Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gaining Steam

I don't normally like to recap or focus on a singular game because other places on the interwebs do it much better than I ever could. But after last night's 113-97 win over the New York Knicks, I couldn't help it. Dallas looked fantastic last night against a solid playoff-bound team with players that usually give Dallas headaches. The weak, timid, putrid and ugly Maverick team that we were watching no more than a week or so ago has completely vanished. In its place is the team we all grew fond over December with the added bonus of a fully functional and alive J.J. Barea.

Now, the New York Knicks are a dreadful defending team and an even worse rebounding team. So the statistical-nuggets of the Mavericks posting season-highs in points and rebounds seems slightly hollow. But still, out-rebounding any NBA team by 20 is somewhat of an accomplishment considering that Dallas is a poor rebounding team in its own right. And that offense was crisp, smooth and efficient. It's even more impressive since Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion went a combined 3-for-18. Imagine if those two guys were just slightly more on their game? Dallas might of been exploring a 130-point kinda night.

I'm also particularly giddy about the rising game of Dirk Nowitzki (then again, when am I not?) After only shooting above 50 percent once in his first seven games since returning from injury, he's been above 60 percent in his last three. Dirk isn't just returning to form -- he's back to annihilating the puny basketball souls that dare to test him. Dirk had the entire repertoire in force Wednesday night: face up jumpers, step-backs, fade-a-ways, one-legged runners in the lane, spin moves, back to the basket and of course the transition three. Dirk still isn't ready to say he's 100 percent yet, which should absolutely terrify the rest of the league. I know I get long-winded when talking of Dirk, but he truly amazes me no matter how many times I watch him play. Call it my tragic flaw.

Supplementing Dirk more than ever last night and over the last week has been Barea. I've already spoken about Barea's recent heroics but it needs to be reinforced how efficient he's been, especially last night. Sure, maybe he forced one pass too many or one drive too carless last night, but he still finished 7-for-12 and only three turnovers in just around 30 minutes. I'm not sure what's gotten into Barea, but he's providing the exact same production I feel many Maverick fans envisioned Roddy Beaubois to have this season. He's getting to the rim, he's shooting lights out from deep and even maintaining the team offense to boot.

Which brings us to another point of interest that reminds me of the pre-injury Mavericks -- lockdown second halves. Remember those fourth quarter shutdown games in Utah, San Antonio and in Dallas against Miami? That was on display again after the Mavericks effectively took Amare Stoudemire out of the game (Tyson Chandler held him scoreless in the half) and somehow, Jason Kidd kept Raymond Felton in front of him and forced him into long, contested twos. After the run-and-gun first quarter, New York failed to hit the 25-point plateau in any of the final three frames. If the first half defensively was "Batman and Robin" the second half was definitely "Batman Begins."

The Mavericks tied their biggest margin in a win for the season last night. Was it their best game of the season? Probably not, but it was close. It gave us a glimmer of hope, a sign of a team regaining the swagger and confidence it once had. I find it interesting that the team's two worst stretches of play (the 3-10 mark during the injuries to Caron Butler and Dirk and the 7-4 start to the season) both have outside factors influencing the play. One was a rash of sudden and brutal injuries to main cogs and the other was the usual slow and timid start some NBA teams have at the beginning of the year as they figure out rotations and roles. It's starting to become a fact -- when Dirk is completely healthy and on top of his game, this year's Maverick team is about as good as it gets. The additions of Beaubois and Peja Stojakavic should only help matters. Another test awaits in Boston, but I think we have our "true Mavericks," back for the time being.


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  1. I'm still terrified that we might undergo another 50-plus win season and lose in the second round.

  2. Glad you could reference Batman in this post

  3. Even though the Mavs are playing really well right now without Peja and Roddy, do you still think we need to make a trade at the deadline?