DONUT 1: Mavs 103, Jazz 81 ...
The Dallas Mavericks have a four-game winning streak, matching their season-best. And at 30-21, they are nine games over .500, only the second time since their 2010-11 NBA championship season to be that far above that mark of mediocrity.
It helps to have defeated the undermanned Jazz on Friday at home, 103-81. But no matter the opponent, coach Rick Carlisle likes "the path.''
''I feel like we've improved, and that we're on a good path,'' Carlisle said. ''We just have to stick with it.''
Monta Ellis scored 22 points to lead Dallas, but sustained a hamstring injury. (More on that below.) Dirk Nowitzki was again a model of offensive efficiency, needing only nine shots and 26 minutes to score 20 points.
"The path'' does get more difficult. Dallas plays its last three games before the All-Star Break on the road (including a game at Boston on Sunday; we'll have the FOX Sports Southwest pregame starting at 4:30). And then after the break, in comes the Miami Heat on Feb. 18.
As we note here in the schedule breakdown, making sure to handle the likes of the Jazz (and the Celtics) is key to staying on Rick's "path.''
DONUT 2: The official highlight reel ....
DONUT 3: How's Monta? ...
Ellis will undergo an MRI today to determine the severity of a strained right hamstring he sustained in the fourth quarter. Monta exited the game with 3:35 remaining and then limped to the locker room.
"We'll see how it feels in the morning," said Ellis, who noted that he has pins in his ankles and that therefore this is "minor.''
"I'll get an MRI and we'll go from there."
The Mavs will move quickly on this as they are traveling to Boston. Devin Harris figures to take his spot with the first team.
While we await Monta news, we invite you to marvel at this Monta project by Michael Dugat, as he compares Ellis' work as a sidekick to Dirk with other Nowitzki sidekicks ... and then all of them against the best in the NBA today.
DONUT 4: Valuing the Matrix ...
The career of Shawn Marion may never truly be appreciated at the level it deserves. Probably the most overused compliment of Marion is that he has always been a player that could do “a little bit of everything.” That might actually be a backhanded compliment when considering Marion’s accomplishments. The reality is that Marion has done a lot of everything. His Hall-of-Fame-caliber numbers back that up. Before Friday’s game, Carlisle talked about the importance of Marion.
“People that try to quantify his game, 'look at this or that,'” Carlisle said. “He’s a hard guy to put the proper value on. He’s much more valuable than he appears and he appears valuable.”
Marion is leading the Mavericks in rebounding this season and is without question the team’s best defender.
“He’s the closest thing we have to a double-double guy,” Rick said.
Marion finished Friday night’s game with six points, five rebounds and three assists and helped hold Gordon Hayward to just eight points.
''We got in a good groove on offense and played some great defense,'' Marion said. ''We were able to take them out of their offense. They never really could catch a groove or rhythm.''
Around here, when other teams lose their offensive groove, it's oftentimes because 'Trix knocks them out of it.
DONUT 5: Who Deserves "The Dirkie''? ...
Who are the candidates? We take your votes on Who Deserves "The Dirkie'' as the Player of the Game. Vote here!
DONUT 6: Stat O' The Night ...
Dirk Nowitzki’s Field-Goal Percentages The Last Five Games:
Those numbers basically speak for themselves. His point totals in those five games? 38 points, 34 points, 23 points, 26 points, and 20 points.
DONUT 7: Coach Casey Smith? ...
During last Wednesday’s contest against the Memphis Grizzlies, a malfunction with the clock caused the Grizzlies to enter halftime with two points that should not have counted. Fortunately, the mistake was noticed and corrected before the start of the third quarter.
Carlisle revealed that it was head athletic trainer Casey Smith who caught the mistake. He went on to say that Smith is one of the rare athletic trainers that could step in and coach a game if needed.
Smith was a part of the Mavericks’ organization before Carlisle became the head coach in Dallas, but he has been kept on for good reason. He is considered one of the best trainers in the NBA and is clearly held in very high esteem by rest of the Mavericks’ staff.
Dallas doesn't need Casey to do more than serve as trainer ... and with Ellis' hamstring being an issue at the moment, Dallas very much needs Casey to do his thing.
