DONUT 1: Get Up Again
Dallas fell, 100-96, to division rival Houston at home on Friday night behind 25 points from James Harden, who hit a clutch bouncer over Wes Matthews to seal the win with seven seconds left. The Mavericks had another poor shooting night from deep (8-of-29 to Houston’s 12-of-26), but stayed in the game thanks in large part to another solid game from Deron Williams, Dirk and Devin Harris.
The Mavericks are now 2-5 since that 9-4 start. What’s the deal? What comes next tonight in Washington - where our man Fish is stationed to cover the game in D.C. - and where the fallen Mavs need to get up again?
Let’s dig in.
DONUT 2: Wes reaching breaking point?
It’s well-noted that Wes Matthews is a fierce competitor and the popular choice as the new emotional leader of the Mavericks in the wake of Tyson Chandler’s departure to Phoenix. It’s also common knowledge how hard he pushes himself and is not satisfied with anything less than perfection.
Iron Man is an interesting beast to watch in his pre-game ritual where he generally shares the floor with Chandler Parsons. Matthews has been in a shooting slump (putting it mildly) this season and it’s clearly not lost on him … as indicated by his vocal frustration during warm-ups after several missed free throws.
It would be a stretch to call Wes faint of heart. While such a cold spell coming off a torn Achilles might test the mettle of the average NBA player, it’s reasonable to assume Wes will not wilt in the face of this adversity. But I’m sure he’d like to heat up sooner rather than later.
At the moment, he's first to admit ...
"I'm tired of hurting the team," Matthews said. "I'm tired of missing shots. ... I suck right now.''
DONUT 3: Parsons’ shot
Speaking of pregame warm-ups, I can’t watch Chandler Parsons shoot without being taken back to my days playing old NBA 2K games. His shot reminds me of when I was first learning the controls and I held down the “shoot” button to within a millisecond of a traveling violation … before releasing the shot.
Is it just me or is there the tiniest "hitch'' in there?
Needless to say, Parsons makes more of his shots than my ill-fated attempts at Sega Dreamcast glory, but it’s worth wondering how much more compact his shot could be … and how much better the Mavs would be if Chandler continued to tinker and actually released the ball at the peak of his jump.
DONUT 4: Free-throw woes
If you watched Friday's game, it certainly didn’t feel like Dallas held a 14.4% advantage from the charity stripe over Houston. But, nevertheless, the Mavs shot 70% to the Rockets’ 55.6% but had several missed FT chances, even by typical sharpshooters Matthews and Pachulia, that could’ve secured the win. Dallas has been above average from the stripe in the last seven games, despite going 2-5. Save for a 57.1% outlier effort in the Nov. 22 loss to OKC, the Mavs have shot at least 70% since and above 83% twice.
Here, by the way, is the highlight reel of that Friday game ...
More than free-throw issues to be corrected here, as you see.
DONUT 5: Long-distance trouble
When we go inside the Dallas locker room, we do so hoping there is "sense of urgency'' regarding yet another dismal night from downtown (27.6% vs. the Rockets) for Dallas in a game where just two more made treys would’ve secured the Mavs’ 12th victory of the season.
Here’s Dallas’ 3-point percentage in its last five games; 27.6, 31.0, 24.3, 26.9, 27.3.
Matthews finished 1-of-8 from behind the arc and Dirk had a key missed 3-pointer in transition late in the game that would’ve put Dallas ahead.
The Mavs rank near the bottom of the league in 3-pt shooting percentage (They are ahead of only Miami, Memphis and Brooklyn at 30.9%), though the feeling is they will eventually come around.
A good time would be now. Like, tonight.
DONUT 6: Speaking of tonight ...
It's Mavs at Wizards at the Verizon Center in an early start (6 p.m. Washington time) as Dallas hit the road again.
The Wizards (8-9) feature hot names (like John Wall and Bradley Beal) but less-than-hot performances from their big shots. They have major injury/absence problems as Marcin Gortat (family matter) won't play and other bigs like Nene and Kris Humphries and Drew Gooden have missed -- Washington just signed former Mavs backup center Ryan Hollins on Monday and started him on Friday in a win over Phoenix. (Get a feel for the Wiz in the video atop the page.)
The jump-out number here: Dallas has won 10 in a row in the series and six straight at Washington. Again, DB.com is in Washington today and we'll have full coverage all day and night!
