Mavs Mojo: A Tune-Up To 49th Win In LA
With the regular-season grinding and winding down, Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks had one priority heading into the Staples Center - stay healthy. Following the 120-106 win, the now 49-31 Mavs accomplished their goal with their seventh straight victory over the historically bad Los Angeles Lakers. ... and they accomplished some other goals as well.
Dallas now heads to Utah with its health intact (despite Robert Sacre doing his best Wolverine impression on J.J. Barea in the second quarter) and despite what we hope was a minor scare when in pregame shooting Chandler Parsons (sidelined with a knee problem) looked to come up a little gimpy. ... maybe enough to have him on the "scratch'' list in Utah.
The "rest rotation'' for Dallas continued on Sunday night, with Devin Harris and Amare Stoudemire both taking the night off. (And it will continue Monday in Utah in a more dramatic way. Remember our Bob Ortegel idea of not even bothering to send Dirk and some of his mates to Salt Lake City at all, instead allowing them to skip a grueling and meaningless trip to instead jet straight from LA to DFW? It's happening.) Rajon Rondo however, made his return to the starting lineup, giving the Mavs a much-needed boost defensively on the perimeter. Rondo looked fresh in his return, netting 11 points to go along with 11 assists and eight rebounds in 29 minutes. We can joke, or we can be serious, about this having been an audition for a free-agency future with the Lakers. But more immediately, heck, it's an audition to deserve to stay in Dallas, too.
The Lakers meanwhile, continued to struggle, as they approach the end of arguably the worst season in their franchise’s history long history. Jordan Clarkson led the Lakers with 26 points and six assists, while Wesley Johnson added on 16 points before exiting the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter. But they aren't a story anymore, except for those of us who revel in their misery.
The Dallas storylines are infinitely more intriguing. To wit:
*Monta Ellis' frustration seemed to continue on Sunday, as he struggled once again to find consistency. Ellis, who seemed disinterested in the outcome of Friday night’s double-OT win at Denver, shot 2-of-8 from the floor here en route to a four-point performance. But he did seem engaged otherwise, with five assists and a proper seat on the bench. (See our story on "Monta's Many Moods'' here.)
*Tyson Chandler looks to be in springy playoff form heading into the final stretch of the season. TY led the way, scoring 20 points and grabbing nine boards on 90-percent shooting.
*He is one of the real big time difference makers in this league,” Carlisle said of his starting big man. “When he’s healthy there are very few guys that are better at what he does, if any.”
*Raymond Felton also looked impressive once again, scoring 15 points on 70-percent shooting in 18 minutes. He might not figure as a playoff rotation guy, and Charlie V might not either, but Villanueva was good for 14 points. Aminu does figure and he was a 10/10 guy. Richard Jefferson is starting temporarily in place of CP and he scored 17.
The Mavericks offense looked remarkably efficient on Sunday night, with seven players scoring in double figures. Dallas, who led by as many as 18 points, shot 54 percent from the floor, and out rebounded the Lakers 42-37.
*And maybe most of all their is Dirk, who continued his above-50-percent shooting over the course of the last seven games and seems ready to bedevil his next foe ... which almost certainly will be the Spurs, who have a half-game lead over the competition for the No. 2 spot in the West and have just one game (Wednesday at New Orleans) to play.
'We gotta take this ... mojo,'' Carlisle said, using the phrase "tune-up to describe this one, "and carry it through.''
Two more tune-ups -- and shots at 50 wins. Then the winding and grinding really begins, and the mojo will really come in handy.