'The Art of the Close'? They never came close to 'The Close.' the Mavs painted way too sloppily…
DONUT 1: FOREWARD There was fight. There was Dirk Nowitzki reminding us of what he can still be -- scoring 12 of his game-high 34 points in the third quarter on 4-of-6 shooting -- as he and Jason Kidd carried the Dallas Mavericks to a late 13-point lead. There was the final 5:47 in the fourth quarter where the Mavs would not score a single field goal.
Then, there was James Harden.
DONUT 2: FRESH OUT OF ANSWERS: The Mavs could find no answer for Harden's relentless attacks on the rim, his dominance from the angled pick-and-roll, as he scored 15 of his team-high 29 points in the final quarter, ruthlessly breaking down the interior of the Dallas defense with ease and almost single-handedly draining what little breath remained in the Mavs season (note that Harden had 15 in the fourth and Dallas had only 16).
By a final of 103-97 the Thunder did what they were unable to do a season ago, they closed a quarter, a game, and a series, sending the defending champions home unceremoniously after just four games.
The NBA highlight reel:
DONUT 3: IS THIS GOODBYE? Jason Terry will someday have his jersey hanging prominently in the rafters of the American Airlines Center. He's given us a wealth of memories that Dallas fans will hold dear, including being a primary contributor to the city's only NBA championship team.
He's never been shy to express his opinion. Never hidden from the spotlight or the dichotomy of pain and celebration separated by inches of a game's biggest shot. When LeBron James came waltzing into the Finals fresh off of shutting down Derrick Rose and the spotlight grew to its brightest, its most fiercely heated, there was Terry with a microphone in front of him, letting the whole world know that James couldn't stay with him for seven games ... then confidently took the court and let us all know he wasn't lying.
We'll remember him rising up over LeBron's outstretched hand to drain a 3-pointer in the Finals. We'll remember him taking exception to the Heat's premature celebration in front of the Mavs bench in Game 2 of that series -- despite the fact that his signature is running down the court with arms spread wide as the Jet -- and then helping ensure it was indeed premature. We'll remember the ring he helped bring to Dallas, a ring that wouldn't have this team's name inscribed in its side without him.
What's so fresh, what reeks in the present will fade away ... will yield to the eccentricities we should hold in fondness, that will remain like the tattoo of the championship trophy on his right bicep.
The part that should soon leave us was his performance in what may be his final three games as a Maverick, where he averaged 11.7 points while shooting 35.3 percent from the floor (13.8 points on 45.5 percent for the series).
For his part, he continued to talk with the bravado we'd expect, promising this team would fight -- and they did fight, don't let the results erase that fact -- even undertaking one more completely Jet act by opening the game with black shoes (though they wouldn't last the first quarter), only we're forced to wonder if a bruise had been made to his spirit that couldn't be completely overcome. For all of his love for this team, the writing was on the wall as soon as the new CBA was signed. This was a farewell tour.
And after the game, Jet was still talking.
"You know we like to make changes year-in and year-out, but not a complete overhaul," Terry said, continuing to express his disagreement with the CBA-related choices management made last summer. "That's what this is going to be (coming next year), an entire different ballclub, I would expect.
"But the formula is there,'' he added. "We set the bar high last year with what we accomplished. They know the formula, and it's up to them to put it back together."
Emotion forms the height of the wave Terry rides. It's the thread his jersey will hang from once it's raised to the rafters. It's the core of who he is ... and its attention was split between the bonds of the past and the inevitable changes of the future. You can't hate him for this ... you can't turn on what made him a great Mavericks player.
You loved him when he was putting the team on his back in the first half of Game 6 against the Heat a season ago ... you should love him still.
Should this prove to be goodbye, don't lock Terry from your sport's heart. Remember him not for these final three games, this final series, but for the plethora of those that came before.
DONUT 4: EMPTY BAG "We'll throw the kitchen sink at all of these guys,'' Carlisle said before the game. "At this point, we're not going to leave anything uncovered in our bag of tricks."
But here's the thing: Outside of starting Jet, there were no tricks. The Roddy B Card went unplayed, for instance. To the layman (and we believe to the slightly more hoops-educated, too) there were no personnel alterations or strategic alterations made here.
