 points, 4-of-6 field goals, 1-of-2 3-pointers, six assists, four rebounds, one block and two turnovers … following up what may have been his best all-around game of the season with a comparable effort.
Vince's Video Visit:
So, how did Wright look? …
Vince Carter hasn't been the only one to see gains from Brandan Wright's presence on the court.
Per Basketball-Reference, prior to Wednesday night: during his time in Dallas, when Wright has played over 15 minutes, the Mavs are 40-27, a winning percentage of 59.7 (equivalent to a 49-win season).
When he's played over 20 minutes, the Mavs are 29-17, a 63.0 winning percentage (equivalent to a 51.6-win season)
When Wright had played 15 minutes or fewer, the Mavs were 22-25, a 46.8 winning percentage (equivalent to a 38-win season). When he had played 20-or-fewer minutes the Mavs were 33-35 and winning percentage of 48.5 (the equivalent to a 39.8-win season).
It's a bit of an oversimplification -- ignoring influences such as Rick Carlisle's tendency to put certain players (think Roddy Beaubois and Wright) in situations that are better suited for their success, essentially attempting to hide their weaknesses (a practice that can be frustrating, but is difficult to argue against, often forcing a chicken-vs-the-egg argument) -- though factually correct: the Mavs have played better when Wright has gotten more minutes.
Wednesday night, Wright played just over 13 minutes, totaling four points (all at the free-throw line), two rebounds and three blocks as he made his presence known at the defensive end.
B-Wright's Video Visit:
For at least one game, he's back …
Coming off his first DNP-CD (Did Not Play – Coach's Decision) of the season, Samuel Dalembert did not see the court in the first half, but due in part to the Mavs inability to keep the Grizzlies off the offensive glass (more below) and a run that saw a 16-point lead shaved to single digits, Carlisle turned to his former starting center.
Dalembert responded with one of his most energetic showings of the season, immediately making an impact with hustle and length.
In just 13:20 of playing time, Dalembert finished with eight points, seven rebounds, two blocks, two steals and one assist … changing the game at both ends, altering shots and getting two huge one-handed put-back dunks ... even if only one of them counted, the other being an obvious basket interference call that erased a Monta Ellis layup that was still on the rim, and may have been on its way to going in, a mistake easily forgiven when a symptom of greater effort.
Now, as has been the case for almost Dalembert's entire career, it's about what he does next. Will he find some level of consistency and retake his starting job, or continue to show flashes broken up by yawns of inconsistency?
DONUT 10: Quoteboard ...
"I've got my mojo back. It feels good, man, to be out there in a crucial part of the game and testing yourself." - Sam Dalembert.
Who Deserves The 'Dirkie'? ...
A good Vince game? A wakeup-call Sam game? Dirk's usual stardom? As always, the Golden Goodie awaits your call. It's the Player of the Game voting ... Who deserves "The Dirkie''?
"We're in a situation where we're one of six or seven teams fighting for two or three playoff spots,'' said coach Rick Carlisle, taking an unusual big-picture view. "That's what it's going to come down to. Concentration and focus and attention to detail are going to carry the day as to who gets in and who has a chance to advance."
*Memphis grabbed 22 offensive rebounds, the most Dallas has allowed this season, and only allowed twice all of last season.
Since the 1999-2000 season, the Mavs have allowed 22-or-more offensive rebounds 24 times (including Wednesday) … interestingly, they are now 19-5 in those games.
*The 21 second-chance points scored by the Grizzlies is the third most allowed by the Mavs this season, most at home, surpassed only in a loss at Minnesota (26) and a win at Portland (25).
*The Mavs are 11-3 this season when holding their opponent under a field-goal percentage of 45.0 … including 6-0 when keeping opponents under 42.5 (though 1-1 when allowing exactly 42.5 percent shooting).
*With 3:44 to go in third quarter, the Mavs lead was trimmed to four, having been at 16 only minutes prior. They would respond by kicking off a 32-15 run and putting the game away.
*Dallas is now 11-2 when holding their opponent under 50 points at the half, 39 in this case.
*After Monta Ellis badly missed a pull-up 3-pointer, we made the observation that Ellis is actually a fair shooter behind the arc … except when he does so off the dribble.
Per SportsVU tracking data on NBA.com, Ellis entered Wednesday's game hitting 37.9 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers ... compared to 11.8 percent on pull-up 3-pointers.
*On the next one … hosting Jose Calderon's (12 points, 3 assists) former team, the Toronto Raptors Friday night.
Speaking of Jose ... his Video Visit:
The Final Word …
True, Memphis was playing without three starters on the second night of a back-to-back. This was a game the Mavs should win, but that doesn't mean they get discounted for doing what they should. As we lament when they fail in the expected, as they did in Sacramento, we will positively note when they rise to meet expectations, as they did against Memphis.
This was a convincing win, when a convincing win was needed. When a convincing win was merited.