DONUT 1: A separation? ...
The Dallas Mavericks The Dallas Mavericks may be creating a separation between themselves and Utah. Now they must close a couple of gaps between themselves and the two teams from LA.
Dallas entered Sunday night with 13 games remaining on the schedule for the 2012-13 season, 2.5 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth playoff seed. The Utah Jazz came into town a game ahead of the Mavs in the standings, but having won only three of their last 14. Thanks in part to the best game of the season from Mike James (scoring a season-high 19 points, the most he’s scored since Feb. 20, 2009, while playing for the Washington Wizards, when he also had 19), the Mavs furthered the Utah slide with a 113-108 victory, pulled into a tie for the ninth seed with the Jazz and now -- with the Lakers' debacle of a loss vs. Golden State on Monday -- sit only 1.5 games behind the Lakers (who are 2-4 in their last five games) for a playoff berth.
''Keep hope alive,'' said James. "That’s our motto. We have a small heartbeat. But we have a heartbeat. Keep hope alive.''
The very best Mavs coverage on the planet takes you inside the game with unique access, 14 years worth of Mavs insight and Video Visits like the one in which coach Rick Carlisle rips off the Quip of the Night:
More of the same is here on DallasBasketball.com!
DONUT 2: Lucky Number Seven ...
On Sunday night, Dallas had seven players score in double figures: Nowitzki, Carter, Marion, Mayo, James, Collison and Brand. It marks the fourth such time this season where the Mavericks have had seven players in double figures. It never happened last season.
Interestingly, the Jazz also enjoyed seven players scoring in double figures.
One big difference: The legit go-to guy in Dirk Nowitzki. Check out his last five-games worth of numbers: He's averaging 20 points per, shooting 64.4 percent and 61.5 percent from the arc, with 6.4 rebounds, two assists and one turnover.
Hey, Dirk: Shoot more. ... especially tonight against the Clippers, an elite team of the sort that Dallas has not fared well against this season.
The Mavericks are 1-13 overall against the top five seeds in the West (San Antonio, Denver, Oklahoma City, Memphis and the Clippers). The Clippers (48-22) have taken both meetings with Dallas this season and three in a row in the series.
DONUT 3: History and Rest for The UberMan ...
Sunday night, Dirk Nowitzki did not play a minute of the fourth quarter as Dallas held on for their 113-108 win over the Utah Jazz. This season, Nowitzki is averaging his fewest minutes per game (31.0), of any since his rookie campaign and, assuming he plays all 12 remaining games, will also play his fewest games in a full season of any since his rookie campaign (which was shortened by a lockout).
Perhaps the most under-reported facet of Dallas drive to the playoffs is the fact that Nowitzki should be as rested as he has ever been at this point in a season.
Further, Nowitzki needs only four points to pass Patrick Ewing for 17th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He will likely remain in 17th the remainder of this season, as he is currently 380 pts behind Jerry West for 16th, and would need to average 31.7 points per game over Dallas’ remaining dozen games this year to pass The Logo.
DONUT 4: What if? ...
With that win over Utah, Dallas is now 21-20 in games they have deployed The UberMan this season. Despite all that’s gone wrong this year, it does make one wonder how this season could have turned out differently if Nowitzki would have played his usual number of games.
DONUT 5: Hope is Alive ....
Worth noting: Utah owns the tiebreaker by virtue of a superior head to head record (2-1 over Dallas this season). They also have a better conference record than Dallas by two games, (Utah: 19-23, Dallas: 18-24).
Dallas -- two straight wins away from shaving -- has now won 11 of the past 18, is the hottest team in the league except Miami and Denver, and is clearly headed in the right direction. The 8:30 Tuesday tip -- Clippers at Dallas -- will go a long way towards updating that direction.
DONUT 6: D-League stuff ...
DoJo is now in Springfield, deciding to be a D-Leaguer after all -- despite having balked at being a D-Leaguer while remaining attached to the Mavs organization. Our thoughts on that - and DoJo's 28-point game for Springfield -- are here.
Meanwhile, the Mavs are filling the roster spot with a D-League call-up of Justin Dentmon.
The scoring point guard Dentmon gets a 10-day contract to fill the spot vacated when Dallas released point guard Chris Wright. Dentmon plays for the Texas Legends of the D-League in Frisco. Dentmon was named the MVP of the D-League last year while playing for Austin.