Oh, Carlisle noted that against Harden, ''We tried everything, five or six different coverages going.'' But at this point, there is no basketball version of the onside kick to be attempted.
And the bag of tricks was actually empty before Game 4.
DONUT 5: KIDD PLAYS LIKE KIDD Jason Kidd joined Dirk and Trix and Vince Carter as guys that led the charge of wills that refused to let this team slip quietly into the past. There will likely be a spot on this team next season should Kidd desire to return, but should that not come to fruition for any reason, he went out swinging.
Kidd finished with 16 points, 6-of-11 field goals, 4-of-8 3-pointers, eight assists, seven rebounds, one steal, one block ... and may only beginning the undertaking of a role that could decide this team's future, and just how bright it may look.
On the floor? This game was a statement in favor of the merits of "Let's Just Get To The Tournament.''
Off the floor? With the hurt of this season still fresh, with the dust from the sweep still hanging in the air, Kidd could become one of the Mavs' most important recruiters.
"That works,'' Kidd said of the notion of serving as Deron Williams' backup should Dallas win the bidding for his services. "That's not a bad guy to help out. If it comes to that, that would be not a bad situation.
Or maybe he'll need to be recruited himself. He's told us all year that retirement isn't in his plans, but there was that out-of-nowhere Sports Illustrated rumor ...
I'll land somewhere early, I would think,'' Kidd said.
For now, we'll delay any epitaphs that may come for Kidd's time as a Maverick. And we're encouraged not only by his Deron talk but by his Dirk talk, too.
"Like I told Dirk, I would go to war with him and go through another season and try to help him win,'' Kidd said. "Being here would be very nice. But at the same time, business comes into play. We'll see what the Mavs are talking about first and go from there.''
DONUT 6: 'TRIX GAME-SEVENING IT Shawn Marion on Westbrook? It worked. Trix KD? That worked, too.
But Marion cannot cover Westy AND Durant. And give the way Harden whipped passed defenders, almost always going left and so often using that extra-Manu step of his ... well, Dallas' defense really could've used three Trixes.
DONUT 7: THE CENTER POSITION Kendrick Perkins headed to the locker room with a right hip strain in the first quarter after 7:51 of action and would not return. Brendan Haywood played 25:10, totaling four points, 1-of-3 field goals, four rebounds, one steal and one turnover.
For the series, Haywood averaged: 3.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and hit 4-of-14 field goals (28.6 percent).
There is the real possibility that the leg (ankle and knee) issues that came up late in the season for Haywood did not allow him to physically contribute at his standard levels ... but, the fact is, Dallas needed far more than this from their starting center.
Beyond the numbers, the team needed a raise in energy and physicality. Haywood gave them little of either ... and the "Amnesty" debates will officially begin.
After a poor first game, Ian Mahinmi bounced back to perform well, though he continued to commit inconsequential fouls that did little more than keep him on the bench. He also lacked the bulk to be a true physical presence in the interior or to wrestle effectively with Perkins or Nick Collison.
Brandan Wright, a sparkplug all season, was bullied by guys with significant advantages in heft and strength. He's naturally a power forward, but managed to fill a need for much of the season. In the slowed-down game of the playoffs, against a team with a couple interior bangers, he couldn't find a fit.
In short, this will be a position of interest this offseason. Deservedly so, Deron Williams will be the focus, but the center position feels far from settled.
DONUT 8: MAVSELLANEOUS It was the third quarter of Game 4 before Dirk Nowitzki made his first 3-pointer of the series. He finished the series with the lone make, going 1-of-6, but averaged 26.8 points per game, up from his 21.6 in the regular season ... After the game, Jet stripped off some uniform parts and tossed them to fans ... Roddy Beaubois did not play in this game ... Vince Carter led the team in rebounds with eight ... One Mav who wasn't much into shaking OKC hands: Delonte ... Dallas entered the final quarter of their season with a 13-point lead, but hit only 4-of-18 shots (22.2 percent) and did not get a field goal for the final 5:47, to be outscored 35-to-16 in the period. ... "This was a long shot," Terry said. "Nobody is going to downplay that at all. Look at our roster, and to a man, it was a long shot this year. We still made the playoffs, but we didn't have enough." ...
