Is it Déjà vu?
Or will we soon be asking “Dirk WHO?”
Not likely, but after witnessing a blowout vs. the Bobcats on Saturday, most people would have expected a tighter game against a very solid Portland Trail Blazers team, but the Dallas Mavericks once again played nearly flawless ball and dominated both ends of the floor in a 114-91 romp.
The win spoiled new Portland head coach Terry Stott’s return to the American Airlines Center, where he was an assistant coach before taking the reigns in Portland this summer.
After the best start for a rookie since Grant Hill and Oscar Robertson-like numbers in his first three games, point guard Damian Lillard was held to only 13 points on 2-13 shooting, while Darren Collison notched another double-double.
Dallas jumped out to an early lead but Portland only trailed by 2 at the half. Dallas dominated the third quarter and pulled away late.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Wes Matthews led the Trail Blazers with 20 points apiece. J.J. Hickson had 7 points and 11 rebounds while Meyers Leonard had 6 and 9.
Another game with a host of tasty stats:
A birthday romp for O. J. Mayo who celebrated #25 by shooting 12-for-18 and 6-of-8 from downtown to go with a couple of steals and 32 points. ‘Nuff said.
Darren Collison notched his first back-to-back double-double since 2009 with 14 points and 13 assists and demonstrated yet again why this Dallas team may be the most explosive in years.
Shawn Marion only played 24 minutes before leaving with a strained knee. In that time he had 8 points on 4-for-6 shooting, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocked shots. Typical night for the Matrix.
The Postman only shoots well: Brandan Wright and Chris Kaman continued their torrid shooting. Wright hit 5-of-7 for 10 points and Kaman started the night perfect again, hitting his first 6 before finishing 8-of-10 for 16 points. Wright scored in double figures four games in a row for the first time in his career. He has added some bulk and improved his jump shot and it shows, big time.
Elton Brand started to look a little more like himself, hitting 4-for-7 for 8 points and 5 rebounds in just over 23 minutes.
Dominique Jones ran the team for a solid stretch in the second half and played incredibly well on both ends of the floor. He ended the game with only 6 points on 3-4 shooting but again amassed 6 assists and added 3 steals. Rick Carlisle commended DoJo for being the difference in the game.
Troy Murphy had another solid game. In only 16 minutes he scored 3 points but pulled in 5 boards. In limited play he’s making his presence felt and on a team that’s getting outrebounded nearly every night, that will be necessary.
The Mavs again shot well enough to conceal being outrebounded 48-37. The Blazers have a solid front line as do the Jazz but a team that has Chris Kaman, Elton Brand and Shawn Marion should not continue to be outhustled on the boards. Marion again led the team with 7 rebounds and he left the game very early—great work for the Matrix but he should not be leading the team as he did last year.
Vince Carter missed double figures for the first time since his one subpar game in the preseason. He was very active on both ends of the floor but the shots didn’t fall this time.
The Mavs uniformly played solid basketball across the board. No one had a bad game and the Mavs outperformed a solid Portland team. My only consistent concern at this point is rebounding.
After the free agent roller coaster ride this summer, the critics were calling this crop a group of has-beens, wannabes and misfits. Most of us were a little more optimistic and I was quite certain the Mavs were winners in free agency but clearly, questions remained. The preseason didn’t offer much hope, with injuries to Kaman, Wright, Roddy B and that other tall German guy. Turnovers raged, rebounds were elusive and Mayo and Brand couldn’t find the hole.
The last two games show the promise of patience. Under the guidance of Rick Carlisle, Mavs young and old are exploding. Darren Collison and Chris Kaman are playing at an All-Star level and O. J. Mayo has broken out even more the last two games. Shawn Marion is getting it done all over the court, Brandan Wright is having a career year and Vince Carter has reinvented himself as I hoped he might. The rookies, particularly Jae Crowder, are making a significant impact and the team is doing it all without Dirk. That’s really something.
The flow offense and Collison are the perfect combination and Carlisle has created an ideal path for the entire team to feel each other and gel. Add the consistent hustle and you can’t help but have a competitive team. For guys like Collison, Mayo and Kaman the hope was could they find the magic from days gone by and clearly they can. If Elton Brand turns around, this team may be difficult to stop. Add in a smidgen of Dirk and can you say…”contender?”
This is exciting basketball.