The smallish Dentmon (6-0, 185) averaged 22.3 points this year in Frisco.
"To get a chance to look at him close up with our guys in practices,'' coach Rick Carlisle said, "is something we feel is valuable.''
DONUT 7: Catch up on the weekend ...
Jason Terry's weekend in Dallas ... B-Wright's explosion against the Celtics ... Weekend Donuts ... Video Visits in the locker room with Dirk, Mayo, Carlisle and the rest ... It's all right here in DB.com Archives! Pull up a comfortable chair, dig in and get all caught up!
DONUT 8: How Hopeful Should We Be? ...
Though Dallas is closer to its ultimate goal of making the playoffs, the Mavs remain on the outside looking in.
With only 12 games left this season, it’s fair to begin scoreboard watching, as Dallas will likely need some stumbles from those above them in the standings. However, much of Dallas’ fate lies in their hands. A large test looms tonight, when Dallas faces the Clippers, a team they have not beaten this year. It is an opportunity to show that the Mavericks can play with superior opponents, something they have not consistently shown this season.
With games remaining against the Nuggets (2), Kings, Blazers, Suns, Grizzlies and Hornets (2), Dallas has plenty of opportunities to clear up its own playoff picture in the Western Conference and improve it’s conference record, should tiebreakers come into play.
Both the Mavericks and the Lakers entered the week with 12 games remaining. However, one could argue that Mavericks’ road is slightly easier, with Dallas having seven at home to the Lakers’ six. Further, Los Angeles was slated to face off against six teams currently in the top eight of the West while Dallas only has five such games.
DONUT 9: The (Statistical) Case for Mike James ...
One thing we know about Mike James: He believes in himself:
Some may argue that the proof is in the pudding, with Dallas now 8-3 since James took over as the starter at the point from Darren Collison. MDug made some worthy points about James’ impact in All-Access, but allow me to shed a bit more light on James’ impact on the roster.
Below is a table comparing the Mavericks’ net point differentials per 100 possessions with certain players and combinations playing with Mike James versus Darren Collison. Positive numbers indicate that Dallas is outscoring its opponents per 100 possessions, and negative numbers indicate the Mavericks being outscored. Any blank boxes indicate that this lineup combination is not in the players’ top 10 in minutes played.
Player James vs. Collison
w/ Dirk 7.8 vs. -2.6
w/ Marion 10.5 vs. -5.3
w/ Carter 16.3 vs. 2.5
w/Mayo -0.6 vs. -3.1
w/ Carter+Dirk 16.2 vs. --
w/ Carter+Mayo 1.6 vs. 2
w/ Marion+Mayo -- vs. -4.6
w/Mayo + Dirk -- vs. -7
w/ Marion+Dirk -- vs. -11.9
From the table, it becomes clear the effect James has on his teammates relative to Collison. Though James is prone to dominating the ball at times with inopportune shots and the occasional head-scratching decision, he is clearly the best option Rick Carlisle has at his disposal.
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DONUT 11: The Decline Of Mayo ...
These are O.J. Mayo’s per-month scoring averages:
Perhaps no player has been asked to adapt his role more this season than Mayo, going from tent-pole scorer to complimentary wing piece in the span of five months. However, Mayo’s continual decline is disconcerting on several levels: (1) his impending free agency, (2) his slide against quality opponents – Mayo’s scoring average against Southwest divisional foes is his worst of any division and (3) the role of Mike James.
I’ll address each of these points in a feature coming later this week.
DONUT 12: The Final Word: Dangers of No-Man’s Land ...
Dallas is again in the unenviable position of “Too Good for the Lottery, Too Bad for the Playoffs.” Despite their progress, Dallas still faces a steep uphill climb to make it into the playoffs. In sports, anything can happen, but the odds are still bleak.
The flipside is no less enticing. Dallas is in a group including Philadelphia, Portland and Utah that currently sits outside the playoffs, but also has a less than 1% chance of winning the lottery.
We know Dallas will not intentionally tank for more lottery ping-pong balls, nor should they. This leaves the Mavericks with only one option: win and get in.
It’s a fainter hope than that, but hey, anything can happen -- and already this season, lots of "anythings'' already have.