DONUT 7: Turnover issues to fix
Dallas averages 13.9 turnovers a game. That mark is good for fifth-fewest in the league, but on Friday night, they had 17 and Deron Williams, despite another impressive offensive performance (22 points) had eight of those. The Rockets actually had more (18) but there were several key instances near the end of the game where easy runouts really burned the Mavs.
Patrick Beverly was a pest all night and did a good job of forcing those turnovers for the Rockets but, not to beat a dead horse, the Mavericks absolutely must take care of the ball better moving forward. ... and again, that goes for tonight, when the quickness of Wall and company can give ballhandlers fits.
DONUT 8: Stay in Touch!
Please visit me, Zack Cunningham, on Twitter here. You can catch The Fish on Twitter here, and we invite you to also check out Matt Galatzan and Jonny Auping. Meanwhile, get more Mavs stories in our Archives section -- all the interviews, columns, videos, game coverage, breaking news and scoops individually stacked for your protection! (Stories that include our exclusive interview with the Cowboys' Dez Bryant on his love for the retiring Kobe Bryant.)
DONUT 9: Defense bending, but not breaking
Friday marked the sixth time in the last nine games that Dallas has allowed its opponent to eclipse the 100-point plateau. For the season, the Mavs are giving up 100.5 points per game, a mark good for right around dead center of the league, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise. They were also outrebounded, 45-42, and lost the battle on the offensive glass as well, 15-11. Zaza Pachulia did grab 11 boards with seven on the offensive glass, so there’s that.
Dallas has eclipsed the 40-rebound mark in its last six games after missing that mark in the four games prior. The Mavericks rank 17th in the league in rebounds per game … about what you’d expect from an 11-9 team, but better than even the most optimistic of us here at DallasBasketball.com predicted at the season’s beginning.
DONUT 10: See you at The Maverick Bar!
A great place to watch the NFL games today and the Mavs tonight is at Fish's place, The Maverick Bar at 1616 Hebron in Carrollton. The best Texas-flavored burgers in town, a staff that will remember your name and your favorites, a 200-inch screen and 30 other brand-new HDTVs are all at your service!
And Fish says if Skip Bayless is on one of the TVs and your request to change the channel is ignored by the bartender, Fish will personally fire that bartender!
DONUT 11: Parsons’ defense?!
Here’s a trick question: Who has the second-highest defensive rating for Dallas and the lowest of any player who has played more than five games? Well, if you can read the first part of a Donut, you already know the answer.
It’s not what you would expect from Chandler Parsons to boast a 93.1 defensive rating, second to Dwight Powell (94.8 in the aforementioned category). Wes Matthews, arguably the Mavericks’ best one-on-one defender, has a rating of 104.4 … worst on the team! We’re not quite sure what to make of that stat here at DallasBasketball.com, as Parsons hasn’t exactly been shutting down the likes of Kobe Bryant like the Iron Man, but hey! More positive signs for the future as CP and the Mavs tinker with the idea of him as a sixth man (a notion covered here in Mavs Premium coverage of the Dallas-Houston game) and inch toward giving him full minutes next month.
DONUT 12: The Final Word
Fish writes ...
Not too long ago, an employee of an uptown hangout texted me to let me know that Dirk Nowitzki was on the patio, dining with friends. This is standard operating procedure for restaurants and watering holes from coast-to-coast; a celebrity is in your joint, and you want the world to know it … so non-celebrities flock to the same spot.
Also part of this process, conventionally: The celebrity himself LIKES it. Endorses it. Wants it. (Do you know how TMZ finds all those B-list actors streaming in and out of clubs in LA, blocking their faces from the cameras? In many cases, it’s because the actors’ agents called TMZ to inform them of their clients’ whereabouts … and then instructed their clients to pretend they are bothered by the publicity.)
Dirk Nowitzki has no pretense, of course. He has his job to do. So did that restaurant. And so did it I … so when the restauranteur gave me an alert that the future Hall-of-Fame member of the Dallas Mavericks was at his place, I immediately took to my Twitter account to make the "newsy announcement.''
Twenty-four hours later, I was summoned to a private AAC corridor behind the Mavs locker room for a summit with Dirk.
What did Mr. Nowitzki say to Mr. Fisher? It's a very revealing column and it's all here in "Polite And Ruthless: The Two Hands of Dirk.''