After losing three straight games it’s safe to say that the Mavs came into Wednesday’s game against Washington in a slump. You can’t really say that about the winless Wiz, as a 'slump' would imply that they were at one point playing well. No, Washington is 100-percent empty. And Dallas? The starting lineup was 40-percent altered.
In order to get out of their own slump, the Dallas Mavericks made a few changes to their starting lineup. Defensive specialist Dahntay Jones started at the small forward spot. Chris Kaman also started his first game as a Maverick.
Before the game Rick Carlisle spoke on the decision to start Kaman.
“It was time,” Carlisle said. “It was time to give Elton and Chris a chance to play more together. They did that well in the past.”
Kaman and Brand responded by combining to score eight points off of 4-of-6 shooting in the first quarter. But the Mavericks still looked lethargic to start the game as they were unable to execute against a ragtag Wizards roster (now 0-7) playing without John Wall. The Mavericks had an almost seemingly undeserved four-point lead at the end of the first quarter.
But hot shooting and a big advantage in fast break points (10-0) allowed the Mavericks to pull away in the second quarter. Dallas shot 59.5 percent from the field in the first half.
With three minutes left in the first half a series of individual plays by the Mavericks blew the game open and energized the crowd. First a turnover by the Wizards led to a break away dunk by O.J. Mayo. Then on the next possession Darren Collison banked in a shot after getting fouled. The next time down court Brand managed to throw in a shot after being raked across the arms by Kevin Seraphin scoring to go with the foul.
The Mavericks nearly doubled the Wizards in terms of points in the paint (30-16) and got contributions from 11 different players on their way to a 63-45 halftime lead.
The Mavs kept up the hot shooting in the third quarter and finished the game shooting an impressive 50 percent. Mayo and Kaman led the way in terms of efficiency both scoring over twenty points and shooting over 50 percent.
Kaman had a great overall offensive game Wednesday chipping in 23 points off of 10-of-12 shooting to go along with eight rebounds. Even more encouraging was how well he seemed to play with the Maverick guards, specifically Collison and Mayo. Both guards ran a great pick and roll with their starting center and were able to get him the ball in great position for him to convert.
After the game Carlisle talked about Kaman’s performance.
“He had good stats,” Carlisle said. “Kaman’s scoring was terrific efficiency-wise.”
However, the Wizards woke up in the fourth quarter while the Mavericks played as if they had the game won. Washington shot 73.7 percent in the fourth and made six of nine three pointers as they pulled within three points of the Mavericks in the final minutes after being down by as many as 22. They were led by Cartier Martin who scored all 14 of his points in the fourth quarter. The Mavericks also turned the ball over six times in the final period and shot 35.3 percent.
But the one thing that the Mavericks did well in the fourth quarter was rebound. They were able to get six offensive rebounds in the quarter and a few clutch scoring plays by Mayo, Kaman and Vince Carter were enough to hold on to a 107-101 win.
Mayo led the team in scoring with 25 to go with four assists. Carlisle again applauded Mayo’s effort and compared his responsibilities to those of Jason Terry’s in years past.
“(He) was better tonight,” Carlisle said. “Defensively he was real good to start the game then had some lapses throughout the game. It’s kind of like when Terry was here. It’s the same kind of thing, we need scoring, but we need all around game. And I’m not just saying defense, we need playmaking, simple playmaking. And we’re going to need him as a scorer. There’s no doubt about that.”
The under-the-radar performance goes to Jae Crowder. The first-year player out of Marquette had been in a mini-slump as of late and was finally starting to look like a rookie. The Mavericks chose to start Jones at the small forward spot instead of Crowder.
The rookie responded by scoring a quietly efficient 12 points off of 4-of-5 shooting to go along with three assists. Crowder’s play did not go unnoticed by Carlisle.
“Crowder stepped up in a big way off the bench, which was key for us,” Carlisle said.
Collison was not one of the bright spots in the game. As usual, he did a nice job of setting the pace at times, but often looked out of place, especially when attempting to score. He shot just 2-of-10 for the game.
But Collison will continue to be the primary option at point guard and, as Carlisle explains, whatever struggles he goes through, the Mavericks will have to go through with him.
“Collison had his ups and downs, but he’s our guy,” Carlisle said. “The things that he struggles with he’s going to study and get better.”
Nearly blowing a big lead to a winless Wizards team was not the most promising way to end a losing streak, but a win is a win and the Mavericks needed something to get them on the right track.
However, Dallas played poor defense for long stretches of the game and also allowed the Wizards to get 19 points off of turnovers. They also didn’t exactly march to the foul line in the fourth quarter.
It should be noted how much the team misses Shawn Marion on both offense and defense. Marion does so many little things on the basketball court and this team seems to be missing a lot of little things as of late.
After the game Brand talked about how the game did provide the team another opportunity to play together in a close late-game situation.
“As a unit we have to learn how to win close games,” Brand said. “We were disappointed with the three-game losing streak and we could have done better, but coach is still evaluating guys and we’re working through matchups. We’ve got to do a better job of closing out games.”
In the end, it was Carlisle who summed up the game best.
“We got to take it for what it is,” Carlisle said. “It was a game that we certainly wanted to win. We got to be honest with ourselves on how we're playing. We’re playing a brand of basketball that isn’t where it needs to be. We got to get better.”