The Mavericks didn’t have to face Kyle Lowry Wednesday night but they did have to play without Shawn Marion, Elton Brand, Roddy Beaubois and that other tall German dude whose name is right on the tip of my tongue. Although they built a 12-point lead by the end of the first quarter, Toronto shaved the margin in each of the subsequent periods and the Mavericks had to hold on for a 109-104 victory.
Playing without leading everythinger Kyle Lowry, coach Dwayne Casey had longtime starter Jose Calderon take his place. Andrea Bargnani, who had not been playing well to start the season, put forth a much better game and led Toronto with 25 points and 9 rebounds while DeMar DeRozan had 24/6 to go with 7 assists. Amir Johnson added 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Chris Kaman and Brandan Wright continue to shoot the ball well and give the Mavericks an inside and midrange post presence they have never had. Plus, they’re both playing hard at both ends of the floor. Kaman ended with 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting plus 8 rebounds, 3 assists and a block while Wright had 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting to go with 7 rebounds and 2 blocks.
O. J. Mayo also had another solid night, scoring 22 points, grabbing 5 rebounds and dishing out 6 assists.
Darren Collison didn’t hit another double-double but he still came away with 15 points.
Vince Carter also didn’t hit all his shots but he stayed aggressive and finished with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Vince continues to display underrated defensive effort and skill and had 2 big blocked shots and Coach Rick Carlisle praised him as being the only guy on the team taking charges.
Jae Crowder didn’t shoot a lot but he quietly had a solid game with 8 points on 3-of-4 shooting including 2-of-3 from downtown and 4 rebounds.
Bernard James once again did what he does best. In just over 18 minutes he scored 6 points and grabbed 9 rebounds to lead the team. He also had the highest +/- for the game (+14). “Sarge” was a primary reason that the Mavs did not get outrebounded this game.
Dominique Jones again didn’t score a bunch but contributed in other ways with 5 assists and 3 rebounds. With Collison, Mayo and Jones the Mavs really have 3 guards who can penetrate better than anyone they’ve had since J. J. Barea and it’s making a huge difference.
Darren Collison and Vince Carter didn’t hit a high percentage of shots but they did continue to be aggressive until their shots fell, so they both ended up well into double figures.
The Mavs didn’t keep the heat on enough to stay comfortably in the lead and considering Lowry wasn’t playing, things got a little too close for comfort.
Part of the problem would also be that they only hit 65.7% of their free throws compared to Toronto’s 87.1%. The teams shot about the same number of free throws so this was an area that enabled Toronto to sneak closer and closer until near the end of the game.
The Mavericks didn’t play perfectly but for the most part they played good, solid basketball. They have proven beyond any doubt that they have not one, but several players who can step up on any given night and contribute. With the exception of Elton Brand, who has had a slow start to the season, the primary contributors are all performing consistently well.
Aside from the fact that Brandan Wright and Chris Kaman are #2 and #4 on the list of league leaders in field goal percentage and O. J. Mayo is #8 in scoring, perhaps the most telling stat is how many of the Mavs have a Player Efficiency Rating over 20.
“Only 5 games in but Mavs have 5 players with a PER over 20: Roddy (28.4), Kaman (26.1), Collison (24.1), Mayo (23.1), Wright (22.8)”
While ESPN’s calculations are slightly lower, it’s clear the Mavs are doing a bang-up job. In addition, Vince Carter has done as promised in taking over where Jason Terry left off and has only missed double figures in one game. Bernard James is also second in the league in rebounds/minute among rookies.
The Mavs made a strong case that they are a team to be reckoned with when they can put together a solid win without not only Dirk but also the Matrix, Elton Brand and Roddy B. The biggest test of the year however is coming up.
The Mavs head to the Big Apple to take on the Knicks with Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler on Friday night. The Knicks have only played 3 games but they are unbeaten even without Amar’e Stoudemire, who is out with an injury. Chandler, who remains one of the two best defensive centers in the league, only trails Chris Kaman in the NBA field goal percentage leaders,. He has Rasheed Wallace behind him as well as the returning Marcus Camby, so the Mavs will be facing the best interior defense they’ve seen this season. Full preview tomorrow on The Smoking Cuban.