DONUT 1: Setting the Table …
After a four-games-in-five-nights set that saw the Dallas Mavericks win three of the four, sandwiched around an embarrassing loss to the Spurs, the Mavs welcomed the Orlando Magic, and their seven-game losing streak.
There would be no Shawn Marion, who was a late scratch as he continues to heal from those severely bruised ribs and shoulder, no Shane Larkin, Nikola Vucevic (concussion) or Arron Afflalo (strained right foot), but Dallas would get Wayne Ellington's best game of the season (12 points, six rebounds) within a balanced attack featuring six players in double figures, on their way to a 107-88 victory … and with the Suns losing to the Knicks, sole possession of the seventh seed in the West.
Coach Rick Carlisle's postgame presser:
DONUT 2: The worry that wasn't …
With 2:02 to play in the second quarter, Dirk Nowitzki pumped Tobias Harris into the air. As Harris came down, Dirk went up … between, their elbows met, and a shooting foul was called.
At Nowitzki's behest, Rick Carlisle called a 20-second timeout to give his star a moment to shake the feeling back into his right hand and arm. Dirk was clearly having some issues, as he continually shook his arm and gripped at the air, opening and closing his first.
Dirk would leave the game 20 seconds after the foul, sitting the final 1:42 of the half, but would be back with the starters as the third quarter opened and showed no signs of shying away from the arm or elbow when interacting with teammates, even offering his right hand without hesitation when helped up off the floor by a teammate.
He continued to shake the hand and arm, and was 1-7 from the floor after the incident (after a 3-of-3 start), but we'll continue to believe this is nothing more than the "double-bruise" Dirk labeled it unless told otherwise.
For his part, Carlisle didn't seem too concerned:
"I think he got elbowed on the forearm, or something, and it may have hit a nerve … a 'zinger' ... I haven't asked him, but they messed around with it and stretched it out. I think he was better in the second half, when he hit the three, better."
Dirk provides his own injury update and his review of the game:
"We've got 48 hours until the next game,'' The Uberman said. "I'll be ready to roll.''
DONUT 3: Good Carter … again
For the first time this season, Vince Carter has scored in double-digits in six consecutive contests.
Carter outscored the entire Orlando bench, 17-14, by hitting 6-of-10 from the floor, including 3-of-4 behind the arc, to go with two assists and no turnovers in just under 23 minutes.
Shortly after Brandan Wright returned, we noted the impact the chemistry between Wright and Carter seemed to have on Vince's efficiency, and general offensive effectiveness, noting that the small sample size at that moment was supported by similar numbers from last season.
A little more time has passed, so let's take another look at Carter's numbers with and without Wright on the court (plus/minus, assists and turnovers are per 36 minutes):
Other than the slide in defensive rating, which is more than made up for by the surge in offensive rating, Carter shows improvement almost across the board when Wright shares the court with him.
The Mavs are now 10-3 when Carter hits at least 45 percent of his field goals, and 16-5 when he hits above 35 percent … Vince has hit at least 50 percent from the floor 10 times this season, seven of those coming after Wright returned.
There's something to be said for chemistry.
DONUT 4: The other superlatives …
*With Marion still out, Rick Carlisle turned to Wayne Ellington, who responded with his best game of the season, setting new season highs in both scoring (12 points) and rebounding (six).
"He did a nice job," Carlisle said of Ellington. "He's a solid player. He plays, does things hard on defense and offensively plays within himself. This was good."
Ellington was efficient, hitting 5-of-8 from the floor and 2-of-5 behind the arc, and made his case for more minutes in the near future.
Ellington's Video Visit:
"I just felt like I can go out there and play my part,'' Ellington said. "I knock down shots -- that what I'm out there to do -- defend and just play basketball and play the way I'm capable of.''
*Shane Larkin was in street clothes, leaving the backup point guard minutes to Gal Mekel (and Monta Ellis). Mekel took advantage of the opportunity to tie his season/career high with seven assists and only one turnover.
*Jae Crowder played an efficient offensive game, hitting 6-of-8 shots on his way to 14 points, and added four rebounds and three steals in just under 25 minutes of action.
Crowder's Video Visit:
DONUT 5: The responses …
Twice in the second half, the Magic made runs to eat into the Mavs lead. In the NBA, teams will almost always go on a run. It's a near inevitability. It's not about preventing the run, but in responding to it … limiting the damage it does.
If you respond well, Dirk doesn't have to return from his normally-scheduled rest in the fourth quarter, minutes are kept in check (for the most part) and, most importantly, wins are gathered.
Dallas began the third up 18. With 7:15 to play in the quarter the lead was down to six, 63-57, after a 16-4 Magic run. The Mavs would instantly respond with a 12-0 burst of their own, ending the period up 18 once more, 84-66.
With 6:17 to play in the fourth Orlando made their final push, cutting the Mavs lead to nine.
Dallas responded with a 9-0 run and put the game away.
It's not about the runs. It's the response. Dallas responded … and has their third widest margin of victory of the season to show for it.
And now you are 23-16 ... seven games above .500.
"It's better than seven under, which last year we definitely were,'' Dirk said. "That's why we had those bad beards."
