DONUT 1: Setting the table …
The Dallas Mavericks welcomed the freshly-remodeled Toronto Raptors. The end of a three-game home stand, a chance to move six games over .500, and an opportunity to feast on a lesser opponent from the Eastern Conference ... the cards seemed to have aligned nicely … the sun was up, the air fresh and warm, all was well.
With 8:30 left in the second quarter, Dallas sat up by 19 and everything seemed well in hand … by the time the period ended, the Mavs were up only three and dark clouds were scratching away the once sunny sky, tearing away the feel-good night shred by shred.
Again and again the Mavs got their chances, but couldn't find that one final basket to seal the victory, dragged down by allowing a season-high 32 points off of turnovers they fell in overtime by a final of 109-108.
"It's a recipe for failure,'' summarized Mavs coach Rick Carlisle.
Dirk Nowitzki's attempt missed at the end of regulation, just as Monta Ellis's did at the close of overtime … and a win fluttered to the wrong side of the record column.
"We've got to be the team that loses leads quicker than any other team in the league," Dirk said. "We gave up a 19-point lead within a couple of minutes … We've got to learn if we do have a lead to keep it a little longer and not lose it within three or four minutes."
DONUT 2: And it started so well …
In the first quarter, the Mavs looked fluid and sharp. Cuts were crisp, passes and shots were on target. Each of their first eight field goals was assisted. Dallas looked like a team ready to dominate a game they were supposed to win.
The West is a tangle of too many good teams fighting for too few playoff spots. To find themselves on the right side of that wrestling mass of playoff hopefuls, the Mavs must win the games they are supposed to. When facing a team that entered the night at 9-14, when facing the dregs of the Eastern Conference, a win must be claimed.
To open, the Mavs played like a team embracing this fact. ... and the Raptors played like they would not end up in a celebratory pile on Dallas' floor.
Through 12 minutes of basketball, Dallas was up 11, hitting 68.2 percent of their shots, winning the battle of the boards (10-9), had only two turnovers (leading to three points for the Raptors), held Toronto to 42.9-percent shooting and scored 26 points in the paint (hitting 13-of-17 attempts).
Things were off to a nice start.
DONUT 3: The Unraveling …
Don't worry, we'll get to the fourth quarter and overtime, but the unraveling truly began in the second quarter.
The lead surged to 19 … and then things got sloppy. We're talking a-drunk-trying-to-piss-in-a-thimble sloppy.
After a layup from Brandan Wright on a nice pass from Nowitzki, the Mavs were up 41-22 with 8:34 to play in the second … seven minutes and 37-seconds later, the lead of 19 was a deficit of two.
The Raptors were on a 27-6 run.
The ending was brutal, but the game was lost in less than eight minutes during the second period.
DONUT 4: Numbers during that 27-6 Toronto run …
You don't need it broken down to understand that it was ugly, but maybe to grasp just how ugly it truly was.
|Team||Pts||FG%||TOs||Pts off TOs||Rebs||O-rebs||2nd-chnce pts|
Looking through the prism of the entire game, the turnovers jump out. In three full games this season, the Mavs have allowed 11-or-less points off of turnovers … to do so in one quarter hurts.
But, going almost two-thirds of a quarter without a rebound while the Raptors grabbed 11, which combined with the turnovers to grant the Raptors 17 field-goal attempts to only nine for Dallas? That is just as devastating.
DONUT 5: And it comes all the way undone …
Perhaps as strange as anything else in this game, was how the game got away from Dallas. It wasn't truly the defense or rebounding, but a sputtering offense.
You can point to a few impossible shots DeMar DeRozan (nine of his 15 points in the fourth and overtime) was able to convert, but they almost uniformly came against superb defense.
It was the offense … and the two best offensive players on the roster.
In the fourth, Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis combined to convert 2-of-9 shots (22.2 percent) for five points … attempting zero free throws (both teams combined to shoot a total of two free throws in the period, zero for Dallas).
