DONUT 1: FOR OPENERS ...
The Dallas Mavericks opened the 2015 season in impressive fashion with a 111-95 win on the road in Phoenix. Both teams started off clunky (under 40% shooting in the first quarter for both teams) before the Mavericks turned up the defense (?!) in the second half and then erupting in the third quarter.
Said Dirk Nowitzki: “I thought we got some momentum going there at the end of the first. ... (then) going into halftime with a nice little lead. And then we expected them in the third quarter to really pick up the pressure and come after us, but we played it smart.''
There are lots of "smart'' positives to be had in this win as Zack Cunningham and I walk you through it, and they start with ...
DONUT 2: THE IRONMAN
Pretty much everyone wanted Wes Matthews to be ready for the opener but we didn't really believe he could be ... just seven months removed from an Achilles tear?
But here he is.
The Ironman e started at the 3 and had to guard the much-bigger Markieff Morris early on, but he held his own and finished with nine points. It can only get better from here on out for Dallas' shiny new acquisition.
Remember when Wes talked about rehabbing with trainer Casey Smith and joking that when Casey isn't looking, Matthews goes running like a dog when the gate's open?
Consider the gate unlocked.
DONUT 3: ADMIT IT
Admit it. When Deron Williams went down injuried in this game, you yelped "Here we go again!!'' or something even saltier.
Deron was bothered by a nagging calf injury for most of the preseason that kept everyone from seeing his ability to blend with Dallas on the court. But here, Williams showed exactly what lots of people within the Mavericks organization have hoped for: that he still has something left in the tank as he tries to rebuild his three-time-All-Star career.
Two early 3-pointers from Williams helped Dallas grab an early lead ... and he also showed no hesitation in attacking the rim after showing an inability to finish there last year. The knee injury he sustained in the third quarter -- you know, the "Here we go again!!'' one -- didn't appear to be serious as he re-emerged later in the period and dished out a few more assists.
“My knee just buckled,” Williams said. “I think I got tangled up … and my knee kind of buckled outward. I came back in, but it was pretty sore, and I felt like we had a good handle on the game where it was better for me to go and ice. It wasn’t anything that’s structural or anything, so that’s definitely a positive. And hopefully it’s something that won’t keep me out of any games.”
DONUT 4: RUTHLESSNESS
Free-throwing is a "finesse'' skill, some say. But getting to the free-throw line isn't.
The Mavericks were ruthless in the first period in getting the Suns in foul trouble, picking up nine in the first eight minutes. Dallas didn't take advantage early from the line (3 for their first 6), but the strategy certainly worked in getting Phoenix out of its rhythm from the outset ... a key advantage the Suns had that the Mavs needed to neutralize.
Phoenix did make a run in the final two frames, but Dallas' lead was too much to overcome. ... largely because of Dallas' assertion in getting to the line.
we stayed in an attacking mode the entire night and never let up,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "And that’s how we’re going to have to play.”
DONUT 5: A DIFFERENT DWIGHT
Dwight Powell looks like a different player. Bigger, bulkier, meaner and more aggressive.
We didn't see a lot of him on the court in Dallas last year, but we did see a lot of him on the court in Frisco and ... this guy looks a little like that guy.
A big chunk of the Dallas bench is young and their depth, therefore, untested. Consider this a first test passed.
Powell made mention in the offseason that he put a lot of work in to his rebounding game and it showed early on as Dwight led Dallas in rebounding and also got to the foul line six times in the first period.
Encouraging signs from the afterthought of the Rondo trade ... who would've thought Powell might come out of that the better deal for the Mavs?
DONUT 6: RUN AND SUN
Dallas used the Suns' own calling card against them in the first half, outscoring Phoenix 18-8 in the fast-break-points category. Getting to the line early was another strength for the Mavs in extending their early lead and, after missing three of their first six from the stripe, finished 12-of-14.
Jeremy Evans figures to be a key athletic element to this part of the Mavs games and had some quality minutes early on ... as did the rest of Dallas' bench by putting up 24 first-half points.
