We dish out some early advanced-stats observations as they pertain to the Mavs, all with the idea in…
Mavs Sights & Sounds & Donuts
DONUT 1: Home Confidence ...
The Dallas Mavericks have done a number of things well in this young season. They've also struggled in a few areas. One thing is clear, however: they have played better all-around basketball inside the American Airlines Center. At 5-0, the Mavs are one of just seven teams that are still undefeated at home this season.
Monday night's 97-94 victory was the first home game in which they failed to score over 100 points this season. And as we detail here in "First Impressions,'' the outcome was more "fun'' than "foreseeable.''
Coach Rick Carlisle's postgame presser:
This home success is nothing new against the Sixers, by the way. Philadelphia hasn't won a game in Dallas since Allen Iverson was still on the team. Their last win in American Airlines Center came on January 29th, 2005.
DONUT 2: A Team That Doesn't Tank ...
With offseason moves that included trading 23-year old All-Star Jrue Holiday for a rookie who may not play a single game this season (Nerleans Noel) and spending very little money on available free agents, it all led to fans and media to assume that the Philadelphia organization was "tanking" the season in order to get a high draft pick in next year's highly coveted draft.
Judging by the way the Sixers competed against the Mavs Monday night (and their performance thus far this season), it seems safe to say that the Philadelphia coaching staff and players have every intention of winning every game they participate in. (Though who knows how bad Michael Carter-Williams' arch problem is.)
With that in mind, there's still something to be said about an organization like the Mavericks' in which the "T" word never even comes up. Since Mark Cuban has taken over the team, it's been clear that the front office has operated each year with the intention of a winning season, a championship season, a hopefully non-treadmill season. (In fact, some go so far as to criticize Cuban for the strategy).
Before Monday's game, center Bernard James talked to DB.com about playing his first two years for a team with every intention of winning.
"It is a good feeling," James said. "In basketball, until you get to the NBA level, you don't really hear about teams that don't want to win games. There's all kinds of strategies with the draft and all that involved, but being on a team that's all about winning, it's a real good feeling."
It'll feel even better if this good Mavs start has some sort of happy playoff-related happy ending. But again, certainly from the perspective of players on the Sixers and players like Sarge, tanking is a no-no.
DONUT 3: High Praise for Dirk ...
Philadelphia and Dallas may not have much of a rilvary when it comes to basketball, but that doesn't mean that Sixers' head coach Brett Brown isn't familiar with Dirk Nowitzki.
Prior to this season Brown was an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs under Greg Popovich since 2007 and had been with the organization since 1999.
Talking before tipoff, Brown wasn't shy in his admiration and respect of Dirk Nowitzki.
"This is my personal opinion: I think he's the hardest player that we ever had to guard (in San Antonio)," Brown said. "(It's) because of his size. We've guarded them all. Kevin Durant, Lebron, Carmelo, those are great players, great scorers. Dirk with his size and his ability to shoot just caused us over the years great difficulty. We had to come up with schemes. I say that comment because of the magnitude of the times that we had to go through Dallas to get to someplace special.
"Dirk was just really hard to guard. He's such a unique player."
Brown may have moved to the Eastern Conference, but Nowtizki continued to give him trouble. He recorded his first double-double of the season with 20 points, 10 rebounds and three assists while shooting over 50 percent from the field.
Here's Dirk in the postgame locker room Video Visit:
DONUT 4: The First Lineup Change...
For the first time this season the Mavericks opened the game with a different starting lineup. Jae Crowder replaced Sam Dalembert in the starting squad. The Sixers' starting center, Spence Hawes, spends a lot of time on the perimeter shooting jump shots, so allowing Nowitzki to guard Hawes and removing a true center from the lineup seemed logical.
That being said, it's hard to say the move was successful in this particular case. Crowder started the game shooting 0-of-5 with zero points and two turnovers while the Sixers came out strong to grab a 21-18 first quarter lead.
After the game, Rick Carlisle admitted that the move was not very effective.
"The lineup to start the game didn't work out," Carlisle conceded. "We just had to keep searching and by the time the game was over we had played 11 guys. Everyone that played contributed and this was a survival-type game. We did what we had to do to win.''
The confidence that Rick Carlisle and the coaching staff showed in Crowder by putting him in the starting lineup is still noteworthy. Coming into the season, it was fair to wonder if Crowder would see limited minutes in the Mavericks' potentially crowded rotation. He finished the game with two points and six rebounds.
