Mavs Game 2: Victims Of 'Interior Noise'
The Dallas Mavericks have dropped to 0-2 in the series thanks to Tuesday's 111-99 playoff loss at Houston that was, as Amare Stoudemire said, "Like a highlight reel in one game.''
But it was a "lowlight reel,'' too, at least for Rajon Rondo, who demonstrated his intense disinterest in the first quarter when he was central to The 10 Crappiest Seconds Of This Mavs Season:
Seriously. A backcourt violation followed by a dumping of the ball to the ref followed by an uncontested three by your man? Coach Rick Carlisle abhors the media's habit of creating "exterior noise.'' But this "noise'' is coming from the inside.
Heading into Game 2 of their best-of-seven series against the Rockets, the Mavericks were already shorthanded with Devin Harris and Chandler Parsons both sidelined due to injury. But Dallas, despite keeping it close for a time, could not overcome Dwight Howard, Corey Brewer and Josh Smith in the second half ... and they could not overcome themselves, either.
Howard dominated the paint for Houston, scoring 28 points, pulling down 12 boards and turning away two shots. Howard, who was a 52-percent free-throw shooter on the season, also went 8-of-11 from the line. Smith and Brewer’s impact proved to be too much for Dallas to withstand as well. Brewer dropped in 15 point, while Smith contributed 15 points of his own, to go along with eight rebounds and nine assists.
Defensively, can hang its hat on continuing to frustrate James Harden, to some degree. Harden, who scored 24 points on 29-percent shooting (but 13-of-13 from the line) was continually forced into tough shots by a variety of Maverick defenders, and was notably frustrated in the second half. At the same time, he baited Rondo into some fouls so foolish that ... well, it almost appeared that Rondo committed them on purpose so he could exit the game with ... minutes played to instead take a seat on the bench, and later, by himself on the floor.
Dallas went cold in the fourth quarter, losing control of the game during a 19-4 Houston run, which was driven by Howard’s dominance inside. Dallas shot under 40-percent from the field (Dirk's shooting struggles here were monumental as he contributed just 10 points but 13 boards), and despite going 27-of-28 from the line, could not get any rhythm or consistency going in the fourth quarter.
“Going home, we’ve got to put 48 minutes together,” Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve got to go home and do what we’re supposed to do.”
Some guys already did that. The bench (namely J.J. Barea and Al-Farouq Aminu) was one of the lone bright spots for Dallas in Game 2. Aminu in particular provided great energy and effort off the bench. He made Houston work for everything it got while he was on the floor. Barea, who played well in the absence of Harris and the struggling Rondo, scored 13 points off the bench, and provided the only consistent play in the Mavericks backcourt.
Monta Ellis was the Mavs' leading scorer with 24 points. Ellis, however, struggled to find consistency, shooting 8-of-23 from the field and settling too often for long 2's. He did help keep Dallas alive with a desperation 3 to end the third ...
But it was fool's gold, just as the Rondo acquisition now appears to be. Dallas will need Rondo to return to form if they want any chance of getting back into this series. ... or maybe they are better off sending Rondo home. The Mavs did not bring Rondo to Dallas to sit on the bench and watch in a playoff game after 11 effortless minutes, but they didn't bring him here to engage in a personal duel with Harden but to otherwise disengage completely with his team, either.
When asked about Rondo’s lack of playing time, Carlisle said: "This isn’t about one guy who did or didn’t play. This is about everybody pulling in the same direction for the organization. ... It was a coaches decision.''
There are more decisions coming. Dallas will now head back to the AAC (where J.J. Watt will not be permitted to dance) hoping to climb back into the series. The Mavs may not get Parsons back (the knee is a real problem), we don't know about Devin, and we really don't know about Rondo.
“We got hit with the Mayweather low-blow,” said Amar’e, but really, thanks to Rondo, this exercise was as masochistic as it was sadistic.