The Dallas Mavericks couldn’t have had a better home opener than the game they played against the Charlotte Bobcats Saturday night. After a great deal of inconsistency in the preseason and first regular season games, the Mavs hit their stride in virtually every possible way en route to a lopsided 126-99 blowout.
The Bobcats were led by Ramon Sessions who often plays well against the Mavs and had 22 points off the bench plus 5 assists and four rebounds. Byron Mullens had another outstanding game with 16 points and 10 rebounds and former Mav Brendan Haywood seemed very happy to burn his old team with 14 points and 11 boards.
With Shawn Marion’s 8 points, he was just two points shy of being the seventh Maverick in double figures. The team shot a sizzling 61.3% from the field and amazingly an even better 64% from downtown. They also outrebounded an opponent for the first time 43-38 and had 31 assists to Charlotte’s 19. It was a superior effort in almost every way.
O. J. Mayo led the way in what is easily his breakout game as a Maverick and the same for any Maverick this season. Mayo, who has been shooting poorly since the preseason began, hit 10 of 17 from the field including a career high 7 of 10 threes while adding 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Darren Collison continues to improve as he added 18 points and 10 assists on 8 of 12 shooting and hit a 3-point bomb from way beyond the arch at the halftime buzzer. It was his first double-double as a Maverick.
Brandan Wright continued his torrid shooting hitting 5-8 for 10 points and added 6 rebounds and a block.
The evening was just a tad rougher for Shawn Marion as he committed 5 turnovers but the rest of his stat line looked very typical of the complete game the Matrix usually plays. Only 8 points but 3-of-3 from the field plus 9 rebounds and two blocked shots (oddly enough both on 7’ Brendan Haywood).
Chris Kaman did not start but came back from his injury to hit his first 8 shots in a row and finished with 16 points on 8 of 9 shooting. Hmmm…maybe he should strain his calf more often….
Vince Carter has been in double figures in every game but one since the preseason began and he seems to just keep getting better, particularly on the defensive end. In another great all around effort, VC scored 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting including 4-of-8 from downtown and also had 2 steals and a huge block, not to mention the most memorable dunk of the game. He looked as if he was a young buck with a shot of adrenalin and the energy was contagious.
Dominique Jones was on the floor for 16 minutes due to Roddy Beaubois’ ankle injury and while he didn’t shoot well still scored 6 points and racked up 6 assists and made some things happen on the floor.
Jae Crowder also hit double figures again with 4-of-5 shooting including a three for 10 points.
New Mav Troy Murphy was also in the game for less than 9 minutes. Brought in to stretch the floor in Dirk-like fashion with his outside shooting and rebound, Murphy didn’t have any field goal attempts but did rack up 5 rebounds and played tough defense during his debut.
Finally, Rick Carlisle hit win #200 since joining the Mavericks, putting him in third place all-time behind Don Nelson (339) and Dick Motta (329).
In a very odd stat line, Bernard James, who usually makes things happen, racked up not a single thing in 9 minutes on the floor other than a personal foul. No attempts, no rebounds, no blocks. Very strange inactivity for Sarge.
Even against Charlotte you can only relax so much. The second quarter lineup of Jones, Jared Cunningham, Marion, Crowder and James turned a 12-point lead into a two-point lead and then a one-point deficit even as the starters returned. The Mavs regained control after that.
Overall, not much to complain about in this game. The Mavericks did once again turn the ball over far too many time—22 in all. Dominating in every other category saved the day but protecting the ball better is going to have to be a priority. If they continue to turn it over at this rate they likely will not have 60+% shooting to save them most nights.
Elton Brand continued to struggle from the onset and was pulled less than a couple of minutes into the game. Brand was brought in with the expectation of providing and inside/outside offensive game, tough defense and rebounding and while we’ve seen perhaps a little of the latter two, his offense has been absent.
A career 50% shooter, Brand shot around 40% for the preseason and 29% in the first two regular season games, then went 1-for-5 against the Bobcats in addition to only 2 rebounds. He also committed 2 turnovers. Brand has a career of playing consistent basketball even after suffering injuries and hitting basketball middle age but this year so far has been a real problem.
Brand is still the most experienced defensive big presence up front but if he can’t improve his offensive output and stamina and Kaman, Wright and possibly others are outperforming him, he won’t justify much playing time when Dirk returns—in fact, he will have to give way to more productive players right now.
The Mavericks are starting to show signs they can be a solid team without Dirk Nowitzki but they need to do it consistently against other good teams. The young talent is stepping up and the veterans, save Brand, are generally performing well. Hopefully Mayo’s shooting is turning around.
A lot of attention has been given to Darren Collison and deservedly so. He ought to be an early candidate for Most Improved Player…not that he was bad before but he has taken the Mavericks offense to a whole new level.
Vince Carter also ought to be an early candidate for both Sixth Man of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year. He has hit double figures in all but one preseason game and is playing great ball on both ends of the court.
With Delonte West gone and Roddy out yet again with an injury, it appears as though the Mavs had extra incentive to keep DoJo rather than Eddy Curry, although long term I think they would be better off having an extra big. Mayo looked very strong facilitating the offense Vince Carter is a capable point forward as well. Still, it was good to see DoJo have a better game.
Lamarcus Aldridge and a high-octane Portland Trailblazers team Monday night. Full preview coming up on The Smoking Cuban.