More important: How did Dalembert respond to coming off the bench for the first time this season? He grabbed a season-high 14 rebounds to go along with eight points and three blocked shots.
Rick's thoughts on Dalembert's day and night: "He was terrific. I explained the situation (Monday) morning. He was great about it. He said, ‘Whatever's best for the team, that's fine.' It's a case of a guy who didn't let that affect him. He came in and he was a big factor.''
Rick's thoughts on his own strategy: "We should have started our regular way, but you live and learn."
DONUT 5: Larkin's debut ...
It took 11 games, but the Mavericks' 2013 first round pick, Shane Larkin made his debut in the first quarter of Monday's game to a loud ovation from the AAC crowd.
Larkin only played 8:35, but accumulated three points, three assists and three steals with zero turnovers. He also played more minutes than Gal Mekel, which leads to the question of how long it will take for Larkin to supplant Mekel as the backup point guard.
For now, for Larkin, the return from ankle surgery is dreamy enough.
"I was out there smiling the whole time, living my dream,'' Larkin said. "It was a great night."
We've got the full story on Shane Larkin's debute here.
DONUT 6: Join DB.com Boards! ...
Membership is free and the discussions are hot!
We invite you to be part of the Mavs conversation on the best discussion forum in the NBA, The DB.com Boards! We're in our 14th season of slicing and dicing Mavs issues ... and more!
DONUT 7: Thieves or Victims? ...
The Mavericks defense has been "an issue'' so far this season. However, Dallas has done a good job of accumulating steals thus far. Coming into Monday's game the Mavericks were leading the league in steals averaging 10.2 per game.
Unfortunately, having the ball stolen from them is just as common as their opponents are averaging an identical 10.2 steals per game. That was especially the case Monday night against Philadelphia when the Mavs recorded eight steals and the Sixers manages to get 12 steals of their own.
Fortunately for Dallas, they roller-coastered up in another category, with a season-high 11 blocked shots.
DONUT 8: Stat of the Night ...
*Evan Turner's points+rebounds+assists+steals+blocks: 42
*Shawn Marion's points+rebounds+assists+steals+blocks: 32
Evan Turner is the Sixers' No. 1 option in terms of making positive things happen and by most accounts had a more impressive game than Marion Monday night.
Turner's name has been thrown into trade rumors involving the Mavericks recently (rumors debunked by DB.com earlier this week). The thought from some: Turner would be an upgrade for the Mavericks at forward because he is a player that does just about everything well. Yet we shouldn't forget that Marion has been a member of the Do-Everything-Well club for 14 years now and his production Monday (while basically serving as the fourth or fifth offensive option) proves that he can still put up numbers to rival a player like Turner.
Here's Matrix in the locker room:
DONUT 9: Shooting ugly ...
The Mavs shot 43.6 percent on Monday. That's likely an aberration given what we're coming to expect of them at home. But here's some truly good news from Coop as we compare this year to last: The Mavs -- even with defense being "an issue'' as we note above -- now have won three games this season when shooting below 45 percent.
Last year's Mavs? They needed all season to get to three wins under that circumstance. Overall record when shooting under 45 percent for the 2012-13 Mavs? A dismal 3-29.
DONUT 10: Oh, those steaks and burgers!
Thanks to Dee and the incredible staff at Dee Lincoln Steak and Burger Bar for our incredible Mavs pregame dinners ... the legendary DFW restaurateur has done it again.
Dee Lincoln Steak and Burger Bar is becoming THE "upscale casual'' place to dine before you attend events in Dallas ... And the gang from DB.com looks forward to seeing you there!
DONUT 11: Monta's efficiency ...
This is going to be an ongoing conversation all season. The knock on Monta Ellis coming into this year is that while he is an extremely impressive and gifted player, he is ultimately inefficient on the basketball court.
It will take time more than 11 games for Ellis to disprove that notion, but Monday night was another recent example of clear efficiency at the shooting guard position.
Ellis struggled early and had just five points at halftime. Yet his final stat line read as follows: 24 points (50-percent shooting from the field), 10 assists (season-high) and four rebounds. It's hard to read that as anything less than efficient. His four turnovers may not be ideal, but considering he played 39 minutes and handled the ball constantly late in the shot clock, it's pretty easy to live with that number.
Here's Monta's Video Visit:
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
"If you don't know what you're doing out there, get the ball to Dirk. That's what you should do." - Shane Larkin.