Dallas Mavericks: Devin Harris
1. Brandan Wright ranks among the top 10 players in PER this season. Is that evidence that he deserves more minutes or that Rick Carlisle is doing a masterful job picking spots to play Wright?
Gutierrez: It's evidence he's effective in situations where he's poised to succeed. If you look at the matchups against Portland and Indiana, they involved bigger players who were comfortable working in the post. He's generally ineffective against those players because they impose their will in the paint and that provides easy buckets for the opposition. The positioning is also an issue when it comes to rebounding. Look at Carlisle's track record. Rodrigue Beaubois, DeShawn Stevenson, J.J. Barea, Carlisle picked his spots with those players and put them in situations to succeed. Wright deserves minutes when they're advantageous for the team.
Taylor: Wright, for the time being, is really nice role player. But his role is limited to certain situations because he's a true tweener. He can't bang against the big boys and that means Carlisle feels comfortable playing him only with certain other players, so the spacing remains good on offense. Wright could force Carlisle to play him more if he was a better and more consistent rebounder, but we haven't seen that yet.
MacMahon: I've got a condition I call the Roddy B. Reflex that makes me very hesitant to second-guess Carlisle's rotations. I lobbied hard for Beaubois to get a bigger role as a rookie, and we all know how he wilted when his minutes increased. Having said all that, I'd like to see Wright in the 25-minute-per-game range. He earned his two-year, $10 million deal by flourishing in an increased role down the stretch last season, and his net rating (plus-6.1 points per 100 possessions) is by far the best of the Mavs' centers. Next time Carlisle asks my advice, I'll tell him to stop using DeJuan Blair as the first big off the bench and give those minutes to Wright.
Gutierrez: A sore right Achilles halted Harris' night in Golden State and easily leaves him questionable for the game against Utah. If he's able to avoid missing a lot of time, he's primed to be a factor in the closing lineup. Harris is a quasi-DeShawn Stevenson or maybe even a mixture of Stevenson and Jason Terry. Back in 2011, Stevenson set the tone in terms of defense to start games, and Terry didn't care about starting games during his time in Dallas -- he cared about being out there during crunch time. If Harris can bring some dribble penetration and bring some defensive disposition, it's the best of both worlds. Jose Calderon appears to be the one who will draw the short straw in terms of closing minutes, but he's a veteran and is willing to do what is best for the team. Health permitting, it appears Monta Ellis and Harris could be the closing backcourt during the stretch run.
Taylor: Well, we saw the problem with Harris in Tuesday night's blowout loss to Golden State. We can't trust his health yet. This is the second time he's had a sore Achilles. The best thing to do, right now, regarding Harris is just accept what he can give you on a game-by-game basis. No expectations. When he can play and he's playing well, then use him in fourth quarter. But until we can trust his health it's hard to define his role.
MacMahon: This sore Achilles is pretty poorly timed, but the Mavs don't believe it's serious. If Harris is healthy enough to play, he should be part of the Mavs' closing lineup unless Calderon is just lighting it up that night. Harris earned those opportunities with his clutch heroics over the weekend. He's the Mavs' best defensive guard and his ability to create off the dribble makes a major difference in crunch time. Calderon has been just a floor-spacer during closing time this season -- and not particularly effective in that role. This is an easy decision unless Harris' health complicates the issue.
Gutierrez: It's clear that both San Antonio and Oklahoma City are the teams Dallas needs to avoid. If you're forcing me to pick one, I'm going to go with Dallas needing to avoid San Antonio. They have so much depth at their disposal and that depth can negate Dallas' strength in numbers approach. As we saw in the matchup just over a week ago, the ball movement and pick-and-roll action they create puts the Mavericks in an incredible bind. San Antonio is a machine and Dallas doesn't have the components to slow them down. To avoid both, Dallas needs to emerge as the sixth seed in the West.
