DONUT 1: FOREWARD To wear a headband, or not to wear a headband. That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to keep the sweat from the eyes, allowing one the sight to attack his opponent ... OK, we'll stop.
Lamar Odom was sporting a headband, and looked like a completely different player, reborn. The rest of the bench stood tall beside him as the Mavs pulled away in the second half to heal the bruises of an awful first quarter. Overtime would not be necessary to take the season series and thus the tiebreaker (regardless of the outcome in their next meeting) with a 90-81 victory.
DONUT 2: THE HEADBAND It's not often a sweatband worn over the forehead and around the skull can draw so much attention. Greeted by a strong chorus of boos, the brand generally saved to serenade an official after a particularly egregious call, it -- "The Headband'' -- took to the court. It's fuzzy cotton bristled in the breeze of movement and with the cold reception of the crowd.
Still fluffy, yet to claim the sweat it came to conquer, it arrived clean ... without a past, and ready to forge onward, daring those in attendance to continue booing, soon demanding that they cheer.
L.O.'s work started early, getting a sweat in well before tipoff ...
(You will notice in the DB.com video: No headband during pregame work. Where was it? On the floor, by the baseline, a foot from where we shot the video ... waiting for its turn and for Odom's sartorial decision ...)
And then, having been on the court for merely 1:30, "The Headband'' shed the weight of those boos with a block and a driving layup ... in a blink, less time than a single wash cycle, less time than it takes for the washing machine to fill with water, the crowd was bleached clean of its disdain, erupting in a chorus of applause.
Perhaps we're giving "The Headband'' a little too much credit?
Lamar Odom -- who wants to be known as "Lamar Odom'' and "not just a ballplayer'' so we hope he knows we're joking about The Headband -- once more took the first step towards redemption. An audience ready to feast on demise was eating out of his hand in less than two minutes. Proving the desire to love is there, if only the excuse would remain. Dallas doesn't want to sports-hate Odom, but patiences have been worn thin. In many cases, hope has shriveled to dust ... but a little water, a little sweat bled into a headband, and that hope screams to life (at least in the AAC).
It's only one game, and we've been teased before. Nine games prior, Odom scored 15 points against the Phoenix Suns, and hope found it's lungs fed a single breath ... and so it is here.
Odom finished with nine points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and no turnovers.
"(Odom) played his game," Carlisle said. "That's how he plays. It was big because we needed a lift and he was one of several guys that gave it to us. He was terrific all night long."
He willingly poured sweat into his headband, showing the hustle that so many would be content with ... even without statistical support. They (we) just need to see that "want-to," that desire, that urgency to help this team. With that, the boos will fade, leaving the cheers to wash over the former Laker who has struggled to find his fit.
In the moment, hustle is enough. Beyond that, Odom's skills are sure to deliver more, but tangible will is enough to change the hearts of many.
It's just one game. It's Odom scoring as many or more points than he had in all but one of his last 15 games (15 points against the Suns on March 8th). It's the fourth time this season he's had both a steal and a block. It's matching his highest field-goal percentage of the season (4-of-5 for 80%). It's nourishment for decisiveness, for aggression, for a confidence that's been absent too often. You see it here in the cut, the catch and the finish ...
"We all know what (Odom's) capable of doing," Roddy Beaubois said, "and when he plays like that it's great for the team. He's an incredible player so when he feels it and plays this way it's a plus for us for sure."
We need more. One game is a tease. Two is a trend. Three is reason for hope ... but, it has to start with one.
"That’s a good feeling,'' Odom said of the cheers he heard at the AAC after he started rolling. "Nobody wants it (success) as big as me."
Odom said that a friend sent him some old photos that inspired his decision to don the headband. But he felt pretty good about his new friends, too.
"We’ve got great guys on this team,'' he said. "They’re loyal and they’re pulling for me.''
And let us editorialize here: If you are among the media members still "booing'' L.O. at this moment, you are grandstanding. And if you are a fan doing so, you are hooting into a vaccuum and robbing yourself of the glimmer of hope seen here.
For this one-game tease from "The Headband,'' anyway.
DONUT 3: THE NBA HIGHLIGHT REEL The Mavs' sixth straight win over Houston looked like this ...
DONUT 4: THE BENCH AS ENVISIONED Odom wasn't the only player to bring energy and impact from the bench. In fact, though he scored more than any single player from the Houston bench, he marked the low man in points of the four who played significant minutes of the Mavs reserves.
Roddy Beaubois played with confidence and a controlled aggression (well, most of the time), getting to the rim with ease and leading the bench with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting. He also added five assists, three rebounds, one steal ... and three turnovers.
As the turnovers point out, there were mistakes, but we'll take the mistakes if Roddy is going to play like this, with this fire and bravado.
Right behind Roddy in scoring was Brandan Wright, who finished with 13 points on a very efficient 6-of-7 attempts and seven rebounds. Wright closed the game at center, and continues to build upon the trust Carlisle has shown in him ... that he's spent all season earning.
We often feel we're running out of superlatives to describe what Wright brings to the court. He knows nothing but hustle. He displays an athleticism that no one on this roster outside of Roddy can attempt to contend with. And, he consistently capitalizes on the opportunities given to him.
