The preseason is gradually gathering momentum, from two games over the previous seven days to six over the next 12. Rick Carlisle told us that Jose Calderon would at least miss Monday and Wednesday’s contests, Orlando and Indiana respectively, and the tentative plan seems to be for Calderon to start practicing today and play in Saturday’s game, which would allow him to take part in the final four preseason contests. We also found out Shawn Marion was getting a “rest” day Monday night, allowing Jae Crowder to start in his place.
With Calderon, Devin Harris, and Shane Larkin still out, the primary point guard duties once more fell on “deep-end-of-the-ocean” thrown Gal Mekel …and the table was set for the Dallas Mavericks third preseason game.
In a game of runs, sparked by a 22-2 Orlando burst in the first quarter, only to be answered by a 21-6 Dallas surge, it was the Magic who would laugh last, using a 16-1 run in fourth quarter to put the Mavericks away for good.
Dallas falls to 1-2 in the preseason with a 102-94 loss to the now 1-2 Orlando Magic, playing without Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis (sprained right ankle) or Jason Maxiell.
Some video highlights:
“We are down point guards and are down one of our best bigs (in B-Wright),'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "The guys we got have to take up the slack and it’s not easy. Orlando is an aggressive young team and they are 0-2 and they came out ready to fight all night long. We did not respond well early, but we did better as we got into the game.''
For all of the problems originating from the guard position a season ago, the two most disconcerting were the inability to properly manage a close game in its most crucial moments (we’re still waiting on Calderon to see the evolution of that) and the near complete lack of chemistry in playing off of Dirk Nowitzki.
With Dirk sitting, OJ Mayo helped keep the team afloat and even flourished at times as the focal point of the offense. Yet, once Dirk returned, Mayo was never able to forge a comfortable rhythm, was never able to capitalize on or thrive in the space Dirk’s presence created.
Perhaps we had grown spoiled by the on-court dance orchestrated so well between Jason Terry and Dirk. Perhaps we were robbed of what could have been by time vanished due to Dirk’s injury, the practices and preseason games lost. Whatever the reason, the two-man-game between that roster’s two best offensive weapons never gelled.
It’s far too early to pretend we know what the Monta Ellis/Dirk combo will become. The preseason – and the incredibly small sample sizes of a new season already being looked to in the hopes of divining what is to come -- can lie, or at least mislead, but it’s hard not to watch some of what Dirk and Ellis are already doing as a duo when sharing the court and not start to dream.
Maybe it all comes crashing down when the competition level goes up, when the stats start to be tallied.
There were moments, flashes of fluidity, which seem to surpass anything we saw between the guards and Dirk last season. Undoubtedly, memory is tarnished by the disappointment in where that season ended, but if you watched Ellis continually look to Dirk on Monday night before going into determined motion, watched the two work off of each other, embracing the room created by the other and creating points …
*You saw the first half close with a pair of possessions in the final minute centered on the Dirk/Ellis two-man-game, and two easy shots (even if Dirk missed one of them).
*You saw the Mavs regaining the lead in the third quarter when Ellis came off a double screen from Samuel Dalembert then Dirk, attack and kick the ball back to an open Nowitkzi for what would become a 4-point play.
*You saw the embryo of something so missed a season ago.
Dirk, coach Rick Carlisle said, “is moving well. Guys are seeing him and finding him in rhythm. Monta made some very good passes to him and [Gal] Mekel made a couple good passes to him. You can tell he has worked extremely hard to get himself back to where the conditioning and rhythm is there. We have to carry this forward.”
Yes, it’s only the preseason, and the blocks that appear in the process of being stacked so sturdily can come crumbling down should the illusion falter, but it’s hard not to begin the wonder of “what if.”
It’s hard not to fantasize about more of what we saw in the second quarter, when Dirk and Ellis combined for 19 points on 7-of-10 field goals.
Dirk finished with 24 points in 25 minutes on 9-of-14 shots, 2-of-4 3-pointers, 4-of-4 free throws, three blocks, two steals, two assists … and zero rebounds (considering the context of Dirk’s situation, won’t get upset about that here … though that could hurt in a regular-season game).
In just over 27 minutes, Ellis ended up with 16 points, 5-of-11 field goals, 1-of-3 behind the arc, 5-of-6 free throws, four rebounds, five assists, two steals and only one turnover.
"It's coming along well, but it's only going to get better,'' said Dirk. "That's going to be our bread and butter probably all season long."
ROOKIE GONNA ROOKIE
Gal Mekel started at point guard and once more displayed instances of grace – there was a between-the-legs pass to Ellis for a finish on a break, a nice behind-the-back pass to Dirk for an open three -- tangled with just as many “learning” moments, such as three turnovers over a 1:07 span in the middle of the first quarter.
You can see the duality of his play in his final numbers: eight points, 2-of-7 field goals, six assists and five turnovers.
Through three preseason games, Mekel is averaging 4.3 assists and 4.7 turnovers. He’s looked outmatched at times, and shown glimpses of why the Mavs were interested in bringing him to Dallas.
The reality of the situation is that Mekel is a rookie projected to be the third or fourth point guard on this roster being asked to start in his very first taste of NBA action.
it’s tough for Gal right now,” Nowitzki said. “He’s basically our only point guard on the roster right now. … He’s trying and he’s doing well, but he’s got to learn a few things. You know, he’s turning the ball over here and there, so he’s kind of got to adjust on the fly. But that’s what preseason is for, and it will help him in the long run to get better. He’s got to fight through it right now.”
