Mavs All-Access Monday Donuts

'We’re moving gradually in the right direction,' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle says, but I think he's being modest. A win in Cleveland puts Dallas at 25-10, and with a game in Brooklyn tonight, the Mavs' learning curve is starting to look like a speed bump. Mavs Donuts!



DONUT 1: Mavs, 109, Cleveland 90

There’s no way to get around this, LeBron James is clearly ducking the Dallas Mavericks and that’s why he faked his knee/lower back combo platter of ailments to sit out two weeks.

No, I don’t actually believe that but it is fun to think about how the 2011 Finals still haunts the best basketball player in the world. (Anderson Varejao is just ducking life in general.)

This game was a snoozer in general and that’s why I’m killing time racking up this word count (already at like 50 now). The Mavericks are now tied for the longest winning streak in the NBA at five (Detroit has straight gone bananas since dumping Josh Smith. Who could have guessed?) and are tied for the best record in the last 10 games in the West. I for one did not see that coming. But, a 109-90 thumping of the LeBron-less Cleveland Cavaliers, yeah I kind of saw that coming.



The Cavs were playing without the savior and their center (who had become a way too critical piece to their equation). Nonetheless, you have to kick the dog when they’re down and the Mavericks did just that to share a tie for the top spot in the Southwest Division. Tell me who predicted that after getting blown out by Phoenix last Tuesday.

"We wanted all the games on this trip, so I think that’s how we approached it: no letdowns,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “I think in my career we lost numerous games when the best player of the other team was out, so I think we were all focused.''

DONUT 2: Dirk looks

The best things the Mavericks did in the first quarter was getting this little-known power forward Dirk Nowitzki loose for a few looks. They opened the game with a Dirk iso against Kevin Love and it felt like many more long-range layups were on the way. The entire offense was flexin' in the first half (55 percent) but Dirk was especially nasty, knocking down 5 of 7 for 10 points as the bench got the early signal that they’d have a busy night.

I quite literally had to check the boxscore to make sure that Dirk had missed a shot in the first half. Either it’s from Dirk or just an overall gameplan to get Dirk more shots in the first half ... it’s happening.

He’s been averaging 8.7 field goals in the first half as compared to 7.2 field goals before the last three games.

Smile

So, I had a weird moment where I feel completely connected to another human Sunday afternoon. I was at a burger/bar place (it wasn’t The Maverick Bar but yes go there and spend one thousand dollars) having lunch watching the Mavericks game and pre-gaming for that whole Cowboys playoff experience that was coming down the tracks. A family sat down in the booth next to where my girlfriend and myself were sitting and their youngest son (maybe 7 or 8 years old) demanded that the server put the Mavs game on the closest TV. My entire attention was now on this table and whether or not the server could execute this request and why the little boy was interested in this game. After a few minutes of fumbling with the remote and trying channel 1753 (Uverse for FSSW) and then 615 (nothing for nothing) they eventually realized it was channel 676 and thus the magic of a Sunday afternoon Maverick game was upon us.

I was fixated on the little boy and his reactions. After a few moments he stopped destroying his burger to look up and as he fist pumped with a mouth full of cheeseburger (likely the very plain kind that kids like) he said “Yes, Dirk scored.”

I’ve constantly worried about whether or not my favorite player would translate to the next generation or if I’d someday be standing there telling you your dude ain’t shit compared to Dirty Dirk Nowitzki like Homer Simpson’s dad here in about 20 years.

Dirk is now 13 points away from passing Moses Malone for seventh on the all-time scoring list. There will probably never be another like him. But there will be generations of little kids who admire him. Good.

DONUT 3: Silly CP

It’s hard to tell but if you squint you can notice Chandler Parsons on another one of those silly runs that he’s goes on. It’s not quite as nasty as that eight-game run he had right before the Rondo trade, but in his last five he’s shooting 57 percent from the field with 46 percent from three. It’s just not all "up in your face'' because he’s only averaging 16 points per game. ... but it's there.

When he did get matched up against Matt Dellavedova, he took advantage, flooring the ball to the basket. Sunday he started off ugly but ended up with a respectable line despite not playing a single minute in the fourth. Parsons recovered from missing his first two shots in rough fashion to finish the game 5 of 11 with 14 points. He was just one of six Mavericks in double figures.

DONUT 4: Made him work

After an extended holiday vacation Al-Farouq Aminu played more minutes Sunday than he did in the previous eight games combined. Maybe Rick heard me (doubtful). But it’s still good to see the young fella contributing off the bench. On most nights I don’t need buckets from Aminu. Just some rebounding and a little defense. In the second half he made Kevin Love work on his way to 30 points and 10 boards as he went 3 for 8 with only two rebounds. He’s versatile and doesn’t require any kind of offensive attention so it’s incredibly confusing to me why he can’t get minutes in certain games.

