Dallas Mavericks: Rodney Stuckey
How it happened: The Dallas Mavericks did exactly what they had to and put the struggling, injury-riddled Detroit Pistons out of their misery early.
The Mavs made their first eight shots, jumped out to a 23-9 lead and shot 63 percent in the first half to lead, 52-38, a margin that could have been larger. They would take care of that in the third quarter. Detroit, playing without Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva and now losers of five straight after playing in its fourth game in five nights, closed to within 52-40 to start the third quarter.
That’s as close as the Pistons would get. Dallas rolled to a 16-0 run for a 68-40 lead, its largest margin, on a Dirk Nowitzki fadeaway with 5:57 to go in the quarter.
Speaking of Nowitzki, he whisked away his 5-of-22 shooting slump in the previous two games by hitting his first seven shots. He finished with a team-high 18 points on 9-of-10 shooting. Shawn Marion had 14, Vince Carter, starting for a second consecutive game, had 11 points. Ian Mahinmi had another nice offensive night with 10 points. Lamar Odom again didn't have much offensive success, going 0-of-3 from the field, but he did come off the bench to tie for the team lead in rebounds with seven.
All-in-all, a Mavs team without its floor general, Jason Kidd, for a second consecutive game, played an efficient game at both ends of the floor, the level of competition notwithstanding -- and all those empty seats at the Palace of Auburn Hills showed what the locals think of the level of play. Detroit shot just 44.1 percent -- buoyed by some late scoring -- was outrebounded and committed 21 turnovers, with the Mavs taking 13 steals.
Coach Rick Carlisle got all of his key players out of the game with under seven minutes to go. With 5:24 to go Yi Jianlian made his Mavs debut as all 13 Mavs that suited up played.
What it means: Dallas is .500 for the first time this season at 5-5. It was an important win to nail down considering a well-rested Boston Celtics club is up next Wednesday night. Also, with San Antonio's road loss at Milwaukee on Tuesday, the Mavs moved one game back of the Spurs for the Southwest Division lead.
Play of the game: With the first quarter winding down, Vince Carter, dribbling out by the arc on the right wing, lofted a pass toward Mahinmi down low. The 6-foot-11 forward snared the pass on his fingertips to save it from going out of bounds at the baseline and in one motion switched the ball from his right to left hand and scored with a swooping lay-in at the rim for a 30-18 lead.
Stat of the day: Delonte West, starting for Kidd, delivered 10 assists, a season-high for West, but also a Mavs season team high. He finished two assists shy of his career mark.
With two days having passed since their last game -- an eternity in this schedule -- the Mavs have a shot to even their record for the first time against the struggling Detroit Pistons, who lost for a fourth straight time Monday night, trampled by the Chicago Bulls, 92-68. This game will be about energy and the Mavs need to bring it against a downtrodden club.
Dallas will have to do find that energy and some rhythm without point guard Jason Kidd (lower back) for a second consecutive game, and this an important one because Dallas faces a rested Boston Celtics team on Wednesday. The Celtics will have had four days off since their last game.
Records: Mavs (4-5); Pistons (2-7)
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Palace of Auburn Hills
Radio: 103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Mavs coach Rick Carlisle has challenged Rodrigue Beaubois to bring a more determined and disciplined defensive effort on a more consistent basis. Dirk Nowitzki challenged the third-year guard to make better decisions and attack the basket. With Jason Kidd on the shelf again, Beaubois should get an opportunity to show improvement in both areas against the Pistons, a team that has trouble cracking 80 and doesn't exactly play "Bad Boy" defense. As has been stated here before, Beaubois might not be a regular rotation player with a fully healthy roster, but he will be integral throughout the season to help keep Kidd rested. Showing he can contribute now could do wonders not only for Beaubois' confidence, but for Carlisle's confidence in him.
Key matchup: Dirk Nowitzki vs. Jonas Jerebko
The second-year forward out of Sweden will have his hands full as Nowitzki looks to break out of a shooting slump that has seen him miss 17-of-22 shots in the last two games and score just 16 points. Nowitzki nearly had back-to-back single digit games for the first time since Nov. 26, 2003 when he left scoreless after seven minutes with a sprained ankle, and Dec. 10, 2003 when he returned from the injury and scored nine points in 27 minutes. Nowitzki is averaging a team-high 19.0 points, but shooting just 43.8 percent overall and 20.0 percent on 3s.
Injuries: Mavs - G Jason Kidd (lower back) is out. Pistons - F Charlie Villanueva (right ankle) is questionable; G Rodney Stuckey (groin) is questionable.
Up next: Mavs at Boston Celtics, 7 p.m., Wednesday
The Mavs tried to move into the middle of the first round to get Jones, but unwilling to give up a 2011 first-round draft pick, the Mavs felt fortunate that Jones slipped to No. 25 where Memphis could make the selection on behalf of Dallas for a cost of $3 million.
Jones was mostly rated as a late first-round to early second-round selection by media analysts, and Carlisle acknowledged that the Mavs valued Jones more than other teams and "had him rated higher than a lot of people did."
