Mavs Are One (And Not Yet Done)
Facing a sweep in Game 4 of their first-round matchup against Houston, the Dallas Mavericks staved off elimination, defeating the Rockets 121-109 on Sunday at the AAC, and forcing a Game 5 back in Houston on Tuesday. Dallas, which was facing its second sweep in its last three playoff appearances, came out determined to extend the series, and even with the early deficit problem played 48 minutes of inspired and tenacious basketball. ... a style that had the bench jumpin' ...
“Our guys were in this to fight this thing out to the end,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Everybody’s staying ready and we’re staying aggressive.”
Houston will take its 3-1 series lead back home to the Toyota Center, and with it the annual NBA playoff debate about who now shoulders the pressure. Is it on the Rockets to close out the series, needing repeat performances plus from Sunday top dogs James Harden (who led the Rockets with 24 points on 46.6-percent shooting) and Josh Smith and Corey Brewer (big impacts once again, combining for 45 points)? Or is there a certain level of embarrassment for this year's Mavs to ultimately serve as a postseason afterthought?
Dallas outrebounded Houston 52-38, one example of how it simply wanted it more on Sunday night. ... and might just want some more.
Monta Ellis led the way for Dallas with 31 points, and looked like the Monta Ellis that Dallas watched electrify the AAC so often before the ill-fated "Rondo Era.'' Ellis, who shot 62 percent from the field, will head into Game 5 after having put together arguably his best back-to-back performances since mid-December.
“We just weren’t ready to go home,” Ellis said. “We came together before the game said we were gonna leave it all on the court, and we did.”
While Ellis had a tremendous game, it was the performances of guys with "basketball souls'' like Devin Harris, J.J. Barea and Al-Farouq Aminu who drove the Mavs' engine here.
J.J. made the start in place of Rondo and didn’t disappoint, scoring 17 points and handing out 13 assists. Barea helped Dallas forge a 30-12 run in the second quarter that Houston was never able to recover from.
Aminu also gave Houston fits, contributing 16 points and 12 rebounds on the night .. but his effect on the game was felt far beyond the stat book. Aminu’s length and effort on defense and hustle plays bothered the Rockets all night, effort that simply cannot be measured statistically and should (in our opinion) earn him not just more minutes but also another start and some serious 2015 contractual thought.
And Devin? While Dirk Nowitzki was the man who closed things out Dallas in the fourth, scoring 10 points in the final stanza en route to a 16-point, eight-rebound performance, Devin's start-to-finish effort really typified all the things that went right here. He was a dervish, running down loose balls, serving as a one-man fastbreak, and stepping up as one of the many Mavs who refuses to back down from the excessively muscular play of Houston center Dwight Howard.
The players standing up to Howard meant Carlisle didn't have to ... and Rick didn't have to say $25,000 worth of disparaging words about the officiating, either.