FOREWARD For the Dallas Mavericks, there is no intimidation issue. Yeah, yeah, "The Mecca'' and all that. But Dallas consistently beats NY wherever they stage the game; going into Friday, 18 of the last 21 matchups were won by the Mavs. Intimidation? Maybe young, mild-mannered Brendan Wright pick-and-rolling into the face of old, barely-house-broken Rasheed Wallace would be an opportunity for a Mavs to back down from a Knick ...
Intimidation wasn't the theme of this game. The short-handed Mavs not being sure-handed with the ball was the theme of this game.
''New York's a veteran team and if you give them more possessions and you give them possessions on catastrophic turnovers, they're going to convert them into points,'' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.
"Catastrophic turnovers''? That's hopefully just a tiny part of who these Mavericks are.
Sticking strictly to fact, this is a team playing without its best player (Dirk Nowitzki continues to sit as he recovers from knee surgery), and very likely it’s second best player, Shawn Marion, who also happens to be their all-world defender that’s held Carmelo Anthony to averages of 19.9 points on a 39.8 field-goal percentage since joining the Mavs, rather than the season-high 31 points he scored Friday night.
However, even when viewed through that prism, a harsh glimpse of reality may have been forced home: as well as they’ve played, this is a team that needs Dirk and Marion to be what they hope to be, to play at the level they hope to reach.
While that seems simple, and obvious, enough, it’s easy to set aside. It’s not an excuse, merely a reality. Just as it is a reality that New York took the court without Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert. So, while this may act as a vague measuring stick for “these” Mavs, it fails to project towards what this team may become … once healthy, assuming that future awaits.
TERRIBLE FOOD PUN INVOLVING MAYONAISE: Over the previous three games, OJ Mayo averaged 28 points while hitting 57.7 percent of his field-goal attempts, including an astronomical 66.7 percent behind the arc.
After 14 points on 5-of-8 field goals, including 4-of-6 behind the arc, in the first half, all seemed well. Unfortunately, foul trouble limited him to only 11:56 of action, and there were the ominous presence of four pesky turnovers.
In the second half, fouls continued to be an issue, holding Mayo beneath 30 minutes for the first time this season. Perhaps this limited his ability to find a true rhythm, or perhaps it was nothing more than the law of averages clutching at his heels, but those shots that had seemed incapable to missing did just that in the second half.
After the intermission, Mayo scored nine points by hitting 2-of-8 shots, including 1-of-4 on 3-point tries.
It’s not like we’re talking about a guy that fell flat on his face. Mayo finished the game with 23 points, 7-of-16 field goals, 5-of-10 on 3-pointers, seven rebounds, three assists … but also spilled eight turnovers (a new career high) … so, not flat on his face, just a little bit closer to earth.
Just boneheaded plays,'' Juice said.
YOU GIVETH TOO MUCH: Mayo was not alone in his struggles with turnovers. Dallas gave the ball away 20 times, matching their total from the previous two games combined.
A portion of this can be attributed to consistent defensive pressure by the Knicks, who continually stayed close to Mavs players away from the ball, but there were also far too many casual or lazy passes from Dallas, to go with a handful of mental slips such as unforced traveling or double-dribble errors.
For all of its beauty when it’s locked in, the “flow” offense can begin to trickle out of synch when things aren’t going smoothly. Such was the case against the Knicks at times, particularly in the second half.
The interior presence of Tyson Chandler (remember him?) seemed to convince Darren Collison that the paint wasn’t where he wanted to be, leaving him to trace the 3-point line rather than attacking the rim far more often than not. Without successful attacks from Collison or Mayo to break down the defense, the offense stalled.
"We were doing what we wanted in the first half,'' Elton Brand said, "but we couldn't maximize it."
In the second half, Dallas scored only 37 points while hitting 35.1 percent of their field-goal attempts, and were completely abandoned by their 3-point shot, hitting just one of their 13 attempts (7.7%). At the same time, they turned the ball over 13 times, leading directly to 16 points for the Knicks. Add this to a significant free-throw disparity (Dallas was 10-of-11, New York was 15-of-25), and where the loss was found becomes apparent.
COLLISON’S FIRST STUMBLE: For the first time in a Mavericks uniform (in the regular season), Darren Collison appeared mortal. We mentioned above his apparent hesitancy to attack the rim, hypothesizing that the presence of Chandler factored into this, and note that he did not attempt a shot in the paint until midway through the third quarter.
It wasn’t until Collison made a lay-in in the final period that he would register his first made field goal, having missed his first seven attempts.