DONUT 9: THE SUPERTEAM ERA Here's the quote that demonstrates Dirk's view on what the future blueprint must be:
"If you want to be an elite team in this league right now, you have to have two or three guys who can go off at any time," he said. "We need some guys who can make plays. That's pretty obvious."
Yup. Mark Cuban's thoughts exactly. Is Dirk trying to say that Caron and Barea qualify as "guys who can go off at anytime''?
No. We don't think so, either.
Dirk understands what management has been trying to do.
"We never had cap space," Nowitzki said. "So they made the decision to go for that and we'll just have to wait and see what comes out of that. We have no idea now. We don't know what's going to happen in the summer or the summer after that. We'll just have to kind of wait and see who can we get, who's available and who wants to come here. That's going to be something we're going to see in the future. We can't make a judgment on that now."
Well, we can. ... We're constantly asked, and we constantly ponder, the odds of Deron joining Dallas. (Cuban suggests that phrase is too specific as it regards the franchise's supposed thinking, so fine; it's our thinking.) How about this: "Deron To Dallas'' has a 49-percent chance of happening. As does Deron remaining with the Nets. That leaves a 2-percent crack open for a third suitor.
So will it happen? If it does, will it be enough? If it doesn't, what is Dallas' next move? Listen to The UberMan:
"We'll just have to kind of wait and see who can we get, who's available and who wants to come here. That's going to be something we're going to see in the future.''
DONUT 10: OH YEAH. THE OTHER TEAM Lost in the woe-is-us feeling in MavsLand is the fact that 29 other teams are trying, too. And that OKC's trying is working.
"They're a great young team, and the thing that impressed me the most is they have a certain look in their eye right now, not just that they belong, but that this could be their time," Carisle said. "We walk away from this very disappointed, but knowing that the better team won."
DONUT 11: PERSPECTIVE AT THE PIANO Before the game, Carlisle tried to lighten the mood.
"I'm especially fired up tonight,'' he said, "because my daughter kicked ass in her piano recital."
After the game, Rick's unwillingness to address his own "free agency'' as a coach left it open to wonder about his intentions.
"I'm not talking about my situation," Carlisle said. "Right now is not the time, so I'm going to pass on that. You know, I've had four great years here. Again, I can't tell you guys or anybody how much gratitude I have for the opportunity Mark and Donnie have given me and the players have given me here and what we've experienced through all the things, the great things last year and some of the other ups and downs.
"This is a first-class franchise,'' Carlisle continued. "This team and this franchise is going to continue to be great as long as Mark owns it. I'm confident in that."
In our conversations with Mavs GM Donnie Nelson, he's left zero doubt about the club's intent on retaining Carlisle. We're assuming that Carlisle's comments (including a past-tense reference) are indicative of nothing negative. We're assuming that and we're hoping that.
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD There is no silver lining to defeat. Eyes will immediately shift their gaze, if they hadn't already, to the plains of free agency ... and more particularly to Deron Williams (evsn as Mark Cuban wishes we wouldn't be quite so specific in giving him our Christmas-in-July wish list) ... but let us not walk from the grave of the 2011-12 season without a moment to reflect.
The bounces simply didn't fall in favor of the Mavs. (And the Mavs weren't good enough to will the bounces, either.) With the good and bad separated by a fence and the ball bouncing on its upper rim, far more often than not it ended up on the wrong side. You can say this of this series, though it stretches well beyond.
From Day 1, this season seemed perfectly constructed to erode the chances of success for this team. From age to Dirk needing nine days to get in shape to a lack of practice for a team with many new faces (six of the 15 on the final roster were not with the team a season ago) to the Lamar Odom fiasco to any other number of unfortunate deliveries of happenstance ... the path was perfectly orchestrated to cross through all of Dallas's weaknesses.
Yet, it's over. Close your eyes for a moment, retreat somewhere back into the glory of last season's memories, and warm that cold trying to settle over you by the fires sparked by the gift of last year's championship run.
Or, hoot about the incompetence and stupidity of a franchise just 11 months removed from the most glorious accomplishment in sports. Your choice.
Our view? With the nightmare of this series banished to history, let the crafting of a new dream begin.