RELIEF FROM JOSE?
Calderon on the plan to ease back in: "I think I’ll be able to do more with the team (today). "But if I start practicing (today), just playing in Indiana doesn't make any sense -- just going right away to full speed.''
Stay in touch with DB.com and we'll update you on Calderon's progress as the day goes on.
Samuel Dalembert played 23 minutes, finished with four points, hitting 1-of-5 shots, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Dalembert was fairly active around the rim and eight boards in 23 minutes is solid, though he continues to not display the greatest of hands on passes thrown into the paint, particularly by attacking guards.
In the end, any offense Dalembert gives will be a bonus. His role is at the other end of the court. He needs to be an interior defensive presence and work the glass. In spurts, we’re seeing that.
After being called out by Rick Carlisle after the first game, Dalembert has looked much better and avoided serious foul trouble … over the last two games he’s averaged 7.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and two blocks in just under 22 minutes per.
THE SMALL FORWARD
With Shawn Marion getting a night off, Jae Crowder started at small forward and wasn’t much of a factor. Some of this may be by design, as most of the offense flowed through Dirk and Ellis, but Crowder needs to make up for that in other areas, such as rebounding.
Last season, Crowder’s rebounding percentage (percentage of rebounds he grabbed while on the floor) was easily the lowest of all non-guards. For the sake of comparison, Brandan Wright, a player who likely lost minutes due to his lack of consistent rebounding, grabbed 12.4 percent of available rebounds while on the court.
Crowder snagged 7.7 percent.
For a player who will not be asked to be a significant part of the offense, Crowder must excel in as many other areas as possible.
Crowder finished with two points on 1-of-3 shooting, one rebound and one assist in just over 20 minutes of action.
For his part, Crowder seemed to feel fine about the effort.
“I felt great out there,'' he said. "With me being a starter, I knew I wasn’t going to get many shots as I normally get coming off the bench. I just tried to play within the system and play good defense and that’s what I can do to help the team.”
We think Jae didn't so much feel great about his actual performance, but rather, felt great because he's 15 pounds lighter this year having given up the suds.
“I feel really good,'' Crowder said. "I guarded some of the league’s top scorers last season so I’m looking forward to that challenge again this year. I want to contribute more on offense and defense so I’ll keep working hard and I’m excited for the season to start.”
DeJuan Blair played 16:28 with four points, two rebounds, two assists on 2-of-6 field goals.
Wayne Ellington played just over 21 minutes and ended with six points, 2-of-7 field goals, 0-of-2 3-pointers, three rebounds, two steals and one assist.
In 20 minutes, Vince Carter had seven points on 2-of-9 shooting, three rebounds and one assist.
For the three primary bench players Mavs employed in this game, those are not pretty numbers. Each did not fair well in what will be their primary regular-season roles: rebounding for Blair, defense and long-distance shooting for Ellington and scoring for Carter.
They will see better nights.
OUR MAVS PREGAME DINNER
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THE BOARDS …
As we noted above, Dirk finished with zero rebounds, Crowder added only one and Blair grabbed just two … combine all of this and you see the pattern that led to the worst effort on the glass of the preseason for the Mavs.
Orlando out-rebounded Dallas 54-32.
We hope this is not a sign of things to come. Carlisle joins us in our hope.
“The rebounding was poor,'' the coach said. "Our rebounders have to step up and help us. Sam had eight and we need our other bigs to get more. We need the guards to help. It has to be a collective effort.”
One more guy could've helped, too.
"At seven foot, it’s actually hard not to get a rebound,'' said Dirk, who actually accomplished that dubious feat.
Forward Devin Ebanks was suspended today by the NBA for two regular-season games
without pay for pleading nolo contendere to driving under the influence of alcohol. The offense occurred in California and kicks in beginning with Ebanks' eligibility in this regular season -- which is unlikely to occur with Dallas as he is one of 20 players in the Mavs' training camp and is on a non-guaranteed contract.
FUN FACT FROM FOLLOWILL FOR FREE …
Mark Followill mentioned on the television broadcast that Orlando played its first game as a franchise 25 years ago … when none of their starters on this night were yet born.
"We did a lot of great things. We brought a lot of energy in the second quarter and in the beginning of the second half to come back and take a lead. We came up short, but we did a lot of positive things.” - Monta Ellis
THE FINAL WORD
If you’re looking for a positive beyond the sparking hope of the rebirth of a two-man-game in Dallas, note that the Mavs have led after three quarters in all three games. Meaning, when the starters have been almost universally pulled, the Mavs have not been trailing.
After three, Dallas led by five against New Orleans, by 16 in Memphis and by one Monday night against Orlando.
As you might expect of a team carrying the maximum of 20 players through camp, the Mavs have been outscored by an average of 8.7 points in the fourth quarter, when the minutes go deeper into the roster.
For a team like Dallas, with a mixture of age and youth, working in a high percentage of roster turnover, this could be viewed through a positive prism. Any gain in chemistry, to stay healthy (or as healthy as possible) is a step forward. Teams always want to win, but in this case, for this team, there are more important things.
The challenge is to have the right disposition to start and I told the guys that all of the games we play are going to be like this. Teams are going to come at us and we’re going to be coming at them, too, but we have to be ready for this type of force and early in the game we weren’t. ... (Orlando) came out with piss and vinegar in them."
As time goes by, Dallas seems ready to counter "piss and vinegar'' with "bread and butter.''