The Mavericks closed out their four-game road trip in Salt Lake City looking for a clean sweep, both…
Monday Mavs Donuts: Bending, Breaking & Stuff
DONUT 1: Closin' time ...
There was a time when Rick Carlisle's Mavs and Dirk Nowitzki's Mavs and Jason Kidd's Mavs seemingly always won close games like the 93-91 victory Sunday that almost wasn't. It was all about BBIQ and in five-point games or three-point games or like this one a two-point game, Dallas almost always won.
This ... Wasn't quite that.
It could've been made more easy had the officials give Devin Harris a drawn charge that he earned in the closing moments. And credit is due Dirk for being involved in DeMarcus Cousins having to take a bad shot for the tie at the buzzer that missed.
But Marion missed a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left that could've iced it. And Dirk missed a free throw with 7.7 seconds left that could've accomplished largely the same.
"That's the first time I ever remember missing two free throws like that," Marion said. "I'm always money at that time."
In the clutch, this Dallas Mavericks team isn't always "money.'' But in terms of playoff-race thrills -- and road victories, which have now been racked up to the tune of five straight -- it does give you your money's worth.
DONUT 2: The official NBA highlight reel …
DONUT 3: The calm inside the storm …
Tucked inside of the frenzied ending was what I viewed as a comforting moment.
After the free-throw misses, Marion angrily threw a towel to the ground and seemed to be seething. Jose Calderon immediately searching 'Trix out and starting barking positively into his ear.
"Forget about it!'' Jose yelled. "Let's go!''
It was a moment of cohesion. You look around the NBA right now and you see tempers flaring under the crushing pressure. You see dysfunction on the Warriors coaching staff and you disarray in the Pacers lineup and then you see Calderon cutting through all the foolishness by grabbing a teammate by his figurative lapels and shaking him back into recognition of where we are.
A different sort of BBIQ, if you will.
DONUT 4: Where they stand …
Dallas is 47-31 and in seventh. Phoenix, by virtue of upsetting OKC on Sunday, is a half-game back. Memphis is 1.5 games behind the Mavs.
Those three teams all play each other in the final five days of the season.
Also worth noting: While the Mavs have long assumed the No. 8 spot will give you the Spurs and that's a bad thing ... Tony Parker suddenly has a bad back. And while we've long assumed that OKC would be No. 7, the Clippers are now just one game back of the Thunder for the No. 2 spot -- and they play each other in LA on Wednesday.
And just in case: The Mavs are 1.5 games behind No. 6 Golden State.
Want another nugget? The Spurs play at Dallas on Thursday -- again, with Parker nursing back spasms -- and then on the second night of the b-2-b play the Suns.
Will the clear-No. 1 Spurs rest down the stretch? Rest in one game but not the other? Try to finagle things to orchestrate the matchup they want in the postseason?
DONUT 5: Defensive disposition …
Carlisle talks so much about defensive disposition but, bless his heart, so often his mavs go through long, long stretches and even entire games without demonstrating that disposition.
We in the media talk of "five men on a string'' As if it is some advanced basketball technology when in fact it is a defensive philosophy that John Wooden was probably using as a grade-school baller. The too-few real defensive stops that Dallas gets often come almost exclusively as the result of steals. And it works and it is effective and it is exciting; it means Monte gets to go coast-to-coast and finished in an electrifying way. But it also means Dallas has to cheat on defense, to take chances on defense, in order to survive on defense.
On Sunday, Dallas made Cousins and Gay look almost unstoppable. In the playoffs, the Mavs will face guys who truly are that.
The Mavs have four games to locate that elusive "defensive disposition'' -- or the option of reverting back, and they always do, on the hope that their best defense is their top-three-in-the-NBA offense.
DONUT 6: The centers …
Sunday was a Dalembert Day as he was charged with checking Cousins. (That didn't go so well; Sam experienced early foul trouble and Boogie had 32). After that, it was a DeJuan Day.
Brandan Wright only earned six minutes as the backup, Carlisle opting to go with Blair. The bullish third-stringer had nine rebounds in the game and scored six quick points in the first quarter.
"He's kept himself ready," Carlisle said. "It's not easy to do that. He's been a pro. And we're going to need him on Tuesday, too with those big monsters Utah has."
Ah, answering to "Be Ready.'' From Rick, there is no higher praise.
DONUT 7: Music to my ears …
True story and music to my financial ears: One of my sons is saving up a little bit of money and he sits me down to ask me what he should do with it. Then he says, "I guess I should call Bill and Woody."
I am raising a couple of smart boys over here and Bill and Woody at LS Wealth Strategies -- Mavs season-ticket holders and friends of DB.com -- are making them smarter. Thanks fellas!
DONUT 8: Welcome aboard! …
As has been the case for 14 seasons around here, we've got Mavs coverage coming all day and night with DallasBasketball.com. Stay tuned, and hang out on DB.com Boards as well for all the goods from inside the games, the practices and the front office ... through the playoff race and beyond!
DONUT 9: Dirk's dip …
When Nowitzki puts up a stinker -- and 5-of-17 for 15 points against the Kings -- is one you can smell from here -- it's natural to wonder if there is a physical ailment keeping The Uberman down. Tired legs? The flu? Psoriasis?
But no. He's fine.
"It's men, not machines,'' Carlisle said. "The guy's not going to make every shot. He kept his mind in the game and he did a great job rebounding and on defense.''
The Mavs try to close out a wildly successful roadie with a win at the Jazz on Tuesday, where Dirk traditionally comes up big in the "bad city of Utah.''
I bet he's more machine-like there.
DONUT 10: Who Deserves 'The Dirkie'? …
Two of the more dangerous players on the floor wore the wrong uniforms, and DeMarcus Cousins (28 points and 10 rebounds) and Rudy Gay (32 points) were nearly too much to handle -- as has been the case all season when these clubs meet.
DB.com's BJ Stahl walks us through the candidates for the Player of the Game ... the "unbreakables'' who might just win "The Dirkie'':
Monta Ellis -- leads the pack with 23
Vince Carter -- 17 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists
Jose Calderon -- 14 points, 4 boards, 2 dimes, 2 steals ... and a heckuva pep talk
Dirk Nowitzki -- uncharacteristically quiet 15 points
Shawn Marion -- 7 points and 9 boards
Samuel Dalembert -- 6 points, 11 rebounds, muscleman
DeJuan Blair -- Is Ready, with 6 and 9
Devin Harris -- 3 points and 7 assists
So who Deserves "The Dirkie''? Vote here!
DONUT 11: Quoteboard...
"We got tested again. But we bend and we don't break." - Carlisle.
DONUT 12: The Final Word …
In addition to Dirk moving to within 18 points of Oscar Robertson for 10th place all-time on the NBA scoring list, Vince Carter scored 17 pass to Elgin Baylor for 26th on the same list.
Vince claimed he knew nothing of the milestone. And if that is true, it enhances Carlisle's view of the veteran as a guy who has "reinvented'' himself.
"He's a sure-fire Hall-of Fame-player simply by virtue of the fact that he's an eight-time All-Star," Carlisle said. "But if you factor in the way he's reinvented himself late in his career, to be a part of a team that's winning, that's got a chance to go to the playoffs and he's just kind of redefined and reinvented who he is, it's more credibility for his overall career. I'm a big fan."