DONUT 1: Setting the table …
The Dallas Mavericksentered Saturday night winners of four of their last five games. Portland arrived with a four-game winning streak. Both were playing on the second night of a back-to-back. If the season ended Saturday afternoon, this would have been a matchup of first-round playoff opponents, the Trailblazers as the second seed, the Mavs as the seventh.
Before the tip, the buzz in Dallas revolved around the return of Devin Harris. By the end of the first quarter, any emotional lift this provided was gone, replaced by the somber tone of a blowout loss.
The Mavs entered halftime with their biggest deficit at an intermission this season, 19, and only watched the night slide further and further away in the third, trailing by as much as 36. The Dallas bench made a respectable push in the final period to close the gap to 14, forcing the Blazers to reinsert their starters, before the Mavs succumbed to the inevitable, a 127-111 loss.
DONUT 2: Welcome Back, Devin Harris …
After missing the first 41 games of the season, with 3:22 to play in the first, Devin Harris made his debut for the Mavericks … again … to a nice ovation from the home crowd and even hit a buzzer-beater to close the opening quarter.
No longer a fifth-overall pick making his first acquaintances with the NBA, Harris took the court as a veteran expected to make an immediate impact.
For a player who is coming off missing 41 games and all of the preseason, perhaps these expectations aren't exactly fair … especially as he must become acclimated with an entirely unfamiliar roster -- Dirk Nowitzki being the sole holdover from Harris's first stint in Dallas -- as they, in turn, become comfortable with him.
If there is a silver lining, if we really want to stretch for such a notion after a blowout loss, perhaps it's that Harris was able to gather some minutes, take a baby step closer to returning to "basketball shape."
With time, Harris should be a very nice addition, a player capable of easing the burden on Monta Ellis's shoulders (see more on that burden below: minutes, miles) and adding a veteran presence with the ability to help Dallas at both ends of the court.
"He's worked hard," Rick Carlisle said of Harris, "and he did well considering this is the first game and it's been months and it's a major surgery. It speaks to how hard he's worked, and this game gave us an opportunity to get him some, I think, what would be considered at this point extended minutes … He's a guy that can help us for sure."
Harris finished with six points and two assists in 17:24.
For more on Devin's night, read here.
It's step one … a step we're glad has finally been taken.
DONUT 3: Wrong mismatches …
Let us begin by making it clear that not one word of this is meant to disparage Shawn Marion. Hopefully, we've made our appreciated of all things Marion clear enough already.
Marion is a special defender, a special player. He's a whirlwind of awkward releases and swiping hands at the end of long, cleverly deployed arms, an intelligent player capable of hurting opponents in as many ways as almost any other … ever.
Even so, he's a 35-year-old athlete best suited for the small or power forward positions, and Saturday night, he was asked to begin the game defending a 23-year-old point guard overflowing with quickness and offensive ability in Damian Lillard.
It's not a fair proposition for Marion. That isn't to say he doesn't embrace the idea, the challenge. We're sure he does. But, it's too much to ask for more than short bursts, especially if you also expect him to be his usual opportunistic self at the offensive end (note Marion was 1-of-6 from the floor for three points and three rebounds).
Against the Blazers, this is only compounded by forcing Jose Calderon to enter into his own mismatch against someone almost half a foot taller, in Nicolas Batum … and, not surprisingly, it was Batum that stormed from the gate, leading all scorers with 15 points in the first quarter.
In essence, Dallas may be creating two mismatches rather than living with one … while also pulling one of their better rebounders further from the rim.
DONUT 4: The tale of rest …
On the second night of back-to-backs, Dallas is 5-6.
The Mavs have now played eight games in the last 12 days (a 5-3 record), including a four-in-five-nights stretch, and are tied with Washington Wizards for the most games played in the NBA since Dec. 26th (14), also tying the Wizards for the most games played in 2014, 11 in 18 days.
This is a team littered with veterans, four with more than a decade of NBA experience and five of at least 32 years of age, all five falling in the top six in minutes played on this roster, exceeded only by 28-year-old Monta Ellis, who had played the second-most minutes in the NBA and covered the second most distance on the court (105.5 miles, per the SportsVU tracker, prior to Saturday's contest). On a team whose numbers seem to directly correlate to how much rest they've had, this is a significant.
DONUT 5: The "rest" numbers …
Entering Saturday night, the numbers for the Mavs in relation to the amount of rest prior to a game (excluding the opener, which falls into the "6+ Days of Rest" category):
|Rest||Record||FG%||O. Rating||D. Rating||Reb%||+/-|
As you may expect, the trend is blatantly obvious in every category: the more rest they have, the better this team is offensively, on the boards and defensively.
