I think this is the thought most Mavericks fans had after watching the game last night. Yes, it is true, the Mavs went on the road and beat the Houston Rockets 98-91 in OT. The Rockets are an above .500 team that is not going to the playoffs this year. They have nothing left to play for but pride. But the same case cannot be said about the Mavs. Coming into this game, the Mavericks were tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the number two seed in the Western Conference.
Coming off a dominating performance against the Phoenix Suns, Maverick fans had reason to hope that the team had finally found it’s edge. The lethargic, sloppy games seemed like a thing of the past. Jason Kidd looked revitalized after a week off. And then the teams tipped off last night. The Mavs got off to another sluggish start, but somehow trailed only 23-20 after the first quarter. The Mavs trailed until the fourth quarter when the teams traded buckets and the lead several times. I will spare you the ugly details. Let’s just say that Kidd was 1-7 from the field, 0-5 from beyond the arc, for a total of 4 points in 39 minutes.
Down by one point late, Jason Terry was inexplicably fouled as he launched a three. All Terry needed to do was hit 2 of 3 shots and the Mavs would win. Terry hit the first shot, tying the game. Terry then missed the second shot but still had one more chance to give the Mavs the lead. He lofted the ball towards the hoop and watched as it rim out, sending the game into overtime.
The Mavs took care of business, winning an ugly, error filled game. Nowitzki led the team with 23 points, while Jason Terry and Shawn Marion added 21 points each. But this game was anything but confidence-producing. The Mavs committed 20 turnovers and 20 personal fouls. What makes this game so frustrating was the importance of this game. The Mavs have a legitimate chance to grab the second seed. The Lakers skid opened the door for the Mavs to catch them despite their own struggles. And not only that but the Oklahoma City Thunder are hot on their heels.
So with so much importance riding on this game, Rick Carlisle did an about turn on his “rest the players to get them fresh” philosophy, playing Kidd for 39 minutes and Dirk Nowitzki 40 minutes, and the team responded by playing flat, uninspired basketball. If they play like this, the team will be done in four games once the playoffs begin.
The team, when facing some pressure and an inferior opponent, with an opportunity to redeem themselves, played down to their competition and almost lost. The team philosophy approaching the playoffs is inconsistent. If Carlisle really believes that success in the postseason depends upon having fresh legs, then why play your starters for so long? It won’t matter if you are the second seed if your guys are too tired to take advantage of your position.
Conversely, if the second seed is that important, and you truly feel that the home court advantage is crucial to your success, then why did you rest Kidd for so long? An inconsistent message is being sent. And the team is not responding. Are the players confused?
Speaking of confusing, why is Roddy Beaubois continuing to see time in the starting lineup? I understand the kid is the future and raw. I know that he needs to play in order to grow. But if he is costing you wins, changes need to be made. Playoff time is not the time for projects to develop. Now is the time to put Corey Brewer into the starting lineup.
With one game left, now is the perfect time, to see how Brewer responds to the pressure of the start. Lets see if the rest of the lineup meshes well with him. Lets see if the defense and energy picks up. If nothing else, Beaubois won’t pick up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game.
The Mavs have one game left, tomorrow night against the Hornets, to get things headed in the right direction. It will be a chance to let the starters rest or to try and gain some momentum. I am guessing that decision will be made based upon what happens tonight with the Lakers and Spurs. If the Lakers win, Carlisle rests the starters. If the Spurs win, Carlisle tries to clinch the second seed. Lets hope he makes the right decision.