Taylor: It's a tie. The Mavs have no chance to beat San Antonio because the Spurs are too smart, and they have no chance to beat Oklahoma City because the Thunder are too athletic. If the Mavs played a lick of defense they'd have a sliver of a chance against these two teams. Since they don't, they would be lucky to force either series to six games.
MacMahon: The Spurs and Thunder are both horrific matchups for the Mavs, but I'd call Oklahoma City the greater of the two evils. There is high potential for humiliation if you face a team with two premier young superstars such as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in a playoff series. Side note: Bricktown is better than that muddy-beep thing they call the Riverwalk.
The Mavs announced minutes later that he would not return to the game.
It’s a big game, but you’ve got a lot of time to kill before that late West Coast tipoff. Might as well jump into the mailbag.
On to your questions ...
What do you make of Devin Harris closing out games at PG? -- @MacSportsTalk on Twitter
As Rick Carlisle said about Harris’ overall performance the other night, what’s there not to like? Harris got the closing call over Jose Calderon the last two games, and the Mavs slammed the door on a couple of playoff teams, going on combined 27-7 runs against the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers after Harris checked back in for the stretch runs.
But spacing the floor is really all Calderon has done for the Mavs during crunch time. Harris is much more aggressive on both ends of the floor and has come up with huge three-point plays off drives in each of the last two games.
Harris was a crunch-time hero over the weekend. I wouldn’t mess with that as long as it keeps being a good thing.
Did you know Dallas has two of the top 10 players in PER? And you’d never guess who the second player is. -- @chrisminjaelee on Twitter
Well, this isn’t actually true now, but you tweeted this before Blake Griffin’s big game knocked a couple of Mavs down a spot.
Still, you act like it’s stunning that Brandan Wright ranks 11th in the NBA in PER, one spot behind Dirk Nowitzki. It’s not like this came out of nowhere. Wright ranked 20th last season.
Wright is the only player with a top-40 PER who averages fewer than 20 minutes per game. Does that mean he deserves more playing time or that Carlisle is expertly picking spots for Wright to succeed? Sounds like a good question for 3 Points on Wednesday.
But the Dallas Mavericks beat the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference anyway.
Considering that the Indiana Pacers are the NBA’s best defensive team, it’d be easy to give them credit for Nowitzki going 3-of-14 from the floor, matching his worst shooting performance of the season. The reality, though, is that the big German missed some shots that are usually gimmes for him.
“I had a couple of wide-open looks, especially there in the second quarter,” Nowitzki said after the Mavs’ 105-94 win Sunday night. “Just a couple of wide-open 15-, 16- footers that just didn’t go down today. I had a layup that just kind of rolled around, hit every part of the rim and rolled out. There’s nights like this, but the team picked me up. They were fantastic.”
Devin Harris and Monta Ellis, in particular, picked up Nowitzki. They had 20 points apiece, with Ellis knocking down a couple of clutch jumpers down the stretch to make sure there’d be no comeback by the Pacers.
“If we play like that, collectively, we’ll get our butts kicked, like Bella Thorne in an arm wrestling contest,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle.
That debacle in Denver apparently did shake up the Mavs. They responded by beating a couple of NBA heavyweights during this two-game homestand, battling for hard-earned victories over the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers.
“I’m proud of the way we responded,” Dirk Nowitzki said after the Mavs pulled out a 105-94 win Sunday night over the Pacers despite him matching his worst shooting performance of the season, going 3-of-14 from the floor. “Maybe we needed that Denver loss to go to the bottom to fight back up.”
Fight is the right word.
The play that epitomized Dallas’ weekend disposition, to borrow one of Carlisle’s favorite words, was Vince Carter’s maximum-effort, maximum-enthusiasm offensive rebound early in the fourth quarter. The geezer sixth man outleaped 23-year-old All-Star Paul George not once, not twice, but three times before ripping down the rebound, with Carter letting out a roar after he finally got both hands on the ball.
The extra possession resulted in a Jose Calderon 3-pointer, but the intangible value of Carter’s rebound might have been greater.
