DONUT 1: The foreword ...
The unfurling of time can reek of distortion, tainted by its cruel marriage to emotion ... the acceleration of excitement or joy and the slowing crawl of pain and disappointment. For example: the NBA's last two champions, the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat, met Tuesday night to open the post-All-Star-Break portion of the season.
As fresh as the memories may seem at times, as wide as the chasm between that memory and this moment can seem, the dichotomy of both time and emotion, the paradox, rings true … just as it does in the divergent paths of these two teams, too distant to be rivals, too intertwined to be "just another game."
With a 14-0 run in the fourth, keyed by the best player on the planet, LeBron James (setting his season high for the second time this season against the Mavs, 42 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two steals), Miami dominated the final frame as Dallas fell apart on its way to a 117-106 loss.
Dallas won 10 straight regular season matchups with the Heat after the Finals loss in 2006. Miami has now taken six straight from the Mavs since Game 6 in Miami.
DONUT 2: The Final Quarter...
The Mavs led by one after three quarters. They had survived a first half that saw them shoot 14.2 percentage points worse than the Heat, get outscored 34-22 in the paint, 17-6 on the break and 14-4 on points off of turnovers.
In the third quarter, Dallas more than doubled-up Miami on the glass (13-to-6, including 6-to-2 on offensive boards) and won the period 31-24, taking a one-point lead into the fourth.
Early on in the final period, the Mavs continued to show dominance on the glass, including a possession that included four offensive rebounds before being capped by a pair of Devin Harris free throws that put Dallas up 87-86 with 10:39 to play.
A few minutes later, with 7:47 to go, Vince Carter used a four-point play to push the lead to 95-92 … and then the wheels came off.
Miami scored 14 straight points, a run ended with 2:29 to play when Samuel Dalembert split a pair of free throws.
As a whole, the numbers in the fourth were ugly … such as five turnovers in a 2:24 span (8:24 to 6:00 remaining) that significantly changed the feel of the game.
After the Carter four-point play, they were something worse.
The numbers for the final 7:40:
|FG||FGA||FG%||Reb||TOs||Pts off TOs||Points|
As many turnovers as made field goals for the Mavs is generally a path to self destruction … as it was here.
Giving up eight points off of three turnovers in the deciding frame of the game, the definition of "catastrophic" turnovers.
"They are a team that takes advantage of those and they make you pay an exponential price,'' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "That's what happened in the fourth quarter.''
Here's Dirk's Video Visit on the turnovers, the challenge, and LeBron:
DONUT 3: Buried ...
Lost beneath the outcome and the personal brilliance of LeBron's performance, were strong performances from Dirk Nowitzki and Devin Harris.
Dirk flirted with the third triple-double of his career, finishing with 22 points (7-of-14 field goals), nine rebounds and seven assists in just over 36 minutes.
Devin played limited minutes, but may have been the most impactful of the Dallas guards, finishing with nine points, five assists and four rebounds … though he also bookended the stretch of five turnovers in the fourth, giving away the first and fifth.
As much as the results of 2011 may have dulled the ache, for one of them, it's impossible to say this is just another game for the two guys on this roster that were there for the pain of 2006 … not matter how much the names on the back have changed, the name on the front has stayed the same.
DONUT 4: The Silver Linings, but not really …...
When these two teams played in November, Dallas lost by six, but the Heat had the most steals of any team this season, 19, and the Mavs totaled 24 turnovers, only three fewer than the league high this season (per Basketball-Reference.com).
This time around, the Mavs had "only" 16 turnovers, though it again led to 24 points for the Heat.
Ok, you're right. That's not really a silver lining.
Another silver-lining search: Coach Rick Carlisle on Dallas' heart being in the right place:
DONUT 5: The Whispers ...
Before the game, NBA writer Alex Kennedy tweeted: "Earlier, I tweeted that the Mavs are kicking the tires. I'm told that Dallas has been gauging interest in Shawn Marion and Shane Larkin."
We know this to be true because the Mavs, like every other team, are "kicking the tires'' on everything. (See below for stuff on Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo and more.) The odds are that this amounts to nothing, but seeing Shawn Marion have one of his worst games of the season won't help silence the whispers prevalent this time of year, and the wonder if some of them may have made their way to Marion's ear.
‘Trix finished with seven points, 3-of-9 field goals, seven rebounds, one steal and tied a season high with four turnovers.
In the third quarter, with the Mavs up one, Monta Ellis attacked the rim and made a nice pass to Marion, providing an open look at the rim. Marion missed the attempt, second later LeBron was on the break draining an uncontested 3-pointer to put Miami up two … a five-point swing that shifted the lead from one team to the other, and a moment that seemed to typify Marion's night.
Of course, there's also that LeBron James guy ... and that is likely explanation enough for Marion's game.
Shawn's Video Visit:
DONUT 6: Rebounding Unbound ...
Entering Tuesday night, NBA teams had been 25-2 when outrebounding their opponent by 20 or more.
The Mavs dominated the glass, 50-28, easily their best margin of the season … so make that 25-3.
Dallas has been at the deficit end of this differential (20+) three times this season, including one of the previous wins, beating New Orleans Dec. 4th despite the Pelicans posting a +20 rebounding differential.
Going back to the 1985-86 season, Dallas has outrebounded their opponent by 20 or more a total of 41 times. They are now 34-7 in those games.
This +22 was the largest positive rebounding differential for the Mavs since being +26 against the Bucks Feb. 25, 2009 … and this was the first loss when being at least +20 since a loss that helped getting blown out by the Golden State Warriors March 12, 2007. That game also ended with the Mavs outrebounding their opponent 50-28.
