Last night the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Utah Jazz by a decisive 17 points, winning 94-77. They completed a rare four game sweep of the Jazz, something they have never done before. But don’t be fooled by the final score. This game was much closer than it appears. In fact, after three quarters the Jazz were winning. The first half was an especially sloppy affair. Before it was all said and done, the Mavs committed 26 personal fouls and 16 turnovers, many of which came as the result of offensive fouls.
Now please don’t misunderstand. I am not one of those fans who is never happy and impossible to please. I don’t demand an apology after a win. And I am glad the Mavs won. I am thrilled that they are still only one game behind the Lakers for the second spot in the Western Conference. But the team continues to struggle in the beginning of games. They continue to play soft defense, are sloppy with the basketball, and commit way too many fouls. This means that some of the veterans, like Jason Kidd, are having to play more minutes than they should.
This is not a good way to build momentum for the playoffs. The Mavs cannot play like this and hope to have any chance to beat the Spurs or Lakers, let alone Oklahoma or some of the lower seeded teams. Good teams will blow you out if you give them that many opportunities. The Jazz were down two important players in Devin Harris and Andrei Kirilenko. Those two players might have been the difference between the win and another frustrating loss given that many opportunities.
The Mavericks have had great success in the regular season before. It is more or less expected now. But this team wants more. The goal is not a pretty regular season record. It’s a championship. And the way that the Mavs are playing, achieving that goal seems less and less likely. Championship teams do not play sloppy basketball. They take care of the ball and don’t beat themselves. Fans have a right to be concerned. But is it time to panic? Is the sky falling? Hardly.
While the Mavs started slow and played sloppy, they did not fold. They did not panic. They persevered. And when it got down to crunch time, they turn it up a notch. They erupted for 36 points in the fourth quarter. They won their third straight game. The starting lineup was the same once again Jason Kidd, Roddy Beaubois, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, and Tyson Chandler taking the opening tip.
It appears that Rick Carlisle has made the decision that Marion is going to start with Peja Stojakovic and Jason Terry coming off the bench. Terry led the team in scoring with 22 points, with 2 boards, and 2 assists in 29 minutes. Not a bad night. Dirk added 19 and his scoring kept the Mavs close in the first half. Besides, a win is a win.
Tonight the Mavericks travel to Phoenix to face the Suns. The Mavs are 12-4 this season in the second game of back-to-back games played. It will be interesting to see how much Carlisle lets Kidd and Nowitzki play tonight. Will he limit their minutes or let them continue to log heavy minutes? My guess that the answer to those questions will depend on well the team plays. Lets hope that the team will execute better tonight.