The Mavericks got a surprise holiday gift Sunday night with the unexpected return of Dirk Nowitzki, who announced just before the game he was ready to go and came of the bench during the Dallas Mavericks visit to the San Antonio Spurs.
Unfortunately, while Dirk had a very solid game with limited minutes, most of the rest of the team continued to struggle. While Dallas has had more than its share of blowout losses this year, San Antonio enjoyed the biggest one yet with a 129-91 rout.
Danny Green had a career-high 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting and the Spurs set a franchise record with a staggering 20 three-pointers out of 30 tries and shooting 56% overall. Under those circumstances it is quite likely the Spurs would have won regardless but the Mavericks didn’t help them.
Surprisingly, there is some.
Dirk had a solid return, putting up 8 points on 3-of-4 shooting in just 20 minutes, plus 6 rebounds.
Brandan Wright had another solid outing in limited minutes (13), and his rebounding seems to be on the rise. He was 3-of-5 for 8 points and 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal.
Darren Collison had a decent game as well, with 15 points to lead the Mavs on 6-of-9 shooting.
Vince Carter started looking more like his early season persona, hitting for 13 points and 5 rebounds and Jae Crowder shot the ball well and grabbed 4 rebounds in limited minutes.
Collison only dished out 2 assists.
The Mavericks were only outrebounded 41-39 and considering the circumstances, that isn’t so bad.
Dallas was outshot, yes – but when the other team hits 56% and 67% on threes that’s likely. How much of it was Dallas’ bad defense and how much was the hot-shooting Spurs? Some of both for sure.
However, the stat that Dallas has to own again because they continue to do it is another 20-turnover game, 6 by O. J. Mayo alone. Kawhi Leonard is an adept thief but he had 5 steals by himself and Manu Ginobilli had 4. The Mavericks have now had 7 games with 20+ turnovers, 1 shy of a franchise record and we’re less than 1/3 of the way through the season.
O. J. Mayo once again had a poor game in addition to his turnovers, hitting 3-for-8 and 7 points.
Shawn Marion, Dominique Jones, Elton Brand and Roddy Beaubois were a combined 4-for-20.
Bernard James is still AWOL for reasons unknown.
In fairness, the Spurs probably would have one this game on three-point shooting alone. That being said, the Mavs didn’t put up much of a fight.
Mayo had another bad game and it’s very telling how this happens. The excuse sans Dirk has been that other teams are keying on him. Great scorers always draw attention from the other team and they either succeed or fail. The problem with Mayo and Darren Collison as well, although there is more to Collison’s issues, is consistency. Everyone has a bad game now and then but that’s not what is happening for Mayo. He is truly hot and cold and on any given night he can be unstoppable or completely ineffective.
The other big problem that hopefully Dirk can solve is having another viable option. Clearly Chris Kaman is one, Vince Carter is one and Elton Brand should be one (but hasn’t been this season) but Dirk is presumably going to become the primary option again. However, that doesn’t solve the problem of no one else stepping up if he’s not hitting or even if he is…he can’t win games by himself.
The team looked confused at times on both ends of the floor. It’s a little early to expect them to run like a well-oiled machine but as I’ve alluded to earlier, losing an experienced driver and in fact, one of the best ever in Jason Kidd is having a dramatic effect which will only be worsened now with Derek Fisher’s departure.
Dirk basically came out and admitted as much when he commented to ESPN that the team’s basketball IQ decreased when Kidd left.
What can be done to raise the IQ? A trade for Jose Calderon? Letting Vince Carter be the “point forward/combo guard?” Someone needs to take the reins and make good decisions.
Obviously the team needs to continue to work on shooting, rebounding and turnovers. It may be coincidence that the Mavs had a slightly better rebounding performance upon Dirk’s return as I theorized they might but it’s too early to tell.
Things don’t get any easier as the Mavs will face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, followed by the 15-13 Denver Nuggets on Friday then a rematch with the Spurs on Sunday. Better get yer game on fellas…