Commentary

Shawn Marion building his legacy

Mavericks forward dominates on both ends of the court in fourth-quarter stretch

Updated: April 5, 2012, 3:09 AM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- It looked like this game would provide further evidence that the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks were sinking into mediocrity.

Until Shawn Marion checked back in and changed the game.

There haven't been many more impactful 10-minute stints by a Maverick this season than the Matrix's all-around dominance down the stretch. The man the Mavs have been promoting as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate provided more ammo for that campaign by shutting out Memphis Grizzlies star Rudy Gay in the final frame.

Marion also took over on the offensive end, scoring 12 points in the quarter, including six points in a 10-0 spurt that gave the Mavs the lead for good and started immediately after he replaced Lamar Odom.

[+] EnlargeShawn Marion
Glenn James/NBAE/Getty ImagesShawn Marion scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, including six points in a 10-0 spurt that gave the Mavs the lead for good.

That's how Dallas turned a five-point deficit at the 10-minute mark into a much-needed 95-85 win Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center.

Marion, who finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three blocks, is a man who focuses on the moment. However, the 13-year veteran allowed himself to briefly think much bigger after one of his best all-around performances of the season.

"We've all got legacies we want to leave behind," said Marion, a four-time All-Star with the Phoenix Suns who has accepted being a role player in Dallas. "I've got one (championship), and I'm still aiming for one. There's a piece of my legacy that I don't have yet. I want it. Everybody wants to be a champion. I've been there. I wouldn't mind being a two-time champion."

For that to happen, the Matrix is going to have to be a monster for the Mavs.

Marion played a major role during the Mavs' title run last year. He spearheaded the defensive efforts that turned superstars Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James into mere mortals as he averaged 11.9 points and 6.3 rebounds.

These Mavs, who are only a game above .500 since Feb. 1, will need all that and more to have a realistic chance of repeating as champions.

It's almost as if Marion's defensive excellence is taken for granted. The Mavs count on him to minimize the impact of the opponent's best player, regardless of position with the exception of center. If that doesn't happen, forget about the Mavs being a factor in the West.

"He's our guy," Dirk Nowitzki said. "He's our stopper."

But Marion also has to make an impact as an offensive threat, which has been hit and miss this season.

"If I've got to go out there and get 30 a night, I'll get 30," Marion said. "If I've got to go out there and get 10, then I'll get 10. But I'm definitely going to play both ends of the floor. I've always prided myself in that."

Actually, Marion has never scored 30 in a Mavericks uniform. The Mavs don't necessarily need him to morph back into being the go-to guy he was during his days in the desert.

They just need him to be efficient and involved.

When Marion scores, the Mavs tend to win. They're 21-11 in games that he hits double digits.

Marion averages 12.7 points on 47.3 percent shooting in Mavs wins. In losses, his numbers plummet to 8.8 points on 39.6 shooting.

It's not as simple as calling set plays to get Marion going. That's rare for the Mavs, and it's really not a good idea, even though Marion is nearing the 16,000-point milestone for his career.

Marion can't be counted on to consistently create his own shot out of half-court sets. That's just not his game. He's a slasher who gets better as the tempo gets faster.

Just look at how Marion, who was scoreless in the first half, got his dozen points in the fourth against the Grizzlies. He was 5-of-6 from the floor with four fast-break buckets, a cutting layup and a pair of free throws.

"In my opinion, one of the things that's made him an all-time unique player is the fact that he can have major impact on the game without even calling plays for him," coach Rick Carlisle said. "That's what he did."

The Mavs need Marion to do that consistently once the games matter the most, not to mention make the lives of high-scoring stars miserable.

That's a lot to ask from a 33-year-old. That's how legacies get written.

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