DONUT 1: It Don't Come Easy
It hasn’t been an easy road. In fact, it's been so full of potholes and U-turns and speed bumps that even Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban admits to going back and forth between "playoff hope'' and some form of "Organic Tanking.''
"I know, half the fans want us to go for the playoffs, half the fans want us to go for a draft pick," Cuban said as the Mavs pulled into the halfway mark of the 82-game season on Tuesday in Chicago. "I wish I had a definitive answer for everybody. Honestly, I go back and forth every game. Some days, it's like: 'OK, we might be able to make a run up to seventh or sixth.' So, can we go 28-13 the rest of the way?
"I go back and forth every day. That's the honest answer."
DONUT 2: "A Mavs How-To Primer''
We pretty much have our Official DB.com Answer (though Fish and Matt Galatzan and David Lord don't always have to be of one mind here) as expressed in D-Lord' epic "A Mavs How-To Primer: Trades, Strategy And Roster-Building - We Name Names.''
But we do understand and even admire Cuban's reluctance to "do 'em wrong'' in regard to "his guys'' on this roster. What he expressed here -- as he has to DB.com before -- is that his players will "try to win. Always.''
Fair enough. And now here we are at the halfway point of the season, and the Mavs' "always trying'' is finally being rewarded a little bit,
DONUT 3: Mavs 99, Bulls 98
For the first time all year, the they have a three-game winning streak, and the way it happened couldn’t have been any sweeter, after Wes Matthews nailed a late three to carry Dallas over the Chicago Bulls 99-98.
The highlight reel, above.
DONUT 4: The Bad Guys
Mavs fans have a few good reasons for disliking Chicago, namely Dwyane Wade (who’s history as the bad-guy opposition is well-documented) and Rajon Rondo (a bad guy even when he wasn't the opposition). But more than that, the battles between these two teams in the Windy City as of late have been something special to watch, and this edition was no different.
"Breathtaking," is the word a proud Mavs coach Rick Carlisle chose.
After Jimmy Butler hit the go-ahead jumper for Chicago with 22 seconds to go, the Mavs pushed the tempo (Carlisle opting to skip the timeout and call a play because as he later noted, "Rondo knows all the plays'') and Deron Williams found Matthews on the wing. Wes buried the shot, giving Dallas a 99-98 lead.
"D-Will made a great play to get into the paint, and the rest was easy," Wes said. "It was just knocking a shot down."
But Wes wasn’t done.
DONUT 5: Two-Way Wes
On the other end of the floor the backcourt pair went to work again, as Wes matched up against fellow Marquette product Butler, and forced the Chicago All-Star to give up the rock in the corner to Wade. Wade was forced into a contested jumper by Williams, which clanked off the side of the rim, allowing the Mavs to escape with the win.
"No question, Wes is NBA first-team All-Defense," Cuban tweeted. "No question."
Added Dirk Nowitzki: "I think (Matthews) is one of the best perimeter defenders we have in this league. ... The job he's doing this year is incredible … Offensively, trying to make plays, making threes. But defensively he is our workhorse. He has to guard the best player every night. He has to go to war every night."
DONUT 6: 'Dirkie' Candidates
Harrison Barnes was the Mavs' leading scorer with 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting, while Nowitzki (starting at center) had a workman like 10-point, 10-rebound performance in 27 minutes. But the balance of production for Dallas ended up being a huge factor in the game, as six guys scored in double-figures.
Seth Curry had another solid outing as a starter, tallying 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, as well as 3-of-5 from downtown. Williams and Matthews each contributed 11 points, while J.J. Barea and Devin Harris combined for 20 off the bench.
Lotsa candidates for "The Dirkie" here; you vote on DB.com Boards!
DONUT 7: Quotable
Dirk's total takeaway? "I think, if we were healthy all season long, we'd be a playoff team right now," he said. "I honestly believe that."
DONUT 8: Big, But Tempered
Bowing to Cuban's comments and to what these players themselves obviously desire and owe to themselves ...
Though the win streak is a big step forward, MFFL should still temper our expectations a bit here. Tuesday’s win did give Dallas the season sweep of Chicago, but all three wins in the streak came against teams with records below .500. Oh, and add it up and the Mavs are still just one game ahead of the last-place Phoenix Suns (13-28) at 14-27.
So, we re-issue a re-statement of a reality: Besides just the dubious "reward'' of being the No. 8 seed and getting your butts handed to you by the Warriors, and in doing so missing out on a lottery pick in a way that likely keeps you plodding along on The Treadmill of Mediocrity ... We're not talking about Dallas having to overtake just one team to make a little leap up.
The Mavs would have to stay almost insanely hot while seven other West teams remain cold.
DONUT 9: Cold Heat
There is another cold front in the forecast in the form of the Miami Heat. Dallas has really struggled to beat this bunch over the last few seasons ... but it's not as difficult right now.
Yes, Dallas will have a chance to move the streak to four games as it travels to Miami on Thursday to take on arguably the worst Heat team that we have seen in over a decade. Miami is just 12-30 as Pat Riley has seemingly made the call that Cuban is so reluctant to make.
DONUT 10: Two Trade Notions Meet
Miami is led by former Mavs pipe-dream target Hassan Whiteside, and his 17.5 points, 14.3 boards, and 2.1 blocks per night. But "led'' is sort of the wrong word, because despite those impressive numbers -- we mean, gosh, don't you wish the Mavs had a 7-foot center in his 20's who was giving you 17.5 points, 14.3 boards, and 2.1 blocks? -- it seems like Hassan is giving max effort only occasionally.
Is that the result of Miami sucking? Or is it the cause of Miami sucking?
So Hassan is on the trading block -- and DallasBasketball.com has the scoop on the Mavs' thoughts on a Whiteside trade here. And Goran Dragic, who is the team's high-scorer at 19 per, is available, too, for the right price.
From Cuban: "We are not listening to any Wes trade offers. We want Wesley and HB (Harrison Barnes) to be here to develop young players and to support our culture.''
DONUT 11: Wade On Dirk
We love to hate on Wade; ruining his 35th birthday on Tuesday was fun. But we did enjoy him conceding to Dirk's excellence -- something he wasn't exactly expressing during the 2011 NBA Finals. (Cough, cough.)
"One of the greatest power forwards to ever play this game,'' Wade said Tuesday. "Consistent. A threat from Day 1. When they beat us (Miami) in the Finals that year, that put him up with the great ones. ...
"You can tell your kids one day, you lined up against the greats. And he's one of them.''
DONUT 12: The Final Word
"It feels great," said Wes of Dallas' present position. "It feels really good. ... Eighth place ain't far away."null