The Dallas Mavericks lost in their first game back home, 104-96. Stop me if you have heard this one before. The Mavs started slow, throwing up enough bricks to build a new arena, committing an obscene amount of fouls and turnovers, fall behind, before rallying in the second half. But their rally came up a bit short as the Nuggets closed the game with a 10-2 run to seal the win.
Anxiety is rising in the stands. Mavs fans everywhere are beginning to predict another doomed playoff run, complete with a first-round ouster. There is no doubt that Mavs are playing sloppy basketball. Their current slide may end up costing the them the third seed and into the fourth. The Mavs hold a slim one game lead over the surging, dangerous Oklahoma City Thunder. Third or fourth matters little at this point.
The Mavericks accomplished their goal last night. While the team most certainly would have preferred to walk away with another game in the win column, coach Rick Carlisle has his focus on the bigger picture. He knows that these games really do not matter. Ultimately, even if they lose out, what really matters is what happens next. The Playoffs.
So with winning the ring firmly entrenched as THE goal, Carlisle sat Jason Kidd, to give a much needed break to his 38 year old legs. Tyson Chandler, who did practice Tuesday, was also held out with lower back stiffness. Forty percent of the starting lineup never moved from the bench.
Clearly Carlisle wants to make sure that everyone is healthy and ready to go full throttle once the second season commences. But this does not mean he was pleased with what he saw last night. Shawn Marion was yanked off the court after missing a shot and failing to hustle back on defense in the third. Jason Terry was pulled near the end of the game after losing his cool and picking up another technical. Carlisle emphasized that these men are professionals and these lapses will not be tolerated. But is it too little too late? Time will tell.
Roddy Beaubois got the start in place of Jason Kidd and struggled mightily. Give Carlisle credit, he is not afraid to let the kid learn. But the learning curve is slow and Carlisle may have to decide to postpone further lessons until next season. Beaubois had 1 assist and 6 points in 20 minutes. Perhaps the most telling stat was 4 turnovers.
J.J. Barea performed much better adding 12 points while contributing 10 assists. Barea is clearly the best option to run the team when Kidd is not on the court at this point. Playoff time is not the time for someone to learn on the fly. If Roddy doesn’t show marked improvement soon, his minutes must be limited.
It wasn’t all bad for the Mavericks last night. Corey Brewer, finally allowed to play some meaningful minutes, poured in 13 points, hitting 5-9 shots, while dishing out 3 assists. Brewer brought some energy to the team while also demonstrating what a professional really looks like. Brewer has clearly been keeping himself ready as was evidenced by his play. Carlisle will have to find room in the rotation for Brewer if he continues to play like this.
Shawn Marion led the team with 21 points while also adding 10 boards. Brendan Haywood, starting in place of the injured Tyson Chandler, had a season-high 19 rebounds, 8 on the offensive boards. He also was a force on defense blocking 5 shots. Now if we can just do something about that point total, as Haywood tallyed just one point. Dirty added 20 points and 7 boards, while Jason Terry added 15 points.
The Mavs have a night off to rest up and prepare for the Clippers who are coming to town Friday night. It will be interesting to see who plays and how much. My guess is that Kidd will get some minutes and Chandler as well, if his stiffness has subsided. The team does need to get some rhythm going on offense. They also need to either start knocking down some three-point shots instead of shooting themselves in the foot. Lets hope it starts against the Clippers.