Thank goodness the Dallas Mavericks ended 2011 on a good note with a 99-86 win over the Toronto Raptors Friday night at the AAC. There is still much work to be done if they want to continue this winning gig though.
The Mavericks entered this game with a sense of urgency, and they needed to play as such since they are 0-3 coming into tonights game and with a shortened season, they are going to have to do everything they can to work together and get a win when they can, and tonight they were able to do that.
It would have been a much better situation if the new Raptors coach was back on our bench handing out defensive duties, instead of coaching the opponent. Dewayne Casey certainly deserves the job he now has, but he had done so much for the Mavericks; with his tenacity for defense, and the players all working on the same page, Dallas finally accomplished the one thing that had eluded them since 2006, and that was winning the NBA Finals and Casey had a lot to do with that, as well as Rick Carlisle.
As it is, on any given night we expect certain players to carry the bulk of the load for the Mavs, but tonight it was someone unexpected to come out of the shadows and that was Ian Mahinmi. He led the way for Dallas with 19 points and when asked after the game, he was quoted as saying, “Coach has told me that if I was open, to take the shot no matter where I am”, so he did.
Now not to be left out of the mix, Dirk, our MVP, helped to capitalize on the scoring with 18 points, as well as JET who had 17, Shawn Marion also added 12 and Vince Carter had 10.
Brendan Haywood, starting center, came alive under the basket and had 9 rebounds, as Jason Kidd, who played in his 1,271st career game, had a good stat night with 9 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. With that, Kidd moved past John Havlicek into sole possession of 17th place on the NBA’s all-time list. Not bad for a player that a lot of people has called old and non-essential. To me they are just jealous of his basketball IQ and can’t compete logically with him.
The Toronto Raptors have their own superstars and tonight one of them finally showed people that his comparisons to Dirk were warranted. Andrea Bargnani over the last couple of years, has been compared to Dirk in his way of play, but to be honest with you, I had not really seen it that way until tonight. Bargnani led the Raptors and was the leading scorer of the game with 30 points and it looked as if he could get any shot he wanted, like Dirk, and he took them.
Leandro Barbosa added 20 points for the Raptors and DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon added 11 each. DeRozan had a very good night, even though he only scored 11 points, it was the way he scored, which included a steal on an inbound play from Dallas which resulted in a score for Toronto and started a flush of plays to get the Raptors going and eventually take a 68-61 lead over Dallas.
Carlisle called a 20-second timeout. He subbed Carter in for Marion and Carter immediately ended the drought with a 3-pointer, followed by a step-back 14-foot jumper. That sparked a 16-2 spurt by the Mavericks to finish the period and put Dallas back in the lead 77-70 and they never relinquished it from there on.
Dallas has over the last couple of season bragged about their bench play and tonight was no different, they outscored Toronto’s bench 56-26 and finally put some good numbers on the stat sheet. Even though Toronto did better in field goals percentage, 45.8 to 44.4, Dallas was able to put together the points they needed to finish off the 4th quarter 22-16 and get the win.
The rest of the stat sheet was pretty even in comparison; Dallas shot 28% from the 3 where Toronto shot 42.9%, but Dallas was able to get the better side of the rebounds with 40-38 over Toronto; Dallas is still needing to improve on their free throws because tonight they only converted 73.7% of their attempts to 77.8 for the Raptors. Dallas did better at controlling the ball by only committing 10 turnovers where Toronto had 17. So as you can see on paper, the Mavericks are looking better in some perspective, but still a ways to go to get back to where they were.
Now, I don’t expect them to be the same team that won that championship last season, but I do expect them to put their best foot forward on the court each and every time they step on that court and try to get the win at whatever they have to do to get it. These guys are veterans, one of the more experienced teams in the league (I’m not going to call them old), so they need to act like it and play to their potential and not down to someone elses.
Now we make a trip to Minnesota to take on the young Timberwolves team, strangely enough, a team that has JJ Barea helping to run things along with Kevin Love, the leagues double-double big man that can also shoot from the outside and young Ricky Rubio, the European standout that waited 2 years to get back into the NBA from playing overseas.
So I bid you a good day and say Happy New Year, good luck and let’s go Mavs and let’s start 2012 off as we finished 2011 with a “W”.