The Mavs entered Monday's visit from the Sixers averaging 114.3 points per game at the AAC, where they had yet to lose. Philadelphia arrived in Dallas giving up an average of 119.3 points per game on the road while battling 'Team Tank' speculation. So a Mavs win would be as foreseeable as it was fun, right? First Impressions:
The Dallas Mavericks rolled into this week's return to DFW as one of just seven NBA teams that remain undefeated at home. But they didn't easily roll over the Sixers, finally securing a 97-94 victory at the AAC despite having less than their usual potency and amid a pair of two key lineup changes.
"We were a little sloppy,'' said Dirk Nowitzki. "They came out and took it to us. We weren't ready.''
Nevertheless, Dallas secured the win to move to 7-4. The decision drops Philly to 5-7 and will no doubt once again fuel some talk of the Sixers being among the franchises that toys with tanking in order to position itself for draft help to play alongside youngsters Michael Carter-Williams (an early Rookie-of-the-Year candidate unavailable due to a foot injury) and Evan Turner (who had 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists amid bogus rumors of Mavs-Sixers trade thoughts).
"This was a survival-type game,'' said a respectful Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. "We did what we had to do to win. It’s a difficult game as we knew it would be.''
In truth, it took awhile for assorted Mavs to pitch their candidacy for who Deserves "The Dirkie'' (You vote here!) as Dallas was held scoreless for the first five minutes of the game and then trailed by 10 at halftime. In the end, though, it moved from a "survival-type game'' to one between kids who have lost their path and vets who by the fourth quarter found their groove.
The integration into the rotation of rookie Shane Larkin represents a positive change. Larkin, the rookie first-rounder debuting after breaking his ankle in July, came off the bench to contribute three points, three assists and two steals in nine minutes.
"I was out there smiling the whole time, living my dream,'' Larkin said. "It was a great night."
Less great: Carlisle's decision to make a first-time alteration to his starting lineup. Center Sam Dalembert, a starter in all 10 previous games, came off the bench here as Dallas opted to go small by starting Jae Crowder. He managed just two points on 1-of-8 shooting,
"The lineup to start the game didn’t work out,'' Carlisle said in an understatement.
But Dalembert began the second half. He contributed eight points, a season-high 14 rebounds and three blocks as the Mavs finally surged ahead on a Shawn Marion dunk with 1:41 remaining in the third period.
And then, Dallas' offensive firepower started showing itself. Nowitzki had his first double-double of the year with 20 points and 10 rebounds. And Monta Ellis did the same with 24 points (19 in the second half) and 10 assists.
Ellis has now scored 18 or more in every one of the newcomer's outings in a Mavs uniform. But ... why did it take so long on Monday?
"Maybe we got away from the team concept a little bit, and it really started on the defensive end,'' said Ellis, who also had two of Dallas' 11 blocked shots. "We really weren’t helping each other like we should. But in the second half we picked it up on both ends and got the win.”
The manner wasn't foreseeable. But with a 5-0 record at home? In the end, it was fun.