This franchise is pretty good at unearthing and developing the Aminu-type guys ... and here's hoping it's happening again with Evans.
DONUT 7: CHARLIE THREE
Charlie Villanueva became a fan favorite last year in Dallas because of his lethal outside stroke. (Evan as we discouraged some of that greenlighting.) As his stay in Dallas continues, it's becoming clear that Charlie "Three" is more than some fun novelty off the bench; he's a serious offensive contributor if played in the exact right time and place for the Mavericks. His 10 first-half points, including a sweet shot off the dribble (an underrated portion of his game) keyed Dallas' early surge.
Not too much of Charlie V; we say he'll get exposed then. But Charlie V in spots is a good thing.
DONUT 8: CARLISLE CHEMISTRY?
The Mavericks really got rolling in the second half behind a combination of things: better offensive movement, hot shooting, and Phoenix's complete inability to put together a cohesive possession of basketball. The lead ballooned to 28 in the third quarter off a Jeremy Evans corner 3 and 29 later on after a Powell flush.
To see the Mavs chemistry thrive at a time where Phoenix looked completely lost was intriguing ... and a good sign going forward.
How can the Mavs really appear to have chemistry in Game 1, with so many changes and question marks and injuries, this group obviously not yet including Parsons and McGee?
DONUT 9: TY VS. ZZ
It was the matchup vs. "what could have been" and "what was left over" in terms of the center position for the Mavericks on as former Dallas great Tyson Chandler, freshly adorned in Phoenix black (?), battled new Dallas center Zaza Pachulia. The matchup gave Pachulia a chance to prove scoffers wrong ... and he more than strengthened his case for more first-team minutes, maybe even after JaVale gets involved. Zaza posted a double-double by the third quarter with 10 points and boards, and really helped set a defensive tone (aided by Matthews) that helped Dallas assert its will during an explosive third quarter.
The Pachulia challenges keep coming tonight, of course, with Dallas playing on the second night of a B-2-B, in LA against DeAndre and the Clippers. It'll be another matchup vs. "what could have been" and "what was left over" ... And we're hoping Zaza's physical style can get him inside on DeAndre's body and maybe even inside his head.
DONUT 10: 2D
When Dallas picked up Pachulia and Matthews in the offseason, it was obvious that they'd be good defenders and, in the case of Matthews, a big upgrade defensively over the departed Monta Ellis. Pachulia had a reputation as a muscular defender and rebounder while lacking in the verticality department. And Wes is ... Wes.
Those two set the tone on Wednesday night for a sound, if not unexpected, defensive performance. At halftime, Phoenix was shooting just 33% and Dallas' D continued the lockdown in the second half ... a performance they'll likely need to mimic on a regular basis before offensive reinforcements presumably arrive later in November. The Suns finished shooting just 39.3% from the floor.
DONUT 11: RAY DAY
Raymond Felton has long been viewed as some kind of albatross on the Mavericks since coming over in the Tyson Chandler pickup last year, but he has really made strides since his arrival in Dallas ... and done it with a good attitude, to boot. After a dagger 3 from the top of they key to give Dallas a 108-82 lead in the fourth quarter, Felton had a line of 18/3/6.
Some fans and media have long used Ray-Ray as a whipping post around here but think back. Every time he actually plays, the results are actually positive.
He was the starting 2-guard here. He's a point guard by trade. Devin's minutes might be secure, but J.J. Barea may find his minutes nipped if Ray Felton keeps this up much longer.
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD
"Flying under the radar sometimes is not bad. I think one website picked us to finish last in the West, so that should be motivation for us. ... Hopefully, D-Will will be alright and we’ll get Parsons back here pretty soon and see what McGee can bring. And I just think we’re a veteran team that’s smart. We want to play with each other, we want to play for each other, and I think we’ve got some shot-makers. We’re a better shooting team than I can remember here in the past, and we just move the ball and find the best shot. It will be a fun way to play with that team.” -- Dirk Nowitzki.