Said Carlisle: "Miami's rebounding numbers are never good because they play small. They are a minus-7 per game team that is winning at a 75-percent clip. They are a bit of an outlier that way. But they have great skill guys and they have LeBron James, who is as great as there is in this game today.''
DONUT 7: Mavsellaneous ...
*The Mavs are now 3-10 when Marion shoots 33.3 percent or lower.
They are 5-10 when Vince Carter (2-of-9 field goals for 15 points, seven rebounds) hits 30.0 percent or fewer of his shots.
Dallas is now 1-3 when both of these happen in the same game.
*Since winning the Finals in 2011, Dallas is now 0-6 against the Heat with an average margin of defeat of 12.3 points … only being within single digits once, that six-point loss earlier this season.
*The highlight reel featuring some TNT nonsense:
*We scanned the population of the AAC on Tuesday and really had no idea there'd been such a migration of South Floridians to North Texas. Welcome to town, Heat faithful!
*We spent some time visiting with Jason Witten and family, which was later joined by Tony Romo. Other Dallas Cowboys in the audience included DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant -- to whom LeBron flashed the "X'' (a Dez favorite) while leaving the court.
LeBron is, of course, a Cowboys fan.
Oh, Pamela Anderson was in the building, too.
*Before the game, Carlisle was asked who'd be on his "NBA Mount Rushmore.''
"Other than Nowitzki?'' Rick replied.
*The Mavs' magic defensive number is 50 ... Where Dallas is in the standings right now ... More impressions from inside the AAC ... Check out First Impressions here ... and also get registered for your free membership on DB.com Boards!
DONUT 8: Plus/Minus World ...
Three Mavs starters had a plus/minus of -20 or worse: Jose Calderon and Ellis were each -20. Marion was -21.
The other two starters each had a positive plus/minus: Dirk +7 and Samuel Dalembert +1.
In a single game, this doesn't necessarily mean much … but that doesn't mean it's not a little interesting in the oddity of it.
DONUT 9: King James ...
After the game, LeBron said, "The Mavericks are probably the reason why I am who I am today."
Is there some solace to be found in that?
"Good for him,'' said Dirk, unimpressed.
LeBron's 42 points are the most he's scored since putting up 43 against Atlanta, March 18, 2011.
Said Rick: "He was great. He was great in all areas. He is great and we know he is great.''
Now, not everything else Miami did was the height of class ...
DONUT 10: Trade-deadline giggles ...
The Mavs are in the middle of exploring all possibilities as the Thursday NBA trade deadline approaches ... and, if you believe the owner, are in the middle of giggling at others.
"Of course,'' Mavs owner Mark Cuban said Tuesday evening when asked if he's amused by trade rumors. "I know what we're talking about and what we're not talking about. We take pride in the fact that we never read about our deals before they happen, so if you read about them then you know what that means."
That is Mark's standard line at this time of year and represents an admirable goal. But know this, too: If the Mavs aren't calling Minnesota, just for an in-case check-in on the availability of superstar Kevin Love, Cuban and his staff aren't doing their jobs.
So they explore ... and we talk about the details -- however remote -- that would have to take place for this virtually impossible Love dream.
Cuban said he "didn't read anything (about the Love rumor).'' But I promise you the Mavs, as an organization, know all about it. ... including knowing all about how difficult such a swap would be.
"Teams value picks a whole lot more than they used to,'' said Cuban in explaining why he believes no superstar deal will be engineered by the deadline. "Teams now value receiving picks a whole lot more than they used to. I think they'd rather not do a deal than do a deal without picks and I think that could lead to more action during free agency. Teams have sort of defined their strategy during free agency where either you went all-in and the team you got is the team you got, or you go all-under with young players and you're mining for draft picks…
"And then there's teams like us that are looking to make deals, are flexible, but aren't willing to give up picks,'' Cuban said. "It's not gonna happen anyway because no one is giving up a superstar for one or two first-round picks and we're not giving up first-round picks."
Especially because ... ahem ... Dallas doesn't exactly have first-round picks to give.
So ... Love to Dallas?
DONUT 11: Bad Vibrations ...
"The Beach Boys are, in a couple months," joked Cuban, referencing the fact that Kevin is the nephew of Mike Love, a founder of the band that will indeed play in Dallas in the spring.
Meanwhile, we've got the latest on another relative fantasy ...
Dallas' interest in Boston's Rajon Rondo. Back on June 29, as we reported exclusively at the time, Dallas and Boston engaged in trade conversations regarding Rondo. Fast-forward to today and a throwaway line in an NBA article that grabs your attention: the Kings are taking a big swing at Rondo.
Are there really any Mavs possibilities here? We take a look at Rondo's situation and what it all means to Dallas here.
Is there a sensible trade that Dallas can make? Here's we've got our "Amateur GM'' piece on a smart way to acquire Anderson Varejao. And here, our exclusive visits with Houston GM Daryl Morey and Dallas GM Donnie Nelson on the subject of available center Omer Asik.
"We've got two days, we'll see what happens,'' Cuban said. "It's usually pretty hard to predict."
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
If this was a litmus test, there are two points of view that may be taken. One, Dallas was right there for three quarters and shot themselves in the foot in the final quarter with a string of turnovers and sloppy play. Or two, the fourth quarter showed the rather significant gap that still separates a team of Miami's caliber from what the Mavs currently are.
In the end, perhaps this series is nothing more than the team whose ghosts have the loudest voice, stand closest to the deepest of pain. Right now, only two-and-a-half seasons removed from the Big Three's lone playoff disappointment, that haunt is freshest, more ingrained with them.
Or, to borrow from Dirk's description of the fourth quarter, perhaps we saw nothing more than the separation between a "great" and "good" team.