In overtime, the Mavs would hit 3-of-10 shots … including a combined 0-of-5 from Nowitzki and Ellis (who were piling up the minutes and, particularly with Dirk and his season-high in minutes, clearly looked to be fatigued).
Total it up, and Dallas was 11-of-30 (36.7 percent) in the final quarter of regulation and overtime. Take away Jose Calderon's 5-of-8, and the rest of the Mavs hit only 27.3 percent from the floor … with five turnovers leading directly to nine Toronto points (all in the fourth).
Dirk's Video Visit:
DONUT 6: Making it even stranger …
In the first three quarters, Dirk and Monta were electric.
Toronto could not find an answer for either. Ellis, in particular, was destroying the Raptors' defense, posting a double-double (19 points, 10 assists) in three quarters.
Dirk's numbers through three: 19 points, 9-of-14 field goals, eight rebounds, four assists and zero turnovers.
Monta's numbers through three: 19 points, 8-of-13 field goals, 10 assists, two steals, two rebounds and only one turnover.
A combined 38 points, 63 field-goal percentage, 14 assists, 10 rebounds and only one turnover.
Both were rolling.
From that point on, they totaled five points, 2-of-14 field goals (14.3 percent), one rebound, two assists, two steals (both by Ellis) and two turnovers (both by Ellis).
Final numbers for each:
Dirk: 22 points, 10-of-22, nine rebounds, five assists and no turnovers.
Ellis: 21 points, 9-of-19, 11 assists, two rebounds, four steals and three turnovers.
DONUT 7: Lost in the mud …
Lost in the pain of the loss was a brilliant fourth quarter from Jose Calderon, who scored the team's first 11 points of the period, single-handedly keeping the Mavs alive.
Calderon - the former Raptor - finished with a season-high 23 points, including 7-of-10 behind the arc (tying a career high for made 3-pointers) to go with nine assists, two steals and only one turnover.
To his credit, Calderon believes he should've played even better.
Despite Calderon's brilliance and some clutch scoring and rebounding efforts from Shawn Marion and Brandan Wright, Dallas saw the game slide away with their two greatest offensive weapons struggling.
Perhaps worth noting, it was Wright who saw the bulk of the center minutes in the fourth and overtime … with Samuel Dalembert appearing to start overtime merely to win the tip, coming out 28 seconds later.
DONUT 8: Just one horrible game, or …
Following two of his best all-around games of the season, Vince Carter fell off the map.
This wasn't just a poor game for Carter, rather an effort that may be arguably his worst as a member of the Dallas Mavericks … having more turnovers (six) than points (0), rebounds (three) and assists (2) combined puts it in that category.
After Wednesday's game, we noted that Carter seemed to benefit from sharing the court with Wright last season, hoping the first two games of Wright's return, and Carter's corresponding resurgence, could be the spark to revive a season that was meandering in the wrong direction for Carter.
Was this just one horrible game … or were the two previous the outliers in a season wrought with individual disappointment?
DONUT 9: The centers …
To oversimplify the matter: the Mavs are now 4-4 in games DeJuan Blair starts and 11-7 when he comes off the bench.
This is by no means an insult of Blair, or meant to discount how well he has played, but using him as a starter seems to deprive this team of a true weapon off the bench, while offering no true gain to the starting five.
Consider first, Blair and Samuel Dalembert's numbers as starters (per 36 minutes):
Blair: 13.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 0.8 steals, -1.2 plus/minus, 102.6 defensive rating, -0.5 net rating, 15.1 rebound percentage (percentage of available rebounds claimed).
Samuel Dalembert as a starter (per 36 minutes): 12.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 2.1 blocks, -0.1 plus/minus, 104.2 defensive rating, +2.0 net rating, 16.8 rebound percentage.
For all of the disappointment in Dalembert's play, the team has had a better net rating with him as the starter, though the defensive rating was worse, and (outside of that defensive rating) Dalembert was either comparable or slightly superior in every category … but most importantly, in net rating and winning percentage (4-4 compared to 10-7 with Dalembert starting).
