A little excitement is a good for the soul; a complete meltdown, not so much. The Dallas Mavericks electrified the crowd for a while, building a big lead before letting the Washington Wizards right back in it in the fourth quarter. Fortunately things came together again and the Mavs held on for a 107-101 victory against a hapless and depleted Wizards team who nevertheless played hard and almost came back to win.
The Wizards stayed close early but the Mavericks built a head of steam and shot ahead by 18 points only to nearly succumb to a late fourth-quarter Wizard run. With a slim three point advantage and only :21 left, Chris Kaman made a final three-point play to extend the margin and seal the victory.
After losing three in a row, Rick Carlisle revamped the starting lineup by inserting Kaman and Dahntay Jones, substituting for the injured Shawn Marion.
The Wizards were led by Jordan Crawford with 21 points and 7 assists. With the Detroit Pistons posting their first victory, the Wizards remain the only winless franchise in the NBA this season and with no timetable for the return of John Wall or Nene, they are likely to continue struggling.
The Mavericks built an 18-point lead before going cold and they did manage to finish the job, thanks largely to a couple of key offensive rebounds by Vince Carter and Chris Kaman, who also converted a three-point play which extended the final margin after the Wizards had trimmed it to three points with only :21 left.
Kaman returned to the starting lineup and his red-hot shooting and did everything an All-Star center is supposed to do pouring in 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting, grabbing 8 rebounds and adding 3 assists and a block. He and Darren Collison looked like old hands executing the pick-and-roll.
O. J. Mayo led the Mavs with 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go with 4 assists and 2 rebounds. Mayo and Kaman appear to have become the lynch pins of the new-look Mavericks.
Elton Brand broke out of his slump with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Jae Crowder resurfaced with 12 points and Troy Murphy finally found his range and added 10 points as well.
The team shot 50% from the field and outrebounded the Wizards 40-34.
Vince Carter continues to play hard all over the court but he’s had a couple of games when his shot isn’t falling. For the year, Vince is doing a great Jet impression averaging 12.3 ppg but only shooting 37.9%, a career low.
Brand still only shot 4-10, well below his career average but he was active so it was a step in the right direction.
Obviously it’s great to have an 18-point lead but almost entirely giving it up near the end of a game, not so much.
Darren Collison had a woeful shooting night, 2-10 and Roddy B and Vince Carter had trouble as well. The good news is that with a balanced attack, not everyone has to shine every night; however Collison has had his share of shooting struggles of late.
In a move yet to be explained, Brandan Wright not only didn’t start, he didn’t enter the game at all. Wright has been playing well with a very high field goal percentage and blocking shots but his rebounding numbers remain weak.
The Mavericks are still finding their way and show streaks of brilliance along with periods of chaos. Consistency is going to be key or running into a contender will be lethal. The talent is all there, even without Dirk and the Matrix, to be an above average team. It’s simply finding the focus and consistency to have most everyone playing well night in and night out so if someone has an off night it doesn’t sink the ship.
Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones will face their old team and the Mavericks will see Ian Mahinmi as the Mavs face the Pacers Friday night. Preview coming up on The Smoking Cuban.