DONUT 6: Are you sure? …
For those clamoring for Andrew Bynum to "improve" the Mavs rebounding and/or defense, here are a couple of numbers to throw out there:
Bynum's rebounding percentage of 14.1 would rank fourth on the Mavs, and fourth among the Mavs' centers, behind DeJuan Blair (18.5), Samuel Dalembert (17.6) and Bernard James (17.0) … and is nearer Shawn Marion (12.9) this year, and, or reference, lower than Marion last season (14.3).
On the defensive end, his defensive rating is 104.8, slightly worst than DeJuan Blair's 104.4 and considerably worse than Dalembert's 101.3.
DONUT 7: But, you know, offense …
But, Bynum's offense will make up for that, right?
Bynum's offensive rating of 93.0 -- not to mention his net rating (-11.8) -- is far worse than anyone on the Mavs current roster, where no one is below triple-digits … you have to go back to a trio of 2011-12 Mavs to find worse offensive rating from a Dallas player (minimum of 100 minutes): Dominique Jones (88.9), Yi Jianlian's (89.4) and Brian Cardinal (91.7).
DONUT 8: But, he was coming back from injury …
If you want to try to be fair and give some leeway for Bynum's return from serious knee injury, throw away the games before Cleveland deemed him physically able to start … and his numbers get worse.
Bynum played his first five games from the bench, his last 19 as a starter.
As a starter, Bynum's numbers: 13.9 rebounding percentage, 105.6 defensive rating, 92.4 offensive rating, and a -13.3 net rating.
And, if at any point you used the phrase "yeah, but he wasn't really trying in Cleveland" to counter any of these points, then add that as another reason not to be interested.
DONUT 9: Last thoughts on Bynum …
Could Bynum be a lottery ticket waiting to be cashed? Maybe.
Has he shown any indication that he has or will reclaim the physical gifts he once displayed? Not really.
If you refuse to let go of Bynum's history, that window in which he was a very good NBA center, you are forced to also embrace the rest of his history, a history that seems intent on making it as clear as possible that he simply doesn't care about basketball.
Dallas is no longer a locker room featuring strong, well-established influences like Jason Kidd and Jason Terry beside Dirk and Marion, not to mention names like Caron Butler or Tyson Chandler, that demanded accountability, and got it.
This is a roster with nine new faces still scratching and clawing to find their fit, their roles … their chemistry.
Why anyone would want to throw a malcontent that's left two teams, maybe three, in his rearview that seem more inclined to give him the finger than a pat on the back, just seems strange.
This season, the Andrew Bynum that exists right now, hasn't been better than Dalembert, hasn't really been better than Bernard James, certainly wouldn't be a better teammate, hasn't been better than Blair and isn't close to offering the kind of complementary play Wright has.
One lottery ticket can bring a lot in return … but that single dollar lost if it isn't a winner can't tear down your household. If it could, would you still think that ticket, and it's slim chance of reward, was worth the risk, the cost?
All those takes are, of course, in addition to what we've learned from inside Mavs HQ on the front office's views on Bynum and another trade-bait center, Houston's Omer Asik. It's Premium Mavs Converage, available for a free 7-day trial and then at just 10 cents a day ... the deepest and best Mavs information on the planet. We invite you to give us a try!
DONUT 10: Mavsellaneous …
*For the 10th time this season, the Mavs had more rebounds than their opponent, out-boarding the Magic 40-37.
Dallas is now 9-1 in those games.
*When Dallas can keep the free-throw attempts close, they most often win the game. Orlando had one more attempt at the line than the Mavs …
When Dallas maintains a free-throw differential of minus-6 (opponent takes six more than the Mavs) or better, they are now 14-4.
*Devin Harris is scheduled to participate in his first full practice today, and we're looking forward to this. DB.com will of course have complete coverage later in the day.
*The Mavs hit at least 50 percent of their shots for the 15th time this season. They are 12-3 in those games.
*The Mavs have held their opponent at or below 45 percent shooting 19 times this season. They are 16-3 in those games.
*In part because they were not needed, Dirk and Monta combined to go 0-5 in the fourth quarter for 0 points … and the Mavs won the quarter 23-22.
* Who Deserves "The Dirkie''? Vote here!
*With 40.9 seconds left in the third quarter, Dirk hit a 3-pointer, number 1,400 of his career … he becomes the 24th player in NBA history to reach that mark.
DONUT 11: Thanks, Red Rock! ...
When you're hanging out in North Dallas looking for sports on a 200-inch TV, live music and fun atmosphere, come hang out at Red Rock Bar & Grill like the 75-Member Staff does! See you there this weekend!
DONUT 12: The Final Word …
The Dallas Mavericks did what they were "supposed" to do and beat a team with one of the league's worst records. Now, they must head to Phoenix to play a Suns team without Eric Bledsoe ... a late Wednesday outing with possible playoff implications. The Suns took the first game of the three these teams will play against each other this season. The third and final meeting will come in Game 81 in Dallas.
Monta Ellis gives us a preview of that one and a review of this one in his Video Visit:
"The biggest thing was, we knew that they were going to continue to fight the whole game,'' Ellis said. "But we found a way to come out with the win.''
Dallas has moved into sole possession of the seventh seed, now they must put away the current eighth seed playing without their budding star of a point guard.
Maybe it's a "should" win, and could become a "must" win.
As Carlisle says, every game is an opportunity.