A quick look at Blair's numbers (per 36 minutes) from the bench shows a weapon, rather than a somewhat average starter: 14.5 points, 13.4 rebounds, 2.8 steals, +3.3 plus/minus, 104.1 defensive rating, +3.0 net rating, 21.3 rebound percentage.
Blair coming from the bench also allows Carlisle to finagle the match-ups a bit with the undersized Blair, a freedom stolen when he's written in to get at least his first six to eight minutes against opposing starters, a significant chunk if he's destined to play somewhere in the area of 21 minutes per game.
Considering that bench players are more often matched up with other bench players, it's no surprise to see a rise across the board in comparison to starting, as we do with Blair … and as you do in most categories with Dalembert as well, though Dalembert has actually posted a better net rating as a starter: +2.0 as a starter and +0.7 from the bench.
This isn't necessarily an argument for Dalembert to return to the starting lineup. At its heart, this is an argument to see Blair come from the bench, where we feel he has his biggest impact.
Maybe we're misguided, or falling victim to idealizations of what we'd hoped to see when looking at the roster before games were played and Dalembert's play fell, or we're holding to preconceptions over how we think a player best fits while ignoring how the season has unfolded.
There are numbers to show Blair works best with the starting group, such as the fact that the five-man group of Calderon-Ellis-Marion-Dirk-Blair has outplayed the five-man unit with Dalembert in place of Blair (net rating of +7.1 with Blair, compared to +3.8 with Dalembert), though that comparison is muddied by the fact that portions of it came with Blair entering from the bench … thus allowing Carlisle the freedom to do as we describe above, orchestrating when to unleash Blair to favorable match-ups.
And, you can use numbers to suggest Blair is more beneficial to the team from the bench (see above).
This also isn't fully on Carlisle, who must figure out how to work Wright into the equation, and can't simply gift minutes to Dalembert. It's a tough situation, but one we hope can resolve itself with Blair once more being an anchor from the bench.
DONUT 10: Mavsellaneous …
*For the first time this season, the Mavs lost a game in which they led by double digits at the end of the first quarter. They had been 5-0.
*For the first time this season, the Mavs lost when Monta Ellis had seven-or-more assists … they had been 8-0 in such instances.
*The Mavs have now gone on to lose games in which they led by 17, 18 and now 19.
*Dallas has not played well this year when Marion and Carter have shared the court. For the season, they are the Mavs worst two-man lineup with a total raw plus/minus of -103, including being -19 against Toronto (the game's worst) … of duo's that have shared the court for at least 100 minutes (34 total), it also ranks as the team's worst: -14.8 points per 48 minutes.
*Dirk finished with five assists. The sixth time this season he's had at least five assists … this is his most since he did so seven times in the 2010-11 season.
DONUT 11: Off the floor ...
Dallas won't be getting backcourt help from Devin Harris any time soon.
He's experienced an injury setback ... but not with the surgically-repaired toe that has sidelined him all season. He's now hobbled by the third metatarsal of his left foot (as opposed to the second metatarsal that was operated on in July)
Devin actually views this as good news because it isn't a re-injury. But that goal of being back by Christmas is now gone, and Dallas isn't talking very optimistically about a real deadline.
"Right now we're kind of in the wait-and-see department, kind of see when that will calm down," Harris said. "That's when I'll resume activities."
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
Put as simply as possible, this was a game the Mavs had to win. They didn't. A 19-point lead became a one-point loss on the opening night of a back-to-back.
"We shoulda had this game,'' Marion said. "I can't believe we lost this game.''
Dallas now heads to Phoenix to face a Suns team riding the high of overcoming a 21-point deficit to win in Denver, and winners of six of their last seven games.
In a flash, one loss can become two … 15-10 can become 15-12.
This loss hurts. The Mavs must now stop the bleeding on the second night of a back-to-back against a surging team with Dirk, Monta and Marion having all played over 40 minutes.
What appeared to be a schedule win became a loss … now, what looks to be a schedule loss in Phoenix, must become a win.