DONUT 1: Kings 112, Mavs 98
The Mavs entered Monday night's game coming off of a 92-81 win over the Nuggets and looking to build a new winning streak in Sacramento against a team they'd beaten 21 times in the last 23 tries. Unfortunately for Dallas, ex-"teammate'' Rajon Rondo joined wth DeMarcus Cousins as the Kings piggybacked off of a poor-shooting second half by Dallas, defeating the Mavs 112-98.
But wait; The Mavs outscored the Kings 32-23 in the first frame behind a 61-percent shooting effort, while also playing exceptional defense. Rondo had eight points in the opening segment, but the Mavs were playing off of him on the perimeter for the most part, and NBA players get paid to make shots. And by halftime, the Mavs ended with a 58-54 lead, after letting the Kings close the gap behind a combined eight points from Seth Curry, as well as a solid frame from Rudy Gay. The 58 points was the Mavs highest-scoring first half of the season, as the shot 51.2 percent from the field.
So how did this fall apart for a team that should excel as shooters?
“We were flowing pretty good there in the first quarter,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “Everybody was touching it, and we were getting rolls to the basket. We got open looks, and I’m not sure what happened there. ...''
DONUT 2: The Backcourt
Deron Williams came out hot in the first quarter, scoring five points and dishing out four dimes, helping the Mavs take an early first-quarter lead. Williams is the Mavs secret ingredient; if he’s wheeling and dealing, everything else just seems to fall into place. If he’s not, the Mavs struggle. But after the hot start? Williams would finish the game with 10 points and seven assists.
Wes Matthews is no "secret,'' as he's the go-to defender and the energy guy. He also started off well for Dallas, scoring six points on two three’s. It has been important for Wes to get off to a good start this season, and he did that here. Unfortunately, he couldn’t sustain it, and Wes ended up with 10 points on 36 percent shooting.
So that's a large part of this: Dallas' backcourt looked capable of outshooting and outdoing Kings like Rondo and Rudy Gay ... but the numbers weren't sustainable.
DONUT 3: Revenge is .... sour
The Mavs employed a little bit of ‘Hack-a-Rondo’ in the closing minutes of the first half to break the Kings momentum. And hey, when a guy is shooting just over 37 percent from the charity stripe, it’s a solid strategy when you’ve been knocked back on your heels.
It was fun ... fun to watch The Cancerous Rondo squirm his way to the line, where he ended up 7-of-14.
But those fickle Basketball Gods smiled on the pouting Rondo, even after what he did to the Mavs last year, quitting on the team in unprecedented ways, as Fish details here.
Rondo is on a team that is now 7-12 and he is having a good year, good for him. None of that changes what he did in Dallas. He’s still every bit the selfish, egotistical, hemorrhoid that he was before; the only difference, maybe, is that he has a coach that let’s him do whatever the hell he wants.
DONUT 4: On The Flip Side
There is Dirk.
Nowitzki became just the 13th player in NBA history to hit 10,000 shots from the field in a career when he hit one of his patented One-Legged Euro LeanBacks on Rudy Gay late in the second quarter. We’ve talked about the Big German’s propensity to knock down milestones these days, but this one is pretty special considering the company he is in.
We're going to argue that Dirk is one of the 15-or-so greatest NBA players of all-time. We're going to admit our bias there. And we're going to avoid writing a Poem To Basketball about it.
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DONUT 6: Zaza vs. Boogie
Zaza Pachulia had another solid night for the Mavs on Monday, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds en route to his 11th double-double of the season. We love Zaza’s game. He’s a leader, he plays hard for 48 minutes, and he can facilitate. Zaza is having the best season of his 12-year NBA career right now.
DONUT 7: Boogie
But ... Zaza guarding Boogie is an impossible challenge.
All three-point jokes aside (the best defense Dallas had was when Boogie decided to settle from 22): DeMarcus Cousins is a remarkably gifted basketball player. Coming into Monday night’s game, the 25-year-old was averaging 27.9 points and 11.2 boards per game for the Kings. He was a bit off from the field, but he commands double teams, he rebounds at a high rate, and he can block shots. If he can figure everything out upstairs, he has the talent to be the best center in the NBA. Boogie finished with 31 points -- 16 in the fourth -- and nine boards and went 10-of-10 from the line.
Said coach Rick Carlisle: "Cousins had a monster game. I mean, he’s a force in there, and he is very difficult to deal with.''
His unique gifts are why we in Mavs Nation keep trying to figure out ways to trade for Cousins, as David Lord demonstrates here.
DONUT 8: Stay in Touch!
DONUT 9: Needed Boost
This was one of those sleepy Sleep Train nights where a booster shot was needed. So the Mavs missed .... yeah, J.J. Barea’s energy off the bench in this game. Barea (out for a few games with a ....) brings a different dimension to the Mavs offense when he is in the game with his speed and energy, and Dallas needs him to get back in a hurry.
Now, Chandler Parsons is capable of offering some of that, too, albeit in a vastly different package. And CP had a solid game for the Mavs, shooting five of eight from the field and scoring 14 points in 24 minutes. As CP’s minutes increase, he is becoming more and more comfortable on the floor, and that’s a bright spot for Mavs fans going forward.
But we can't help but wonder -- while all the while trusting Casey Smith's best-in-the-business handling of these Mavs matters -- could Parsons have re-entered without injury risk late in the game, when the chance of a positive outcome was slipping away? How strictly-enforced must a Minutes Limits be?
And along with that, know how frustrating it must be for Parsons to be chained to the bench in those trying moments.
“We knew it was going to be a process,” Parsons said -- maybe speaking about himself as well as his team. “Every time you have this many guys that are new and haven’t played together, it’s going to take some time.”
DONUT 10: Stat of the Night
Poor Shooting. After a hot start, the Mavs went cold from the field, shooting 42.9 percent from the floor, including 23 percent from three.
The Mavs three-point shooting has been abysmal this season, as they ranked 24th in the league coming into the game in that category. The Mavs' low point here included 0-9 from three in the third quarter. Dallas isn’t taking bad shots; they just don’t seem to be falling. There is plenty of time for that to work itself out, but right now, it’s proving to be a problem for the Mavs.
This is Dallas' fourth straight loss on the road, and perimter shooting is a pivotal reason the 10-8 record isn't better.
DONUT 11: What's Next?
The Mavs will head up to Portland to take on the new-look Trailblazers at 9pm from the Moda Center.
Said ex-Blazer Wes Matthews: "I'll be excited to get a win. It doesn't matter where we're going. We need a win."
DONUT 12: The Final Word
“We’re not making shots right now, so we’ve got to stay the course and keep stepping into them aggressively ... It ended up being a very rough night for us, but we don’t have a lot of time to lick our wounds.'' - Rick Carlisle.