DONUT 8: Sammy Seesaw ...
The starting center position has consistently been inconsistent for the Mavericks this season. However, in the two games coming into Friday night, Sam Dalembert had played top-notch basketball, recording 14 points and 10 rebounds and 18 points and eight rebounds, respectively.
Not coincidentally, both games were Maverick victories.
It has been well-established that the Mavericks are a much better team when they are able to get passable offensive and productive defensive play from their starting center.
With the trade deadline approaching and some Mavs fans hoping Dallas can pull the trigger on a more consistent center, Dalembert has continued to string together a nice stretch of games. Friday night he finished with 12 points and six rebounds and continued to avoid foul trouble.
DONUT 9: Calderon’s snub ...
It’s tough to say which All-Star event made a bigger oversight by not inviting Jose Calderon: the Three-Point Contest or the Skills Contest.
Calderon stated publicly that he would like to participate in the Three-Point Contest before the invitations went out. This season he is sixth in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 43.5 percent. He also has made over 30 more three-pointers than Magic guard Aaron Afflalo, who will be in the event.
Calderon was also left out of the field for the Skills Competition, which measures things like ball-handling and other guard-attributed skills. Calderon is averaging just 1.2 turnovers per game this season, an astonishingly low number that trumps every other participant in the contest.
"The only thing I can do is just keep doing my thing,” Calderon said. “I’m not going to be making a big thing out of it. I’ve got to keep working, doing my thing, trying to help my team. Maybe I’ll get another opportunity soon.”
Here, Calderon shot 4-of-7 from behind the arc and had only one turnover compared to seven assists.
DONUT 10: Quoteboard ....
At 16-32 coming into Friday’s game the Utah Jazz have the worst record in the Western Conference, making them appear to be a tomato can for the Mavericks.
That record, however, might not reflect what a healthy Jazz team would look like. The starting five that the Jazz played against Dallas, consisting of Richard Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Marvin Williams, Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke, has a record of 13-8 this season. Injuries have prevented the lineup from seeing much action this season, but the return of Derrick Favors brought the competitive lineup into Dallas.
That level of competence showed in the first quarter when the Jazz held tough against the Mavericks trailing 28-23 at the end of the period, riding the hot hand of Marvin Williams and his 14 points in the quarter.
Over the course of the game, though, the Mavericks extended the lead and were in steady control by the fourth quarter.
Allowing relatively mediocre offensive players to have games well above their average has been a trend for the Mavericks’ defense this season. Friday night’s example of that was embodied by Williams, who averages only 9.6 points per game but who had an unconscious shooting effort in the first half.
At halftime Williams had 21 points off of 8-of-13 shooting and was 5-of-8 from behind the arc.
The Dallas defense adjusted in the second half. Williams failed to score a single point after halftime and only took two shots, missing them both.
And how did Dallas manage the Williams-related turnaround?
"Take me off him,'' deadpanned Dirk. That was a good move."
DONUT 11: Dia dos Namorados! ....
Our friends at Estilo Gaúcho are original partners in support of the Texas Legends and in celebration of the excellence of their incredible and original restaurant, they've become partners with DallasBasketball.com, too.
This is a family-owned local business offering a memorable dining experience featuring the cultural traditions of Southern Brazil. It's been named not only the premier Brazilian steakhouse in DFW but also one of the finest restaurants in the Dallas area of any kind. For lunch or dinner, David and Alex and their staff of Gaúchos make every occasion a special occasion. ... That includes Valentine's Day ... or "Dia dos Namorados'' as we like to call it!
Please visit Estilo Gaúcho this week and make your Valentine's Day reservation ... and tell 'em The Fish sent you!
DONUT 12: The Final Word ....
The Mavericks won Friday night’s game by 22 points. What were the first words out of Rick Carlisle’s mouth in the post game press conference?
“I’m not happy about anything.”
Carlisle was glad that the Mavericks managed to win the rebounding battle against the Jazz, but he knows that it is still an area that needs improvement. He went on to quote his mentor Chuck Daley who warned to “not trust happiness” in the NBA.
“We can’t start feeling too good,” Carlisle said.