That might change after the way that Harris answered the bell at the finish of Friday night’s 103-98 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Mavs took the lead for good when Harris ripped a defensive rebound away from Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, brought the ball up the left side of the floor and executed something Dirk Nowitzki called the “get the hell outta the way play” to perfection. With that side of the floor cleared out, Harris attacked Portland point guard Damian Lillard off the dribble, drew contact and banked in a 7-footer despite the foul with 24.2 seconds remaining.
“Harris’ three-point play was a huge play, as big a play as we’ve had all year,” Carlisle said.
The whole fourth quarter was huge for Harris, who had been in a 5-of-29 funk the previous five-plus games. He scored 10 of his 12 points in the final frame, including a 3-pointer that briefly gave the Mavs the lead with 7:15 remaining and two drives after he re-entered the game with Dallas down six.
Of course, Harris isn’t a typical backup. He’s a 10-year veteran with almost 500 starts under his belt, including playoffs.
“I’ve played this game a little bit, so obviously I’m comfortable in that situation,” Harris said. “Hopefully I can get some more time.”
Harris couldn’t have made a better case to close than he did in the late comeback against the Blazers.
DALLAS -- Other than some groans and a few fans shuffling for the exits, the sellout crowd at the American Airlines Center was almost silent with 4 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in Friday’s game.
LaMarcus Aldridge had just ferociously finished an alley-oop to give the Portland Trail Blazers, who trailed by 30 points in the first half, a six-point lead. It felt like a foregone conclusion that the Dallas Mavericks’ free fall would continue in soul-crushing fashion with a fourth consecutive loss that matched the franchise record for the biggest blown lead.
As the crowd sat in stunned silence during the ensuing timeout, challenges were delivered in the Mavs’ huddle. Leave everything on the floor and let the chips fall where they may.
Believe it or not, the Blazers didn’t get another bucket to fall the rest of the game. Dallas closed the game by scoring the final 11 points to pull out a desperately needed 103-98 victory.
“I thought we showed some great fight there in the fourth quarter to come back,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who publicly challenged the Mavs to raise their competitive level after Wednesday’s disastrous loss to the lottery-bound Denver Nuggets. “Just fight for each other, fight with each other. You’re going to lose some, but I like our chances if we’re out there playing together and fighting together.”
Maybe this wasn’t an ideal victory, but the Mavs aren’t exactly in a position to be whining about beauty points when they win.
The Mavs would certainly prefer not to have to scratch and claw down the stretch after opening with their most dominant quarter of the season, seizing that 30-point lead. But it’s no secret that Dallas is a defensively flawed team that tends to have trouble protecting big leads.
Well, the Mavs might have to work a bit on that blown-lead deal.
Heck, the Mavs have lost five games this season in which they led by at least 17 points. It’s such a sensitive subject that it caused coach Rick Carlisle to curse during his postgame news conference -- and promptly tell his 9-year-old daughter, Abby, who was sitting off to the side with her mouth wide open in shock, that she didn’t hear that dirty word.
But at least the Mavs did the dirty work necessary to pull out a win they needed to maintain the slimmest of margins over the Memphis Grizzlies for the final spot in the Western Conference playoff picture.
How’s this for grit? The Mavs got nine consecutive stops to end the game. Their four buckets during that span were all off of drives or in the paint, including an off-the-glass, and-1, go-ahead bucket with 24 seconds remaining by backup point Devin Harris, who got the call for crunch time because of his ability to drive and defend. Carter’s offensive rebound with 17.4 seconds to go essentially sealed the win.
“If you talk about doing it the hard way,” Carlisle said, “there’s no harder way to do it than what we did tonight.”
Not that the Mavs expect it to get much easier. An angry, East-leading Indiana Pacers team, fresh off being blown out by the Houston Rockets and wanting revenge for losing to the Mavs before the All-Star break, will be in town Sunday. The Mavs’ three games after that are on the road, including visits to two teams above them in the West standings. And so goes the Mavs’ schedule, one of the toughest in the league in terms of opponents’ winning percentage the rest of the season.
