All-Access Pass: Mavs 124, Cavs 107
Setting the table ...
Two days of rest for the Dallas Mavericks had given the Memphis Grizzlies time to ride their 11-1 hot streak, including six straight wins, into the eighth seed in the Western Conference by percentage points ahead of the Mavs, but a Memphis loss to OKC Monday night and a visit from the Cleveland Cavaliers set the table for a quick reversal in the standings.
The last time the Mavs and Cavs met, Dallas squandered a 24-point lead before putting the game away late. Perhaps there was a moment of worry as Shawn Marion was forced to miss the game with that bothersome right shoulder; there needn't have been.
The Mavs dominated in almost every facet of the game before widening the scoreboard gap in the third quarter and never allowing the lead to sink beneath double digits in the fourth on their way to their fourth biggest margin of victory this season, 124-107 … moving back into the eighth seed, the matchup with Memphis looming Wednesday.
The coach's Video Visit ...
But for a change, let's hear from the opposing coach ... Cleveland's Mike Brown with the eval:
Dynamic Duo: Starter's Edition …
*Dirk Nowitzki: 23 points, eight rebounds, two assists, 9-of-16 field goals, 3-of-5 3-pointers and two turnovers.
*Monta Ellis: 22 points, seven assists, 8-of-12 field goals, 2-of-3 3-pointers, two steals, one block and six turnovers.
Of the numbers above, Ellis's turnovers may be the first to jump out at you. Six certainly isn't a favorable count, but if your focus lingers too long there you miss what was actually a strong, efficient game, including some timely baskets to squash attempted Cavs runs.
We're not condoning the turnovers, that total must come down, only noting that it was not exactly representative of how Ellis played.
There is one number not included above that may be as important as any that are: minutes.
Dirk checked out for his usual rest with 6:53 to play in the fourth and the Mavs up 11. Thirty seconds later the lead was down to 10, but then quickly pushed to hover around the 16-to-17 point region … and Dirk was allowed to sit and rest through it all, his night done, his rest begun.
Nowitzki played 29:34.
Ellis played 33:43.
Each about three minutes below their average.
As significant as the minutes is the fact that Dallas denied the late push from the Cavs, never letting their lead be whittled down to the point that confidence could blossom in a team on their way to their fifth straight loss.
"It's like a gift,'' Dirk said of his late-game rest. "It really is.''
Dirk's Video Visit ...
Dynamic Duo: Bench Edition …
*Devin Harris: 16 points (a season high), four assists, 4-of-8 field goals, 2-of-3 3-pointers, 6-of-6 free throws and one turnover.
*Brandan Wright: 14 points, seven rebounds, including four on the offensive end, 4-of-7 field goals, 6-of-7 free throws, one steal and one turnover.
These two alone outscored the Cleveland bench, 30-23 … as whole, the Mavs' bench scored 42.
Devin Harris continued to cement his place as a dynamic addition to the guard rotation, scoring at least 14 points and converting 50-percent or more of his shot attempts for the fourth time in the last five games.
Over the last two contests, Wright has shown a heightened level of activity on the boards. For the seventh time in his career he had at least seven rebounds in consecutive games, and for only the second time had at least four offensive rebounds in consecutive efforts.
It's hard not to like that.
Devin's Video Visit ...
Dynamic Duo: Because There's More Edition …
*Samuel Dalembert: 18 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, 7-of-8 field goals, 4-of-4 free throws and no turnovers.
*Jose Calderon: 11 points, 10 assists, 4-of-7 field goals, 3-of-5 3-pointers and one turnover.
We can clamor all we want over the importance of Dalembert to this roster, to this team's hopes, but ultimately, it's up to him to earn his minutes.
"He's proven that he can take us to a higher level," Rick Carlisle said of Dalembert, "and tonight he did. Down the stretch, he's a presence at both ends … we just got to keep reinforcing that we need him to do."
This is only the second time Dalembert has scored in double digits in his last 29 games, only the third time in the last 34 he's totaled at least eight rebounds.
You can make the argument that his fluctuating minutes are certainly a factor in this, but must also then concede that his inconsistent minutes are a direct result of the effort Carlisle sees from him … apathy breeds disappointment, and vice versa. ...
In his first 18 games, Dalembert averaged 23.8 minutes, scored in double digits six times and grabbed at least nine rebounds seven times.
In his last 29 games, he's averaged 17.4 minutes, scored in double digits twice and grabbed nine-or-more rebounds once.
As Monday night showed, effort and success bring minutes, regardless of how well the other centers are playing.
The lesson is there to be learned, the opportunity waiting to be capitalized upon.