DONUT 5: RJ? No complains

There was a special moment had by all when Rajon Rondo pulled up in transition and led Richard Jefferson with a pass as he filled the lane and then Jefferson took exactly eight steps proceeding to approach the official with a look like “What? I’ve seen the kids do that Eurostep thing!” All jokes aside, Jefferson scored in double digits again which just happens to be a thing now. Twenty-plus minutes a night probably isn’t how you draw it up but at least he’s been serviceable. In the last five Jefferson has averaged 8.2 points in 21.7 minutes of play, shooting 62.5 percent from the field. There’s not much for me to complain about if he’s not really missing.

DONUT 6: Hello, Trix

It’s a little sad to realize that Sunday marked Shawn Marion’s season-high in points with 13. In the second quarter he proved that he can still make savvy cuts to the basket and knock down layups as he hit four different attempts for nine points while an array of Mavericks forgot where he was.

Smile

But no worries, Trix. We know where you are and who you are and we'll always remember.

DONUT 7: Thank you, Mr. Rondo

Sunday was the first time that Rajon Rondo had more assists than shots taken as a Maverick. And, everything went swimmingly.

Rondo had his typical little flurry of making a jumper followed by trying another hey-why-not jumper. The funny thing was that the first make was a bank off the window that wasn’t supposed to be a bank.

We all know that’s not why Rondo was acquired. He was brought in to help with our ever-growing disaster that was perimeter defense. Is it working? In the last four games the Mavericks have limited Russell Westbrook to 6 of 23 shooting, kept John Wall in check at 11 points and made Kyrie Irving a non-factor with only six points on 2 of 9 shooting.

The Dallas Mavericks thank you, Mr. Rondo.

DONUT 8: Hot garbage

Just judging from all the Mavericks games I’ve seen the last few years, Dion Waiters is the worst player that has ever lived. He’s now shooting 30 percent from the field and 18 percent in his career against the Mavericks. Just for fun he’s shooting 60 percent on his free throws against the Mavs. I don’t know if he’s being haunted by the ghost of J.R. Ewing or what’s going on but he is absolute hot garbage against the Mavs. This was no different on Sunday, with him shooting 4 of 14 for eight points.

DONUT 9: Picking nits

I really don’t want to pick nits but I’m not sure what Devin Harris’ role is anymore.

J.J. Barea has been playing phenomenally in the backup point guard role and it seems Devin is only out there to shoot end-of-quarter three-pointers (which he’s not that great at). I’m not saying bench Devin but if there’s another trade to be made for more bench muscle ... might we see it happen with Devin Harris?

Rondo and Barea can more than handle the point guard minutes and during the third quarter Monta is typically the primary ball-handler anyway. Devin just hasn’t been playing well and his minutes have been shrinking and that one thing we relied on him for (perimeter defense) isn’t quite the sinkhole that it used to be. If the Mavericks are going to make a substantial move in terms of their bench front court ... well, check back with us here.

DONUT 10: Agitating garbage

Much respect to the Mavericks for not punching Matt Dellevadova straight in the face. That guy looks annoying from a camera shot 50-200 feet away. Can't imagine being on the same court. In the third quarter he was having the game of his life as he drew a bullsh foul on Monta and then hit a three. I would have suplexed him into his next overseas contract. He’s just the most agitating garbage player of the season by far.

DONUT 11: That speed bump

I most definitely was the guy preaching patience with this Rondo move and I do still believe there will be a lapse in time before they’re playing their best basketball. But if they can reel off five straight victories against teams like OKC, Washington and Cleveland, then the learning curve might be more of an exaggerated hill. A speed bump.

Rondo is fitting in well on the offensive end and by that I mean staying out of the way (unless he’s playing Boston) and has an offensive rating of 109.8 in his last eight games (all with Dallas). His assist percentage is down by eight percent but that’s too be expected with a team that thirsts for the open shot the way the Mavericks do with their ball movement. His net rating of +14.5 is just astonishing. I for one expected all this to take longer and would have been satisfied if the Mavericks were just 10 or so games over .500 when the calendar struck February. Instead, he's helping them have an opportunity to be better, sooner.

He and the 25-10 Mavs take another crack at the East tonight in Brooklyn. (That's at East. Where Dallas is 10-0.) Fish and the "Mavs Live'' crew start you off at 6 p.m. on FOX Sports Southwest.

DONUT 12: The Final Word

I might start doing this thing where I leave you with a song I was listening to over and over while I was writing. Here goes:



OK, a more traditional quote, too:

“We’re moving gradually in the right direction.” - Mavs coach Rick Carlisle.


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