DONUT 1: FOREWARD When 15 of the first 26 shots taken by the Dallas Mavericks were 3-pointers, the concern had already begun to creep in -- despite the fact that seven of those attempts behind the arc had gone in.
Considering that Dirk Nowitzki was 8-of-10 from the floor in the first half for 16 points, yet the Mavs headed into the intermission down seven, "concern'' was sent drifting towards "sincere apprehension'' over the outcome.
I think the first half everything came a little too easy for us,'' Dirk said.
In the third quarter, Dallas drastically failed to match the energy of the Miami Heat and soon watched the game get out of hand. The good news:
Lamar Odom, once again wearing a headband, led the charge from the bench with energy. The bad: other than a brief push from Brandan Wright, L.O. was the only one -- and Jet went in the complete opposite direction -- as Miami pulled away from the listless, lifeless Mavs to win their 15th in a row at home, 106-85.
DONUT 2: THE THREE CARDINAL SINS The Mavs and their fans experienced three cardinal sins in one unfortunate moment on Friday: 1) An open-court turnover; permission for a Miami stud to take to what Rick Carlisle calls "the launching pad; 3) Reggie Miller's literally incoherent blabbering about the play on TNT:
Commented Rick (not about the inane Miller but about the other stuff):
"You know, when James and Wade get a head of steam, it's just hard to keep them from getting to the rim and hard to keep them from getting on the free-throw line. So, we needed to do better.''
DONUT 3: FROM HOT TO COLD Dirk Nowitzki hit nine of his first 11 field-goal attempts, waiting for someone to join him in the fight. He would take eight more shots … and make none of them. Oddly enough, judging from the plethora of early empty seats in Miami, the majority of Heat fans may still be completely unaware that Dirk made more than a single shot.
Dirk finished with 25 points, 9-of-19 field goals, 7-of-7 free throws, six rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and three turnovers.
DONUT 4: SWEET MEMORIES NOT RELIVED THRU GODLEN-LEAD SHOES NBA fans remember the last time Dallas took to the court in Miami, the Mavs left holding the O'Brien Trophy high over their heads before heading out to celebrate the franchise's first championship. In honor of the return to host of their greatest glory, Jason Terry once more wore his golden sneakers (for those who haven't or didn't see, that's a literal description), and promptly did what he did not do in the Finals … failed to back his boastful display.
Terry would finish the game hitting only one of the 10 shots he attempted, his worst shooting performance of the season. Things weren't much better at the defensive end for Terry … leaving us to wonder if those golden shoes weren't truly made of gold … without padding, support or traction and with a tremendous amount of added weight.
Not to pound on the point, but this was as poor a game as we've seen from Jason Terry in some time. We've chronicle his road woes this season – he came into the night averaging 13.1 points, 36.5 field-goal percentage and 31.8 3-point percentage outside of Dallas – though he had managed to play well in Houston in his last away game, but this qualifies amongst the worst he's played this season.
While it may irk those cheering for the Mavs opponents, we've come to view Terry's sunny bravado affectionately, whether in words or apparel. It seems to provide a level of motivation that fuels him, and is a component of his core, a significant piece of what makes him Jet; but it demands that he perform. Against the Heat, he did not.
Without action, words fall away.
And sometimes, "bravado'' is just "stupid.''
"Miami is definitely a title contender, for sure," Jet told Fox Sports before the game. "No question, they need a veteran shooter, a guy who can score besides LeBron and (Dwyane Wade), and they know they can count on. I'm a guy that's been in this league 13 years, (averaging) 15 points a night, easy. Off the bench or the starting lineup, it doesn't matter. So I think I'd be an asset to them."
"My main goal was to come back and retire a Maverick," Terry continued. "Show me the money." ... This summer we're going after Dwight Howard, which hasn't happened, and Deron Williams, which they still have an opportunity.''
Cuban and Carlisle have both supported Terry's "right'' to speak like this. "He's earned it,'' they say. And DallasBasketball.com has a long-standing policy to not scribble down and print every silly thing Jet says.
But "stupid'' is never "right.'' And this sort of talk is unnecessary, misinformed (hey, Jet, do you anything about Miami and the cap?) counterproductive, and yes, stupid.
DONUT 5: MAVSELLANEOUS Dallas allowed the Heat to hit 61.5 percent of their shots in the first half, a great recipe for wasting a brilliant first-half performance from Dirk and ensuring that a win is almost impossible to attain … Dallas scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, matching their lowest fourth-quarter total of the season. They did so by shooting 15.8 percent, hitting 3-of-19 field-goal attempts … Oddly enough, the final period was the only quarter the Mavs took more free throws than the Heat (8-to-7). In fact, it was the only quarter their free-throw total wasn't at least doubled by Miami … Dallas did not take a single free throw in the first half. ... Carlisle opened with Vince on LeBron. Why? Maybe because early in the game, LeBron is less prone to try to dominate? ... On Tuesday, Dirk required four stitches above his eye. On Thursday, he needed help from Casey Smith to mop up a bloody nose. ... Dallas certainly tried to feed B-Wright in the high post. He looked fluid offensively when the ball got to him; but almost as often as not, Miami anticipated the feed and jumped the pass ... Center Brendan Haywood (knee) was active, but didn't play. He's likely to return at Orlando on Friday.
DONUT 6: THE HEADBAND Lamar Odom followed up a crowd-romancing performance Tuesday night in Dallas against the Rockets with another inspired effort.