Jason Terry's final shooting numbers may not look pretty, 5-of-14 field-goal attempts for 12 points, but he was there with to provide a lift in the third quarter when the Mavs finally eroded away what had been a 16-point deficit. For the period, Terry led Dallas with seven points, 3-of-5 field goals and a steal ... and the rest of the bench fed off of his energy, redirecting the course of the game.
"We got off to a very poor start. They're a high-energy team and they came out with a lot of force and we just didn't play well," Carlisle said. "Odom, Terry, Wright all of those guys that came in -- Beaubois had a very impactful game. All of those guys did and they were the difference."
DONUT 5: THE TWO-MAN GAME'S SHOOTING It says a lot about that the Mavs were able to pull out a win when Dirk Nowitzki and Terry combined to shoot 9-fo-31 for 33 points. The aforementioned bench was a big reason for that.
Added up (thanks, Followill), the foursome of Jet-Roddy-Odom-Wright had 48 points in 114 mins on 56-percent shooting. And really, this is the Mavs bench as envisioned by the Dallas brass. More talent than other team, and because of the ability of this team to come at you in waves, more rested and allowed to be more energetic, too.
And then comes the bonus: Trail by 16 early, get the bench rolling, and Jason Kidd is able to sit out the entire fourth quarter. That's "Minutes Limits'' plus bench domination and Dirk and Jet being able to survive a less-than-spectacular shooting night.
DONUT 6: BIG-MAN TRICKERY Dirk's shot wasn't falling, but he made up for it by attacking his defenders and earning his way to the free-throw line, where he made 11-of-12. He finished with 21 points, six rebounds and three assists.
And The UberMan had some involvement in a twisty defensive decision and great involvement in an offensive trend.
On defense, Dallas in the second half went against its own grain and opted to double-down on Luis Scola. That helped clog up the middle and helped cover up for Dirk, who was among the victims on Saturday when Samuel Dalembert scored 16 points. Dalembert had zero here and Scola was eventually controlled, too.
And the offensive trend? The Mavs worked to shoot 20 free throws. They didn't settle for any more than 19 treys. That's a winning ratio.
There was also some little-man trickery, on the part of the Rockets here, who in a few instances took advantage of what looked like slow Dallas transition D. Dragic to Scola ...
But then Dirk single-handledly fixed that transition-D problem ...
DONUT 7: MAVSELLANEOUS Carlisle says the "analytics'' prove Shawn Marion is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Good. But we have The Eye Test and it's enough for us. ... Dallas is now 26-2 when leading after three quarters. ... The Mavs bench outscored it Houston counterpart 48-to-17 ... Houston opened the game on a 21-8 run and led by as many as 16, Dallas used a 16-2 run in the third quarter, fueled by their bench, to turn that into a nine-point lead ... Jason Kidd played in his 1,307th regular season game, tying him with Buck Williams at 10th on the NBA's all-time games played list ... Odom: "I’m finally getting to the point where I get my second wind…I’m finally getting my legs under me." ... The Dallas Mavericks held the Rockets to as many made field goals (5) in the third quarter as they had turnovers. Houston shot 26.3 percent for the period. Carlisle: "Our second half was tremendous, it was playoff-caliber."
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DONUT 9: DOUBLEHEADER KIDS One young Rocket doesn't seem to like to play the Mavs. One young Mav seems to like to play the Rockets.
We doubt Patrick Patterson enjoys his experience against the Mavs recently. In the last two games versus Dallas he's 1-of-14 for two points. In the game between he scored 24 on 10-of-16 shots. So he can play ... just not against this Dallas team.
Meanwhile, the Rockets must wish there was still time before the trade deadline to scoop up B-Wright who has killed them in the doubleheader with a total of 27 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks.
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DONUT 11: MOUTHS OF BABES If your patience with Lamar Odom has worn to nothing, your hope been bled dry, one may understand. However, this is not the night to toss those barbs, to spread those insults. If this can become the Odom the Mavs find with any consistency there's little doubt the team would be much improved. Curse the past if you must. The hesitancy to trust in the results of this one game are more than justified, but let it breathe for one night.
The team now heads to Florida for a back-to-back with Miami and Orlando. The odds would profess that Dallas will need something resembling this performance, this effort, from Odom to come away successful in either or both of those contests.
Of course, Odom is not alone on the court ... but Tuesday night helped provide a glimpse of the impact he can provide. Only 15 games remain in the season, and the West has a knot of teams fighting for spots four through eight. There are six teams, but only five spots.
"Because of how close the standings are in the West," Roddy said, "we have to take every game seriously because we have to win every game that we can and we have to approach every game like it's a playoff game."
From one of the youngest players on the roster comes the truth. The playoffs are drawing near, stumbling is not an option. Brendan Haywood and Delonte West are inching their way back to the court, perhaps as early as Thursday's matchup with the Heat.
Next up, the Mavs head back to the court where they earned their championship rings for the first time since doing so back on that glorious day of June 12 ... needing another win.
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD Jason Terry says he's been counting the days until the chance to return to Miami, the scene of the glory. Maybe Haywood will be ready to go, and Delonte will certainly be on the trip. And "The Headband''? Maybe it's ready to go, too.
"It was great to see him just be aggressive,'' Dirk said of Odom, then laughing and adding, "I don't know about the headband, though."