“It’s going to be a character test,” Carlisle said. “It’s going to test our team resolve the next 19 games, but that’s good. If we’re not up to it, we don’t deserve to go to the playoffs.”
The Mavs’ playoff hopes might go down to the wire. With these Mavs, why should you expect anything other than a wild finish?
DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks emerged from a roller-coaster ride with a 103-98 win Friday night over the Portland Trail Blazers.
How it happened: The Mavs managed to pull out a victory over a Western Conference contender after blowing a 30-point lead.
The Mavs ended up having to make a comeback down the stretch, trailing by six points with 4 minutes, 26 seconds to play. But Dallas finished the game with an 11-0 run that featured five points by backup point guard Devin Harris, including the go-ahead and-1 bucket with 24.2 seconds remaining.
The Mavs held their last 30-point lead with 8:31 remaining in the second quarter. The Trail Blazers took their first lead of the game with 2:52 remaining in the third, on a putback by power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
The lead went back and forth several times, but Dallas avoided tying a dubious franchise record for the biggest lead blown in a loss. The Mavs also blew a 30-point edge in a Dec. 6, 2002, defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Mavs held the Blazers to 10 points in the first quarter -- the fewest allowed by Dallas in any quarter this season -- and 38 points in the first half. Portland nearly matched that in the third quarter, doubling the Mavs’ total with 36 points in the frame.
Aldridge had 18 points and nine rebounds in just that third quarter, finishing with 30 and 17. But he came up empty several times down the stretch after his alley-oop finish gave the Blazers their final points.
Dallas got 22 points from Dirk Nowitzki and 19 from Jose Calderon, who outscored Portland by himself in the first quarter, but Harris was the crunch-time hero. Harris had 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter to help the Mavs pull out the kind of win that could salvage their season.
What it means: The Mavs halted their season-worst three-game losing streak with a heart-pounding win to remain a game ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies for eighth place in the Western Conference. The Trail Blazers fell into fifth place after dropping to 42-20.
Play of the game: With the score tied in the final minute, Harris fought for a defensive rebound in heavy traffic, brought the ball up the floor and drove to his left before being fouled by Damian Lillard and kissing the ball off the glass and in. The free throw gave the Mavs a 101-98 lead with 24.2 seconds remaining.
Stat of the night: According to ESPN Stats & Information, NBA teams that have trailed by at least 30 points are 0-84. In the past 15 seasons, teams that trailed by at least 30 in the first half are 0-142.
What's next: The Mavericks host the East-leading Indiana Pacers on Sunday night.
Now comes the Denver Nuggets' Ty Lawson, who didn't look real rusty in his first game back after missing a few weeks because of a fractured rib, tuning up for Wednesday's game against the Mavs with a 31-point, 11-assist performance Monday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Mavericks point guard Jose Calderon, left, has had trouble this season keeping up with elite point guards such as Steph Curry.
Jose Calderon, who occasionally resembles a bullfighter on defense, would have his hands full with all of these explosive point guards if he could stay close enough to get a paw on them.
"For sure, it's an individual challenge," Calderon said. "You don't want to get beat there by anybody. You're going to play as hard as you can against great players in this league. I feel pretty comfortable. The team has been helping me a lot. This year, some days are going to be a tougher challenge. You feel better or worse. But at the end of the day, it's about team defense."
The Mavs were well aware of Calderon's defensive limitations when they signed him to a four-year, $29 million deal last summer. They considered his lack of lateral quickness a flaw they could live, considering it came in a package with his savvy offensive decision-making and elite perimeter shooting.
Calderon has been as billed for the Mavs, for better and worse. He ranks third in the league in 3-point percentage (44.9) and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.94-to-1). He also has the worst defensive rating (107.1) among guards on winning teams.
While Calderon is a plus overall, it will be especially difficult to mask his defensive flaws during this stretch, which started with Parker's 22-point, seven-rebound performance Sunday in the Spurs' win.