This marked Calderon's first double-double as a member of the Mavs, and the second time he's posted double digits in assists.
Calderon also ended a mini-slump from the previous two games, when he'd been 8-of-26 from the floor and 3-of-13 behind the arc.
The Time is Now …
Dallas must feed now on the opportunities the schedules presents, as those "should-be" feasts are soon to grow few and far between.
Including Monday night's matchup with the Cleveland, the Mavs have 12 games in February, five against teams that entered Monday night seeded in the top eight in either conference, otherwise known as playoff teams.
Two of those five come against teams with lower winning percentages than Dallas: the Charlotte Bobcats (21-28) and Chicago Bulls (23-23) … arguably meaning nine of the 12 games in February could be classified as "should win," or very "winnable" at the least.
The three that may fall outside of that?
Two are against the best the East has to offer: the Indiana Pacers (37-10) and Miami Heat (34-13), the other of the five "playoff" squads is Memphis (though, now technically the ninth seed after their loss and the Dallas win).
Then things get rougher … a lot rougher.
In March, the Mavs have 14 games, eight against playoff teams (entering Monday, as defined above). Of those eight only Brooklyn (21-25) has a worse record than the Mavs, and five come against the league's best five teams, including: the Spurs, Blazers, Pacers and Thunder (twice).
The Mavs will also face Denver twice (22-23) and Minnesota (23-24), leaving only Utah, Boston and the Kings as the supposedly "easy" games … and those three franchises are 2-1 against Dallas to this point.
Relative to March, April sees some softening, but is far from easy.
Dallas has eight games in the month, five against teams that entered Monday as "playoff" teams, all five with better records than the Mavs and one versus a member of the league's top four: the Spurs.
Put simply: the Mavs must take advantage of their February schedule to allow for some cushion come March and April.
"It is really serious now,'' Dalembert said. "So we want to get as many wins as we can get before the All-Star break."
Our 'Win The Dirk-Signed MFFL Choas Card' Drawing …
We own them. Dirk has signed them for DallasBasketball.com. And we're giving them to you.
Your entry in the Nowitzki autograph giveaway is a simple process: You only need to be a member of DB.com Boards (it's free) and then post in this thread a quick thought about Dirk. ... and your T-shirt size.
Shortly after the All-Star Game, we will randomly draw two winners ... and you'll get the "Uberman'' T-shirt (long-ago endorsed by Nowitzki himself as "very cool'') and the almost-one-of-a-kind Dirk-signed MFFL "Choas'' Conduct Card.
If you are a newcomer or if you already a member of DB.com Boards, of course, you are eligible either way ... simply post a quick thought and a shirt size (and any other Dirk/Mavs-related gibberish you find entertaining) and you are registered!
*The 17-point margin of victory tied for the fourth largest of the season for Dallas. The top of that list includes wins of 22 against Chicago, 19 against the Lakers and Magic and 17 against the Pelicans.
*The disparity in field-goal percentage was the fifth largest on the positive side for Dallas this season. Dallas had a 55.0 field-goal percentage. Cleveland hit 46.3 percent.
Dallas is 13-0 when shooting at least five percentage points above their opponent … so, maybe the defense doesn't have to be great, just solid in comparison with their offensive performance.
Said Devin: "Offensively, we are gifted. But we have to step it up defensively.''
*The Mavs had a +14 rebounding differential, their second best of the season. Their best was +15 against the Lakers back on Nov. 5, 2013.
Dallas is now 11-4 when they match or exceed their opponents on the boards.
*This was the third consecutive game the Mavs totaled exactly 50 points in the paint. They average 41.8 per game.
The official highlight reel ...
Mavs Quoteboard ...
We've got more from the Dallas locker room in Mavs Quoteboard and of course, discussion about it all on DB.com Boards.
Vote on "The Dirkie'' ...
It's a Mavs fan tradition: Your chance to vote for Player of the Game ... Who Deserves "The Dirkie''?
The Final Word ...
If the Mavs are to make a playoff push not dependent on the failures of other teams, February will have to be a significant success. A 17-point win over a team in disarray, a team they should beat, is a nice start … but it's only a first step.
Heading to Memphis to take on the surging Grizzlies, still 11-2 in their last 13 after a loss Monday night to the Thunder, playing without their starting point guard, Mike Conley, does not fall into that "should-win" category … but it may just be edging into the realm of "need-to-win" …
Brandan Wright is ready to preview it right now:
It's worth noting that Dallas already holds the tiebreaker with Memphis, should it come to that. But that's a back-of-mind thing. It's more worth noting that Wright (and other Mavs) are quickly turning their attention to the next task.
The playoff push, if there is to be one, begins now.
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