The Mavericks resurgence came to a grinding halt Friday night at the hands of a team who always seems to have Dallas’ number of late. Despite some changes by Rick Carlisle that worked well, one major change was fruitless as only an 11-0 run near the end of the game, capping a 39-25 advantage in the fourth quarter made this 113-107 Spurs victory look like something other than what it was.
For most of the game there wasn’t much to cheer about as the Spurs led the Mavs throughout and didn’t allow them to get close until the end.
In a rare glimpse of what is still “potential,” Roddy Beaubois lead the Mavericks with 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Rick Carlisle reaffirmed that if Roddy can do that on a regular basis, he has a role on this team.
The rest of the backcourt performed decently as well – O. J. Mayo also had a solid game with 14 points and 7 assists and Darren Collison had 13 points.
Vince Carter stepped up once again with 17.
The Mavs did mount a late run near the end of the game and outscored the Spurs 39-25 in the fourth quarter including an 11-0 run that brought them within 4 with a few seconds left. If they had managed to do so a couple of minutes earlier, it’s anybody’s guess as to who would have won.
The score reflects the late surge by the Mavericks, which was not early enough to overcome a complete dominance by the Spurs for most of the game. The Spurs led by as much as 26 points and Dallas was never close until the end of the game.
Rick Carlisle opted to start Elton Brand at center over Chris Kaman. Brand grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked a couple of shots but other than that, didn’t really fulfill any other promise.
Statistically the Mavericks were not grossly outshot, outrebounded and had comparable turnover numbers, although clearly the end-run brought things closer.
Dirk continues to make it into double figures but is not yet taking over games when needed.
Carlisle started Brand in the hopes of shoring up the Dallas defense inside and it mattered not as the San Antonio Spurs carved up the Mavs despite playing without Tim Duncan. The Spurs had no problem scoring inside on Brand or anyone else as DeJuan Blair had a season-high 22 points, including 17 on 8-of-9 shooting in the first half and Tiago Splitter had 13 points and 12 rebounds. The ineffectiveness of both Brand and Kaman in stopping the Spurs inside prompted a Bernard James sighting.
Shawn Marion was uncharacteristically absent from this game with 2 points and 4 rebounds.
The Mavericks quite simply dug themselves in too deep of a hole to realistically hope of winning the game, although admittedly they came surprisingly close near the end.
When a team is losing it’s easy to assign blame to one player or another and not look at the big picture. That kind of thinking belies years of Dirk being labeled a poor defender when in fact, while he’s not a great defender one-on-one he is a good TEAM defender. After years of Chris Kaman being considered an average defender he somehow comes to Dallas and is maligned. Some of that may be deserved and it’s clear when he and Dirk are paired together, there is a weakness is lateral movement and some disconnect in positioning.
That being said, I have said all along that it is inexplicable to me that Brand, a 6’ 9” power forward, is being expected to defend 7-footers the entire time he’s on the floor. Brand is an excellent defender but he’s not a center and he’s past his prime. In addition, the L.A. Clippers had great success when Kaman and Brand were playing TOGETHER.
It was thought that Brand was brought in to back up Dirk and perhaps Kaman as well, although Brandan Wright and Bernard James were on the roster. Now he’s only playing the 5 and that clearly isn’t working much of the time.
Kaman still shoots a high percentage and it is clear to me that as an offensive alternative he is valuable but both ends of the floor might be better served if he spends more minutes with Brand and Marion than with Dirk and Vince Carter.
The Mavericks have played better defense overall of late and perhaps this was just one step back; however the reality of putting in Brand over Kaman only to see this type of result is pretty disturbing. Perhaps it’s time for option “C” or “all of the above.”
The Mavs will have a better chance for a victory against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday. Preview coming up on The Smoking Cuban.