Collison would finish with four points, 1-of-8 field goals, eight assists, three rebounds, one steal and four turnovers.
"I feel like I let my team down tonight,'' Collison said.
"No way,'' Mayo said, picking up DC's feelings. "I think it was on me, too. I can't have eight turnovers.''
Love the accountability, men. Because you're both right.
THE FOURTH QUARTER: When watching what was a close game grind down to its toughest moments in the fourth quarter, we were forced upon something this team has managed to conceal remarkably well thus far.
We saw the absence of Dirk Nowitzki.
With Mayo’s shots not falling (he was 1-of-6 in the fourth, 0-of-3 behind the arc), Dallas appeared hesitant and uncertain of themselves in their halfcourt offense. Meanwhile, New York knew they could always turn to Carmelo Anthony.
The numbers may be misleading, as the Knicks about matched the Mavs woefulness for the period. Their field-goal percentages were 31.3 and 31.6 respectively for Dallas and New York, and the Knicks only took the quarter 20-16 … not to mention the fact that Melo hit only 2-of-8 shots, though he did add seven free-throw attempts, making four.
Yet, it felt like the Knicks were playing with a safety net, an implied comfort of having their star there to turn to if needed, while the Mavs were never quite sure how to proceed, of where the ball needed to be.
A portion of this may be nothing more than a team with so many new pieces playing only their sixth regular season game together, but the absence felt more concisely definable.
This team missed Dirk.
Melo scored nine fourth-quarter points, and the Mavs just weren’t sure of whom to turn to.
With Chris Kaman once more rolling on offense (14 points, 6-of-7 field goals, seven rebounds), it would have been a great opportunity to let the offense flow through him, to let him setup on the low block and attack a defense that had been unable to counter him all night.
Only, this never quite happened.
Though Kaman played seven minutes in the period, he would take only one shot, which he made, and add one turnover … but didn’t see the ball much beyond that.
This was only Kaman’s fourth game and he missed much of the preseason as well, making it easy to understand how those around him may not be quite familiar with how to get him the ball, or how to ensure that he is kept in the offensive attack, but it would have been nice to see him turned to more often as the game slowed down.
"They're a good team,'' Kaman said. "We're a good team as well. We didn't show that tonight."
Maybe they can show it more in the future with more opportunities for Kaman to chase easy buckets.
MAVSELLANEOUS: Dallas was only 7-of-15 on their fast-break shot attempts. A sign of either poor execution or … well, it’s a sign of poor execution … Many will want to create the Collison vs. Jason Kidd matchup, though Kidd played only 15:28 and gathered all of these minutes at shooting guard, but it’s hard to deny the clash of past and present … With 23 points, Mayo now has four consecutive games in which he’s scored at least 22 points. The last Maverick not named Dirk Nowitzki to do this: Jason Terry in 2008 from Nov. 25 thru Dec. 2nd … Vince Carter says he felt his left hip flexor pop but plans to play Saturday. ... NY is 4-0, the only unbeaten squad in the NBA ... Cuban held court before the game. Kidd talk. TY talk. We don't need to re-hash here, do we? Good ... Bernard James did not play until the final 53 seconds, but we wanted to note that he entered the game as the leader amongst all rookies in Rebounding Rate (the percentage of missed shots that a player rebounds) at 18.3 percent. Right behind him, Anthony Davis at 16.7 … James also led all rookies in Offensive Rebound Rate at 16.8 … Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler started for the Knicks, the only two players to start in this game that were members of the 2011 Mavs championship squad … Chandler finished with 11 points and nine rebounds … Kidd finished with six points and three assists … We still love Jae Crowder, but Melo did a fair job of making him look like a rookie … Dahntay Jones did a nice job guarding Melo for stretches, but continues to look out of place or inconsequential to poor on offense. ... Elton Brand was back after missing time following the birth of a child. His new daughter is named Mahala.
THE FINAL WORD: There is no reason to get down on this team after watching them lose on the road to the only remaining unbeaten squad in the league. While some may label it a return to reality, and they wouldn’t be wrong, the primary lesson we learned is that this team still needs Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion … and, they remain a work in progress.
And rather fun, overall, to watch while they work:
The season remains in its infancy, and we’ve yet to see this team as a whole. What is to come still stands shrouded in the shadow of the unknown. Still, let’s hope there’s another win to be found against Charlotte Saturday night … against a franchise that is yet to defeat the Mavs in 16 tries.
"Way to play fellas,'' Marion tweeted after the loss. "Shake it off and go get the next one.''