Jones, who plans to wear No. 20, was flattered that the Mavs would spend $3 million to get into the first round to acquire him, but he believes he'll pay off. Asked how he would compare himself to Oklahoma State's Anderson, Jones said: "I think I was better. But, like I said, success isn't in the beginning. Nobody has reached success; no John Wall. Nobody has reached success. Success is in the end. This is just the beginning for everybody in the draft and I'm very comfortable with my situation and my team and I'm just ready to go."
Jones said he sees himself as cross between Miami star Dwyane Wade and Detroit guard Rodney Stuckey: "Just getting in the lane, strong body, getting contact, and-1s. And, I feel like the D-Wade style, which is transition, getting out in transition, one-on-one transition, you know, basically being unguardable."
And it go a ‘lil summin’ like this:
At least Villanueva is a salty Tweeter …
The Pistons have lost nine in a row. That’s bad. Their last five losses have come against sub-.500 East teams -- three of those coming at home. That’s really bad.
They’ve had a lot to deal with -- a new coach (John Kuester), several key offseason acquisitions to work in (Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Ben Wallace) and a lot of injuries to key guys. They’ve just recently been able to put Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton and Gordon back on the floor after extended bouts with some hurt.
The result is they don’t score much at 91.5 a night and they let their opponents hit almost 47 percent of their shots against them. I think they’ll eventually be able to score at a higher clip, but I don’t know that’ll translate to being more than a middle-of-the-road team in the East.
I do like Rodney Stuckey, but not as a point. And I can’t help but think he and Gordon are a bad fit together. I could easily be off base there. It does seem like Stuckey could be related to the GZA, however. I dunno, maybe off base there too.
Speaking of off base, I can’t help but think of this Wayne Winston rant on True Hoop (some of the most over-the-top basketball analysis I’ve ever read) whenever I think of the Pistons signing Gordon:
My prediction is that the Bulls are going to stink this year. Ben Gordon and Brad Miller were their best players. They let Ben Gordon go to the team they need to beat for the playoffs? Why'd they do that? Letting him go is just beyond stupid. It's ridiculous. And who'd they pick up to replace him? Jannero Pargo?
I find this hilarious on so many levels, I can only summarize it with -- this is what you get when you turn to math professors for basketball commentary. He predicted that a mediocre .500 team in the East would stink this year after losing their leading scorer. Now that’s bold. But let’s move on to his more acerbic take -- that letting Gordon go is “beyond stupid” and “ridiculous.”
It should be noted that the 6-foot-3 2-guard that the Bulls decided not to pay $10 million a year has a career playoff shooting percentage of 40 percent to go with his almost 1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, is a sub-par defender and had led the Bulls to exactly one playoff series win in his five years there.
Gordon is a talented scorer, a gunner who can single-handedly keep you in a game. I’ve also seen him shoot his team out of games with possessions in which he’s the only guy that touches the ball -- several trips in a row. I’m not a big fan of that type of basketball, so I must be beyond stupid and ridiculous to not be on board with throwing away $10 million a year when you need so much other help. Especially if it hasn’t translated to big winning in the NBA yet and when probably every GM in the league would much rather have D-Rose dominate the ball at half the salary.
When this season is said and done, I’d be surprised if the Bulls and Pistons are more than a few wins apart from one another in the standings. But Chicago will have, at minimum, $10 million in salary-cap room this summer, probably more once the final numbers come in. Money they wouldn’t have had if they’d chosen to pay Gordon instead and be that same .500 team in the East.
What a bunch of idiots, right Wayne?
Friday Night Lights on the Riverwalk
The Spurs started the month of December with three straight losses and were sitting at 9-7 and having to answer all the “what’s wrong” questions. A month later, they’re won 11 of their last 14 as they’ve closed the Sothwestern gap down to two games behind Dallas.
Those who are still apprehensive about San Antonio will note that the Spurs have been feasting on weaker teams during that stretch and that they’re two toughest games, Phoenix and Portland, resulted in L’s. But The Spurs are deep -- nobody on their team is averaging 32 minutes a night -- and they're versatile and have no trouble scoring and rebounding.
It starts with Tim Duncan, who is still giving you 20 and 10 a night. They outrebound their opponents by 4.5 a night and hit 39 percent of their treys and 48.6 percent from the field on their way to 102 whenever they tip it up.
But you know the drill with the Spurs. They are the Mavs' biggest rival, and these games always seem to matter more than any other each year. They’ve split the season series at one each with both teams protecting their home floor.
Always fun ...
And this is how you put a team on your back…
The Jazz season to date has been one long steady ho-hum. They’re 18-15, but only 6-10 on the road. They’ll roll into town Saturday night after having visited the currently unbeatable Memphis Grizz the night before. The interesting thing about their record is that they haven’t had any prolonged streaks one way or the other with two different three-game winning streaks being their longest stretches of note.
But seeing as it’s Mavs/Jazz -- this is the only thing you’re really thinking about, isn’t it?
What more can I say, top billin' ...
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