Outside of Brandan Wright, the bench did little more than contribute to an already lazy display from the starters, leaving Odom without assistance in the second wave, wasting his second consecutive strong outing.
In 23 minutes, Odom finished with 12 points, 4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-2 3-pointers, four rebounds, and three assists. There was also a pair of turnovers, both coming on extremely questionable traveling calls as he put the ball on the floor, which we'll not hold against him.
If there is a silver lining to pull from an otherwise uninspired level of play from the team as a whole, it was the effort and hustle of an engaged Odom. We'll continue to implore him to take some of the shots that are there, particularly at the rim, where he often appears set on creating for others rather than capitalizing on the opportunities his aggression opens for himself.
When he plays in trust of his instincts, giving in to his assertiveness without hesitation, his entire presence changes; once flat shots find their arc, drives into the chest of a defender find lanes, and appropriate passes lead to uncontested shots for teammates. We've seen glimpses of what we know Odom can be over the course of the season, but we may finally be seeing the first signs of true confidence and an innate basketball instinct on display.
"My legs are finally getting underneath me, where I feel like I can come out of a move and make a shot,'' LO said. "It's a big difference."
When you lose by 21 there aren't bountiful reasons to smile … hopefully what we're seeing from Odom can prove to be just that.
DONUT 7: WEST WELCOME BACK Another possible silver lining, Delonte West returned to action for the first time Feb. 15th, having missed 21 consecutive games. He instantly reminded us of why he has been missed, scoring five points and handing out an assist in five minutes of second-quarter action.
There were moments of rust, but it was great to see West back on the court. He finished with seven points, making all three shots he attempted, and one assists in 8:13.
It must also be noted that his minutes appeared to come directly from the pocket of Roddy Beaubois, perhaps foretelling of a slip in the rotation oncoming for Beaubois. Roddy would total only 14:43 of playing time, his lowest minute total since Jan. 18th … playing under 19 minutes for the first time in his last 26 games.
This may not have been entirely due to West, thanks to an uncertainty, a hesitancy, in Roddy's game that has been slowly disappearing before rearing its head here … but West was certainly a contributing factor.
"(The finger) hurt a little more than I thought it would," West said. "I made a pass in the second half and it felt like lightning went through my body. I also had a little problem handling the basketball with my right hand. I'm going to try to do some therapy by tomorrow, but right now this [finger] is throbbing a little bit."
DONUT 8: QUICK TURNAROUND A quick reminder to watch Followill, Harp, Coach Ortegel and Fish on Friday night on Fox Sports Southwest, starting at 6:30 ... (we'll have Kyle Leath's NBA Advance Scouting report coming up on DB.com) ... And to follow the Mavs-at-Magic game on Twitter with the Mavs Twitterverse ... The 75-Member Staff!
DONUT 9: A GLITCH IN THE 'TRIX Shawn Marion has forced his way into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. His mention is not a child of the Mavs' front office or coaching staff's propaganda. It's something Marion has scratched, clawed, scraped, bruised, hustled, and fought his way into. We say this with sincere belief …
So does this mean we allow this one to quietly slide under the rug? Yes and no.
Marion was not on his game. His quick floaters in the paint were not falling, neither were the products of hustle near the rim. He finished 2-of-7 for four points and four rebounds. However, it wasn't his struggles on offense that caught our eye. Instead, there were defensive lapses and moments of something beneath the excellence we've come to expect from him at that end of the court. Slow rotations or incomplete closeouts.
It wasn't all-encompassing, only passing moments that may go unnoticed in an average defender … in Marion, they're foreign.
Considering the whole of his contributions this season, we'll toss it out as a rarity and let it slip from sight … and hope he does the same before responding with his usual fire against Orlando on Friday night.
DONUT 10: If you like this level of insight into the World Champion Dallas Mavericks ...
DONUT 11: CHEMISTRY EXPERIMENT We praised it a season ago, while also noting its omnipresent fragility. Chemistry is a subtle intangible that stands as both the simplest and most difficult goal to take hold of. It can build in a moment of utter failure, giving the heart a newfound strength even as its walls mend the tears of a near catastrophic break.
Conversely, it can disappear in a simple undefinable moment. You watch the NBA Highlight Reel and you wonder if you see it in there, somewhere ...
A core group bathed in chemistry can become something far beyond the sum of their parts, a unit capable of toppling the most favored of adversaries. Something great. Those still seeking its elusive embrace, confused by its absence, unaware of how it escaped their grasp, can crumble beneath the earliest signs of adversity. It's a blessing and a curse, a drug and a hangover, a weapon of mass destruction or a tool of self-demolition.
And, as we nudge you toward checking your Official Mavs Playoff Race Tracker , it is something this Dallas squad is still in search of. The construct of the season, the issues of inidividuals – from Dirk's early physical troubles, to team-wide injuries, to Odom's personal issues, to Terry's vocal expressions of his contractual unhappiness, to a thousand other tiny, thieving hands – more than a few speed bumps have slowed the construction of chemistry.
While growing short, time has not run out … but a sense of urgency must bleed into the proceedings. Orlando and Dwight Howard present a challenge just as it brings another opportunity to bridge the gap between now and that most difficult of moments to track down … that instant when chemistry reveals itself as alive and well.
Only time will tell if that instant will arrive before this season gives way to the next. But complete focus is needed. And maybe it's difficult to focus when you're being blinded by the color of your shoes?
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD "Everybody's playing for a playoff position right now," J-Kidd said, turning the page as the plane left Miami for Orlando, where the Mavs have won five straight. "So we've got to figure out a way to get one on the road before we go back home."