Mother Nature, the mythical force Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle often refers to when discussing injuries, had other things on her mind.
The Mavs don’t have time to feel sorry for the Nuggets, who have been hit as hard as any NBA team by the injury bug this season. But the visit to Denver for Wednesday’s game might at least remind the Mavs about how fortunate they’ve been this season.
Dallas’ starters have missed a total of only nine games due to injury or illness, not counting the night Dirk Nowitzki rested in Toronto as part of the Mavs’ preventative-maintenance program for their 35-year-old star. By comparison, projected Denver frontcourt starters Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee combined to play only five games before undergoing season-ending surgeries.
The Mavs’ bench was thinned out by injuries early in the season, with Devin Harris sitting out the first half of the season while rehabbing from summer toe surgery and Brandan Wright missing the first six weeks due to a fracture in his left shoulder. But the Mavs have had a remarkable run of good health since the season started, especially for a team with so many aging veterans.
We’ll pause to let Mavs fans knock on wood.
So, of course, we should fast forward and discuss summer possibilities.
This edition of the Mavs have actually given us plenty to talk about, but one particular question about this year's free agency scene fascinates me, so we'll start with that.
Do you think Carmelo Anthony would ever consider Dallas instead of LA or staying in NY? -- @MaziRabiee on Twitter
I'm skeptical, to say the least. It's well known that his wife, the beautiful and apparently talented La La, wants to be in one of the biggest media markets. And as much as Melo says it's all about winning for him now, I'll believe that he'll leave more than $30 million on the table when I see it.
Per ESPN salary cap expert Larry Coon, the Knicks can offer Melo a max deal of $129.1 million over five years. Other teams can offer him $95.9 million over four years.
The Mavs would love to land a legitimate superstar to pair with Dirk Nowitzki, but a strong argument could be made that Melo doesn't make sense for Dallas at that price. The Mavs would have to do some significant roster trimming to free up that much cap space, unless Dirk took a historically unprecedented pay cut.
If the Mavs did sign Melo to a max deal, they'd be handcuffed as far as building a roster around him because he'd eat up so much of the cap. I'm not sure that'd be a wise path to take with a player who has proven to be a great scorer but not a great winner.
A decade into his career, Melo has been out of the first round only twice. Would pairing him with the golden-years version of Dirk really make the Mavs contenders? Of course, the other way to look at it is, do the Mavs have a better plan to try to maximize the final few seasons of Dirk's career?
And it's probably all a moot point anyway, due to all that money Melo would give up by leaving his beloved Big Apple.
So we’ll skip over all the far-fetched trade scenarios.
Would Dirk ever play for another team? Or is it pretty much ride it out with Cuban/Donnie until he doesn't wanna do it anymore? -- Jason (Fort Worth)
I’d take Dirk Nowitzki at his word on this one, and he’s consistently said that he’ll never wear another NBA uniform.
In fact, Nowitzki addressed this again over All-Star Weekend, when he sat down with Grantland.com’s Bill Simmons for a BS Report appearance. Here’s the answer, in Dirk’s own words.
“So I’m sure we’ll find a nice little agreement for both sides where we can have a good team for the following years and I feel I can still play and feel respected, and we’ll go from there.”
The plan is still for Nowitzki to take a significant pay cut -- we’ll find out exactly what that means this summer, and I’m not sure Nowitzki even has a number in mind yet -- and re-sign with the Mavs for two or three more years. He desperately wants to compete for another championship, but he’s dead set on doing it in Dallas.
Maybe it’d be a different story if the Mavs didn’t get to the top of the NBA mountain in 2011. If Dirk didn’t have a ring, he might be tempted to pull a Karl Malone and go elsewhere to chase a championship.
“This might be a whole different issue,” Nowitzki told Simmons. “That’s something I felt like I needed on my resume. Maybe the free agency would be a lot different. I might think about some other moves. But really now, there’s [nothing] to think about.”