With a noon start looming for Monday afternoon in Cleveland (Fish and the gang starts on FOX Sports Southwest at 11:30 a.m.), packing three full games within a 72-hour window, rest is a commodity this team has been largely without for almost a month.
But, perhaps there's a bit of good news on the horizon. Their next back-to-back isn't until Feb. 11-12, just before the All-Star break, with their following game not coming until Feb. 16th. January 27-28 will be their first consecutive days of rest since Dec. 24-25.
DONUT 6: Fighting for time …
With Harris returning, there is still room for Shane Larkin to get minutes, though they're likely to come at the end of a much shorter leash. Friday night, on the eve of Devin's return, Larkin had his best game in the NBA. Saturday, he didn't match that level of output, but did have a solid performance and was the point guard on the floor when the Mavs made their fourth-quarter push.
"The guys that were in there in the fourth quarter really fought … you know, I'm going to find guys that will fight and get them in the game," Carlisle said. "Simple as that."
There is a space for Larkin. He just has to continue to show he deserves to fill it.
In 23:17, Larkin finished with nine points, four assists, one steal and only one turnover.
The fight for minutes is on, and Larkin still has a place at the table. Now, he just has to show he belongs consistently … it's as simply as that.
DONUT 7: What was bad, was really bad …
"The first three quarters," Carlisle said when asked about the team's defense, "really beyond embarrassing and we were poor on offense too. We weren't together. We weren't playing together. We weren't helping each other … other than saying ‘beyond embarrassing,' I don't know what else to say."
After three, the Mavs were down 104-70 and had been almost doubled up on the glass: 45-23.
It was ugly. It was embarrassing. It was a good ol'-fashioned ass kickin'. It looked like this:
For the first time this season, Dallas was down by 30-or-more after three quarters.
For the second time in four days, the Mavs allowed 70-or-more points in the first half … not since the 1999-2000 campaign has this franchise allowed this to happen more than once in the same season.
DONUT 8: Like we said, really bad …
And the rebounding … was worse.
The final rebounding differential (-25) was the worst of the season, and the worst since Dallas was also -25 against Chicago Nov. 19, 2010 … and only the 14th time since the 1985-86 season the Mavs have been dominated to such a degree on the glass (per Basketball-Reference.com). Not surprisingly, Dallas has been 0-14 in those games.
Only one team has had a worse rebounding differential this season. The Knicks were -27 against Memphis Dec. 21st.
DONUT 9: Mavsellaneous (don't look if you have a weak stomach) …
*Never has this franchise allowed 70-point first halves closer than six days apart (happening once in 1980 and once in 1981). They allowed the Clippers to score 72 Jan. 15th and now the Blazers with 71 on Jan. 18th … two days between.
*Dallas is now 4-8 when opponents hit at least 50 percent of their shots.
*With only 15, Dallas has their second lowest assists total of the season … only fairing worse when they had 13 in a loss to the Knicks Jan. 5th.
*Portland had 31 fastbreak points, tying for the most the Mavs have allowed this season.
*For the second time in the last three games (Clippers), Dallas allowed 22 second-chance points … their third highest number allowed this season.
*Led by their reserves, the Mavs won the fourth quarter 41-23 … and still lost by 16. That's just so … ugly.
*And, one positive note: Shawn Marion started his 1,000th game (though he's played in 1,068, he has now started 1,000).
DONUT 10: Mark Cuban "speaks his mind" …
The NBA announced that Mark Cuban was fined $100,000 for confronting game officials and directing inappropriate language towards them after the Clippers game, Jan. 15th.
Cuban responded to the fine with a series of tweets:
*"Just got word that I got fined 100k for speaking my mind to the officials after our game with the clippers. #moretocome"
*"I will donate an equal amount to charity. But Im going to wait till iget 2mm followers. And if you email me you are not eligible."
*"I couldn't let the commish go without a proper farewell. Its been a fun 14 years of trying to create change and donating to the donut fund !"
For a second there, when Cuban said "Donuts,'' we were hoping he was talking about donating $100K to us.
DONUT 11: Dirk's Video Visit ...
DONUT 12: The Final Word …
Let's just let Carlisle's words sum this up, and hope Dallas can rebound (figuratively and literally) in Cleveland on Monday.
"The first three quarters," Carlisle said when asked about the team's defense, "really beyond embarrassing and we were poor on offense, too. We weren't together. We weren't playing together. We weren't helping each other … other than saying ‘beyond embarrassing' I don't know what else to say."