Mavs, Short-Handed, Spring A Leak In Atlanta

The Mavs tossed out a lineup in Atlanta on Wednesday that was built for concession ... but it did take awhile - and a host of storylines - before short-handed Dallas finally gave in.



Hawks 104, Mavs 87

"Im disappointed with the result but not with the effort,'' said coach Rick Carlisle of his Dallas Mavericks' 104-87 loss Wednesday at Atlanta. "In the end, we ran out of gas.''

That occurred in large part because they had so little stocked up in the beginning, with Tyson Chandler (hip), Chandler Parsons (ankle), Amare Stoudemire (rest) and most of all, Rajon Rondo (suspension) unavailable to Dallas, which lost a East road game for the first time in 17 outings.

But Carlisle's positivity is justified if you sample a handful of buy-in guys who made this thing competitive for a time (Dallas owned a 14-point lead early and a six-point edge at the half). Witness our man Mike Marshall's examination of Richard Jefferson as a Vince Carter replacement and Al-Farouq Aminu as a Shawn Marion replacement.

The thesis: A shorthanded upset can be possible if the puzzle pieces are right ... And if the puzzle pieces will assemble in an ordered fashion.

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So ... Can Richard Jefferson be Vince Carter? This year, the offensive rating for RJ (who started here and scored 10) is about the same as Vince's was, and it's happening for half the money.

And "The Chief'' vs "The Matrix? Al-Farouq (with five boards on Wednesday) has a rebound percentage and points-per-36 minutes that match what Marion did last year. And his defensive rating is a darn good 101 to Shawn's not-good 108 - again, at a sliver of the salary.

The moral to the story for Jefferson and Aminu (and starting center Bernard James with 11 rebounds and seven points, and starting point guard J.J. Barea with 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds) doesn't add up to a win here for Dallas, which slips to 39-21.

But the moral should add up for the suspended guy.

If Aminu buys in, he can be Matrix.

If Jefferson buys in, he can be Vince.

If everybody buys in, they can all be like Monta Ellis, who was the centerpiece of this effort with 19 points -- and who is also a poster guy for allowing Rick Carlisle and the Mavs Environment to mold him into something better than he ever was before.

Rick vs. Rondo isn’t about Rondo’s offense, though the double-double specialist has gone 16 games without one here and has gone 16 games since last even having double-figures in assists. Rondo is a ball-sticker. The Mavs knew than. They can work with that.

Rick vs. Rondo isn’t about Rondo’s defense, and in fact, Dallas entered Wednesday on a 13-game streak during which it owns a defensive rating of 97 and was allowing about 41-percent shooting - both top-two marks in the league. Rondo is a reason for that.

And Rick vs. Rondo isn’t about locker-room chemistry. They knew they were getting a hard nut to crack here. And we’ve seen him interact with Tyson and Jefferson and others. They’re having fun.

But Rick vs. Rondo is about one thing, and one thing only: It’s about Rondo.

This organization is one of the last bastions in sports where the inmates don’t run the asylum. This is a good thing. Players play. Coaches coach. Management manages the Dallas Mavericks, and the smart players who get that and who trust that - Dirk and Jet and Kidd and we can name dozens of them - thrive.

Fellas like O.J. Mayo, who went from zero to 60 here and then, deciding to un-invest, has now gone back to zero as an NBA player? They fade.

Rondo should concern himself with earning trust, with having respect for the boss, with having faith in the system.

The offense can be fine. The defense already is. The chemistry is not unhealthy. It’s the organizational chart that needs to be understood. And as modern as the Dallas Mavericks are, as avant-garde and analytic-minded and advanced-thinking as they are, there is a core value here that dates back to the beginning of NBA basketball in the mid-1940’s.

The coach is in charge.

When Rondo grasps that core value and accepts it, that will mark the end of Rick vs. Rondo.

For Carlisle's part, he tried to put an end to in in Atlanta. He spoke very eloquently and honestly before this game about the Rick-vs.-Rondo conflict (detailed here), saying the communication-gap responsibility is one he shares with the player -- and being careful to highlight the importance of this particular player.

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"The incident,'' Rick said, "was born in large part from poor communication between him and I, and that’s on both of us. We had a long talk about the situation today and we both agreed that we need to communicate more frequently and we need to work on the solution for making his stint as a Dallas Mavericks the most successful one possible.

"I want to stress and reiterate how important Rajon Rondo is to the Dallas Mavericks. For us to get where we want to get and we strive to get this season, his abilities have to be utilized by us the best possible way. That’s in large part my responsibility and I do not dodge that.’’

'Our efforts to get to the highest level largely hinge on'' Rondo, the coach said. "He needs to play well with us, and we need to play well with him. It's a two-way street.'''

Odd accomplishment

Without Tyson, the team's leading rebounder, and Rondo, one of the best perimeter rebounders in the NBA, it was a little surprising to see the Mavs actually win the rebounding battle 44-41 against a team that features big Al Horford as an anchor in the paint. Only one Maverick had double-digit rebounds and it was a guy who is on his second 10-day contract, Bernard James, who finished with 11 rebounds.

Just an unusual rebounding game, in a positive way, for the Mavs who have struggled mightily for majority of the season on the glass.

But that's not all that was odd about this one. Because of the snowy weather in Atlanta, the NBA considered postponing the game; at mid-afternoon the Mavs were under the impression that the game was cancelled and they started packing for a return trip to Dallas before having to switch gears again.

And then, during the game, the weather struck again -- indoors. The roof of Phillips Arena sprung a leak, causing mop-up crews to labor to keep the floor dry.

Offense a two-man show

With the Mavs leading at halftime by six, they had a legitimate shot to win the game in Atlanta but it would take more than just two guys carrying the load. Monta Ellis and J.J. Barea carried the team offensively in the first half with Ellis exploding for 15 points and Barea adding nine points. However both players scored just four points each in the second half and there was not enough help from anybody else as Devin Harris and Jefferson were the only other players in double-digits ... and that was just barely with each scoring 10 points. Dirk had a season low output of four points on 2-of-7 shooting.

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Ah, how we wonder if Dallas has enough "gas'' if Rondo had been playing ...

Stat O' The Night

It took awhile for Atlanta's perimeter game to get rolling. But in the end, Dallas was drubbed from beyond the arc, shooting 16.1 percent to the Hawks' 37.1 percent.

The Final Word

It is team leader Tyson Chandler's position that the suspension will "light a fire under" Rondo and that he'll be out to "prove everybody wrong."

We endorse this notion. ... as long as the person he's trying to "prove wrong'' isn't his own coach.

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