I'm optimistically betting the Mavs continue to improve and gel after the All-Star break. The '04-'05 Mavs caught my eye as a possible comparison. That team finished the regular season in the upper echelon of the league offensively and middle of the pack defensively, winning a thrilling first-round playoff series vs. Houston. Would you bet on this current roster winning a playoff series if it can avoid the No. 7-8 seed, or am I reaching on this comparison? -- Ryne (Washington, D.C.)
That’s an interesting comparison, especially considering that it was Jason Terry’s first season in Dallas, like Monta Ellis now. But that Dallas team won 58 games and rolled into the playoffs with home-court advantage in the first round, which obviously isn’t happening this season.
Having said that, as I wrote last week, I’d give the Mavs a puncher’s chance to get out of the first round if they get matched up with the Houston Rockets or Portland Trail Blazers.
I simply don’t see the Mavs pulling off a deal of any significance. Maybe they surprise me, but all I could offer at this point is speculation, and I’ve already done plenty of that.
Plus, the Mavs have won five in a row for the first time in two years. Let’s talk about a team that’s given some reason for optimism.
Of the top 4 seeds in the West (OKC, SA, POR, and LAC) which playoff matchup would be the best for the Mavs? -- Michael (Aubrey)
We can include the Rockets in this mix, too, and from a media standpoint, that would be the most interesting series. You know Mark Cuban would have some interesting things to say about Dwight Howard and he might just be able to get in the mentally fragile big man’s head.
We know the Mavs want no part of the Thunder or Spurs, two teams that have dominated Dallas since the lockout.
If I had to pick a team based on the Mavs’ chances to advance, I’d go with the Portland Trail Blazers. Yes, I’m well aware that the Blazers blew out the Mavs during their last stop in Dallas, but the Mavs won at the buzzer in Portland. Really, it’s about styles. Portland is also a poor defensive team. I’d give the Mavs at least a puncher’s chance to win a series that would be a bunch of wild West shootouts.
What do you think of the Mavs' chances to climb to the fifth or sixth seed in the Western Conference? -- TSC_HookEm on Twitter
Maybe sixth. And that’s much more optimistic than I was a week ago. That has as much to do with the Golden State Warriors’ struggles as it does the Mavs taking advantage of a soft stretch of schedule. I thought the Warriors would be fighting for home-court advantage in the first round, but for whatever reasons, they haven’t been nearly as good offensively as I anticipated.
That gives the Mavs and Suns a shot at the sixth seed. I can’t see them catching the Houston Rockets or Los Angeles Clippers, especially after the Clippers kept the ship sailing while Chris Paul was sidelined.
Has Devin Harris been as big of a boost as it seems or is this winning streak more about Dirk's dominance and consistent play from Samuel Dalembert? -- Parker (Dallas)
Vince Carter and Brandan Wright have been outstanding. In fact, they have the best plus-minuses on the team over the last five games. Harris helps them by giving the bench a proven, versatile guard.
Nowitzki’s dominance makes life easier for everybody offensively, but he’s been playing at an All-Star level all season, save for the occasional off night. When Dalembert plays with the kind of energy and intensity he has recently, the Mavs are a different team, as anyone in that locker room will tell you.
Of course, it’s also worth noting that none of the teams the Mavs have beaten during this streak would be in the playoffs if the season ended now, and only Memphis has a winning record. But the Mavs aren’t just squeaking by bad teams. They’re dominating inferior competition.
The Dallas Mavericks kept rolling with a 102-91 road win over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden.
How it happened: It’s debatable how much credit the Dallas defense should get for Boston’s horrible offensive performance, but the Celtics had no chance to keep up with the Mavs while shooting so poorly.
The Celtics ended up shooting 35.9 percent from the floor, but that ugly number got inflated by garbage time. Boston shot 29.9 percent in the first three quarters.
The Mavs weren’t as efficient offensively as they have been recently, but they scored enough to run away from an Eastern Conference also-ran.
Seven Mavs scored in double figures, led by Dirk Nowitzki, who had 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting to snap a streak of six straight games in which he made at least half of his field goal attempts. Jose Calderon added 18 points and five assists. Shawn Marion (11 points, 10 rebounds) had his seventh double-double of the season.
