While Rick Carlisle is warning against being smitten with his troops, it’s hard to be anything but after seeing a struggling team win four games in a row. The Dallas Mavericks’ victory over the Houston Rockets continued a statistical improvement and an emotional lift for a team that sorely needed it and gives hope that headed into a game with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Mavericks have a reasonable chance of winning.
Offensively, the Mavericks are showing balance every night and this was the hope of the free agent signings. Having Dirk on the floor still draws attention and that allows all of the other potent scorers on the floor to cash in.
Versus the Rockets, Mavs were led by Dirk with 19 points while Shawn Marion and O. J. Mayo both notched 18 and the trio grabbed 8, 9 and 8 rebounds respectively. Mayo also had another great all-around game adding 8 assists. His assist totals have been up dramatically since Dirk returned.
Mayo also didn’t have a great shooting night (3-for-14) but because he didn’t settle only for outside shots, he went to the line and hit 12-of-13 free throws. In games where Mayo and Vince Carter don’t settle for jumpers but drive or post up, the rewards at the charity stripe have been significant.
Elton Brand also played a key role, scoring 11 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for his 400th career double-double and added 2 blocked shots, 1 near the end that helped preserve the victory for Dallas when Houston had pulled within 1.
Brand has been key to the Mavs’ resurgence not only by finding his range after early season struggles but by providing interior defense that the team has been lacking. Combined with Shawn Marion and Dahntay Jones, along with increased effort from nearly everyone on the team (most notably Chris Kaman and Vince Carter), the team’s effort on defense has noticeably improved and the results are impressive.
While James Harden managed 20 points on the night, nearly half were at the free-throw line as the Mavericks challenged his shots and he frequently came up empty, hitting only 5-of-23 shots and 1-of-8 from downtown. Overall the Rockets shot only 39%.
Jae Crowder also continued his resurgence with 10 points off the bench on 3-4 shooting.
Chris Kaman didn’t spend a lot of time on the floor but in 21 minutes hit 3-of-6 and grabbed 6 rebounds.
Frankly, in this game it was pretty much feast or famine…moving right along.
It’s a miracle Dallas won this game in many ways, as they really didn’t play well overall—they just played good defense and the Rockets, especially Harden, struggled.
They didn’t outshoot the Rockets, only hitting 38% themselves and a meager 22% from downtown. The also didn’t outrebound them, losing that battle 52-47. Without the Rockets 16 turnovers and a timely blocked shot by Brand and steal by Dahntay Jones, the result might have been different.
Vince Carter had a horrible night, going 1-for-7 and needs to continue mixing up his game instead of relegating himself to outside shots. Mike James was 1-for-8 and Darren Collison went 3-for-9.
The Mavericks are still playing much better but they had a lot of help from Houston this time. For the first time in a while I think we can say the Mavericks are finding ways to win, or at least not lose. The improved defense is huge, sharing the wealth on offense critical, and overall energy is looking positive.
It’s curious that the Mavs will face Oklahoma City again Friday night, when they almost defeated the Thunder just a couple of weeks ago and that was the game that signaled the beginning of a possible turnaround. With a little inspired play, perhaps tonight might be a signal that this team has arrived.
It could happen.
As promised, the OKC Thunder come to town Friday night and we ain’t skeered no more.