The scoop on those MFFL Warning Cards. ... Trix and Dirk go to the dentist? ... The confab featuring…
DONUT 1: Mavs 111, Rockets 104 ...
The Dallas Mavericks won a Monday-nighter in Houston by winning the third quarter.
It really is almost that simple and it really is sort of rare, too.
Conquering foes in third quarters is not necessarily a Dallas strength. But in this 111-104 win at the Toyota Center, they grabbed a 36-21 advantage in the period with a 15-1 run ... all of it coming after trailing at halftime 57-50.
Said Monta Ellis (who struggled with his shot but finished with 18 points): "It was a must-win for us. We had to get back on track to feeling good again after two devastating losses."
For our initial thoughts on the win, check out First Impressions.
DONUT 2: "He's The Great Dirk' ...
Dirk was in the middle of that run with seven of the 15 points. He also scored 10 in the final quarter, the fourth time in six December games he's done so. (hat-tip Mark Followill.) And in the end, he scored 31 and was the best player on the floor ... which is saying something on a night when Dwight Howard was good for 29/15.
Nowitzki moved up the NBA's all-time scoring list, passing No. 13 Alex English. No. 12 John Havlicek is next on his list.
"It's a fun little accomplishment,'' said Dirk, seemingly almost embarrassed to have his name mentioned in the same paragraph with guys like Reggie, English, Hondo and so many more.
On occasion, it seemed Houston opted not to double Dirk and on occasion he seemed matched against a smaller man. That was in part due to the shooting prowess of teammates.
"They had a lot of respect for our shooting at that point," said Nowitzki. "So they were a little hesitant to double me, and I've got to take advantage of the match-ups when they play me with (smaller) guys and I can shoot over them.''
Before the game, Rick Carlisle said he'd use "the kitchen sink'' to combat Dwight. Houston, really, did some of the same against Dirk.
"We tried a bunch of different stuff," coach Kevin McHale said. "We tried showing and coming back. We tried staying on there. We tried running at him. Nothing seemed to work."
It truth, the issue wasn't Houston's failings.
"He's the great Dirk Nowitzki," Carlisle said. "He's one of the great players in the history of the game. ... The guy has changed the game with the way he plays; the game is not the same. He changed the power forward game forever and it's reflected in the modern game now."
DONUT 3: Houston's frustration ...
You don't need to watch the full two minutes of McHale's presser to sense the Dirk-driven foundation. The first few seconds of crumpled statsheet tells the tale.
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DONUT 5: Defending the arc ...
Houston does so many things well offensively, including being a collection of Mister Insides and Mister Outsides -- meaning, the Rockets get to the line and the Rockets shoot the 3.
Dallas survived in both areas.
Houston attempted 29 free throws, not too lopsided compared to Dallas' 23. Meanwhile, Carlisle said he hoped to limit Houston to "under 10 threes.''
In the end, the Rockets took 19 treys and made seven of them. A winning formula for a Mavs team that lost at Phoenix over the weekend in large part because of poor defense against the Suns' barrage from the arc.
"I figured if we could keep them under 10 threes we would have a chance,'' Rick said. "I think they made five in the first half and two in the second.''
That's seven. That's "under 10.'' That's a winning formula.
DONUT 6: The starting center debate ...
So, who should be the Dallas Mavericks' starting center? Going into last night, we said one player had earned consideration but the numbers don't support the idea. And that another guy is a trendy answer but may fit better elsewhere. And that a third candidate could solve the puzzle but ... he wasn't yet doing so.
Carlisle says it "will have to be a collective effort'' and we get that. But we've also collected some numbers, too, in the above link, along with adding up what happened against Houston. ...
*DeJuan Blair got a DNP.
*B-Wright came off the bench for 19 minutes and got three rebounds, two steals and six points.
*And Samuel Dalembert made his first start since Dec. 3 -- straight from our pages and onto the floor! -- and battled Dwight to the tune of 29 minutes, seven rebounds, three steals and eight points.
"It's always a readjustment," Dalembert said of being re-inserted into the starting lineup. "It's a different thing when you're starting and then when you're coming in with the bench. Either way, I just manage myself to get ready. Then when I do get a call, I just go out there and give my best."
Make no mistake; Howard was a Dwightmare. As Coop pointed out, in his last nine games coming in he was averaging 21.9 points and 15.1 rebounds and by gosh there he was: 29 points and 15 rebounds.
But the best answer to a great traditional center might just be ... the best traditional center you have on your roster. And Dalembert is that.
DONUT 7: Who Deserves The 'Dirkie'? ...
Yes, yes. It seems obvious. But this is a democracy. So ... Who Deserves "The Dirkie''? Mavs fans vote here!
DONUT 8: Fear of failure ...
Pop sports psychologists often talk about the Power of Positive Thinking. It's a very real thing. But I've talked to hundreds of athletes who also say they are greatly motivated by "fear'' -- a fear of failure.
So it makes perfect sense that Dirk would note that Dallas' two-game losing streak going into Houston helped push the Mavs to get to 16-12.
"You don't ever want to sit on two days at Christmas with a three-game losing streak, so we definitely wanted to have this one,'' he said. "We competed and everybody who was out there played hard."
DONUT 9: The NBA highlight reel ...
DONUT 10: Quoteboard ...
"He's the great Dirk Nowitzki. He's one of the great players in the history of the game." - Rick Carlisle.
Yes. I think it's worth repeating.
DONUT 11: A notable difference ...
Jeremy Lin played and scored 20 points with four assists, but four turnovers. He was essentially matched by Jose Calderon, who totaled 15 points with a 5/1 assist/turnover ratio.
So you break even there. And you do the same with Dirk vs. Dwight. Where, then, did the Houston dam break?
Maybe in the area of depth. The Rockets played without James Harden (among others, including the mishandled trade-bait that is Omer Asik) while the Mavs' second unit benefited not only from B-Wright's solid stint but also from the crisp shooting of Jae Crowder and Vince Carter, who combined for 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
The Mavs now go into the Christmas break with a 16-12 record and, on Tuesday, no practice and a day of rest. (That's one way to sidestep Carlisle's dreaded "holiday distractions''; give everybody the day off!)
I can tell you that the talk inside the Fox Sports Southwest studios late Monday night quickly turned to Thursday's visit from the Spurs. And we anticipate the same ... but no days off around here. My very tolerant family understands how blessed I feel that so many Mavs fans enjoy visiting DallasBasketball.com on YOUR days off, holidays included. So we'll spend time with our families and with each other throughout the holidays, and we'll do it with a great deal of appreciation of what you have done for us -- for me -- here at DB.com.