After a short mini-vacation, The Mavericks will greet the slightly handicapped San Antonio Spurs and attempt to keep the momentum going. The Mavericks overcame an early 14-point deficit and a big game by Glen “Big Baby” Davis to notch their 5th win in 6 games over the Orlando Magic, putting them alongside the hottest teams in the league.
The victory over the Magic was far from perfect and against Orlando a genuinely good team should have had an easier time but things continue to improve for the Mavericks.
The Mavericks once again were balanced and didn’t rely on either O. J. Mayo or Dirk Nowitzki, who hasn’t had a typical Dirk-like game since his return from surgery, although his presence on the court is clearly making a big difference.
Shawn Marion had another great all-around game with 20 points on 10-16 shooting, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. It’s too late for Matrix to make the All-Star game, which is a shame – he’s playing like one.
The center position started with Chris Kaman, who had 13 points and 8 rebounds, and finished with Elton Brand scoring 14 points and grabbling 6 rebounds. The only thing missing from this one-two punch is playing them together like the good old days – I’ll elaborate later. Six players altogether were in double figures, even though not everyone shot well, and Darren Collison had 9 assists.
Dirk only scored 12 points but had 7 rebounds and 3 huge blocked shots.
In another game of inspired play, Vince Carter scored 15 but also dished out season-high 6 assists and had 3 blocked shots. Carter won’t win 6th man of the year with his scoring totals but make no mistake, he is a leader on this team and his all-around game makes a difference and when he and Dirk are both stretching the floor, the defenses are vulnerable including to the pick-and-roll.
The Mavericks actually outrebounded the Magic 43-42 and only turned the ball over 8 times – a season low.
The Mavericks didn’t exactly dominate the game, obviously and couldn’t contain Big Baby for much of the evening.
Mental mistakes are still happening and in this game they weren’t enough to sink the ship as the Mavs were on par of ahead of the Magic statistically but they need to continue to work on the same issues if they wish to not only make it to the playoffs but also be competitive.
Other than some mistakes that might have proved costly, there weren’t a lot of problems in this game other than a lack of interior defense, which has proven to be problem predominantly when Dirk and Kaman are on the floor together.
The Mavericks continue to play fundamentally better basketball and while there are sure to be steps backward, it appears the sky’s the limit. Collison, Carter and Brand are playing fairly inspired ball and the team is winning without relying on Mayo or Dirk, who has not regained his shooting touch. When that happens – look out.
As I’ve said before it confounds me as to why Elton Brand spends all his time at the center position. He has been primarily a power forward his entire career and played with Kaman for years, taking the then-hapless Clippers to the playoffs. Kaman continues to be a solid scoring option but if he needs to spend the majority of his floor time with Marion and Brand, why is it in fact NEVER happening? Something about throwing out the baby with the bathwater comes to mind.
There are many games in which Kaman has come in and led the early scoring, although vs. Orlando he only made 2-of-7 early on and the Mavs fell behind. With a solid field-goal percentage for the year, Kaman should always be an option and pairing him with Brand and Marion might be a good one for late in games when Dirk is struggling but more likely for good stretches of the rest of the game.
It’s also nice to see Darren Collison being used at the end of games. In the Oklahoma City game, Mike James’ shots near the end raised more than a few eyebrows and Collison, while he struggled earlier in the year, is a better shooter and harder for other defenses to cover. Through many trials and tribulations this year, he is the starter and he has been coming up big of late. He needs the chance to continue.
After a few days of rest the Mavericks will see if they can defeat another team near the top of the standings and have better success than last time against the San Antonio Spurs.