What it means: The Mavs have their first five-game winning streak since February 2012. After six wins in seven games, the Mavs are 10 games over .500 for the first time since their 2010-11 championship season. At 31-21, Dallas moved ahead of the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference standings, pulling even with the Phoenix Suns for sixth place. The Celtics fell to 18-34.
Play of the game: Devin Harris hooked up with Brandan Wright for a couple of highlight-reel buckets, the sweetest of which happened in the last minute of the third quarter. After coming off a high pick-and-pop, Harris was driving down the right side of the lane when he spotted Wright cutting on the opposite baseline and tossed up an underhanded lob pass over Celtics power forward Kris Humphries’ outstretched arm. Wright caught the pass high over the rim with two hands and threw it down hard to stretch the Mavs’ lead to 16.
Stat of the night: Dallas is 14-6 against the East this season.
With Devin Harris setting the tempo and Brandan Wright jamming, the bench has been rocking for the Mavs recently.
Since Harris’ season debut, the Mavs’ reserves have averaged 43.8 points in nine games. Only the Brooklyn Nets have a higher scoring bench in that span.
Memphis Grizzlies. “That’s how we feel.”
The trio of sixth man/lead singer Vince Carter, Harris and Wright has formed a bench core worthy of such confidence. Dallas has outscored opponents by 27 points in 66 minutes with those three on the floor together, making them the Mavs’ most productive three-man lineup that doesn’t feature Dirk Nowitzki over the last few weeks.
Nowitzki has been so awesome over the last five games that the bench’s contributions to the Mavs’ 4-1 run have been overshadowed. But the bench’s numbers would pop off the page if the focus wasn’t on the phenomenally efficient hot streak by the Mavs’ lone All-Star.
Carter (11.8 points per game), Wright (11.0) and Harris (10.8) are all scoring in double figures with high shooting percentages over the last five games. Harris and Carter are serving as dual distributors for the second unit, averaging a combined 7.8 assists per game while the Mavs have won four of five.
Carter’s per-game plus-minus (plus-13.2) is off-the-charts outstanding during that span. The three next best on the roster: Nowitzki (plus-8.2), Wright (plus-8.2) and Harris (plus-5.8).
It helps that Nowitzki plays several minutes each half with the second unit, and one of the Mavs’ biggest challenges remains figuring out how to hold the fort while their superstar rests. However, with Harris (toe surgery) and Wright (fractured shoulder) recovered from injuries that sidelined them for long stretches to start the season and Jae Crowder and DeJuan Blair filling dirty-work roles, Dallas has more quality depth than the vast majority of teams.
“Now everybody kind of knows what’s expected of us and we have a feel for each other,” Carter said. “When we come in, we all know what to expect and what to do. I think that’s really helped us.”
The 37-year-old Carter is no longer the spectacular solo artist he was during his "Half Man, Half Amazing" younger years, as was confirmed by his struggles early in the season when Wright and Harris were sidelined. But Carter has benefited tremendously from being paired with his pick-and-roll partner Wright.
Carter’s scoring and shooting numbers are significantly better with Wright’s above-the-rim act than without him. But the most notable difference is his assist numbers: 4.6 per 48 minutes without Wright and 8.4 with him.
“It’s a good combination that’s pretty dangerous,” said Wright, whose chemistry with Carter is especially entertaining on the occasions when he slips the pick and dives to the basket to exploit a cheating defense. “He can come off and shoot and you’ve got to respect that. If you help too much, I’m pretty much wide open at the rim and can make plays.”
Harris gives the Mavs another pick-and-roll creator for the second unit and is a one-man pace-changing machine, which also plays to the strengths of Wright, a big man who can run. Wright has scored 58 points in 96 minutes with Harris in the game.
The Carter-Harris-Wright trio plays a fast-paced, high-flying, fun brand of basketball. They get fans on their feet, like every good band.
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