Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mavs blast off against Rockets, 96-86

No Josh Howard? No problem.

The Mavericks boarded Flight 31 and rode the Jet to a third-straight victory in Houston Wednesday night. Jason Terry scored 31 points, and the Dallas fought off a late Rockets rally that brought Houston within three points for a 96-86 win at Toyota Center. Terry started off hot, making his first seven shots and scoring 18 first-half points. Can Jet keep up this production? Not when Josh Howard comes back, but for this stretch, it's good to see him soaring once again.

Houston didn't make things easy on Dallas, which has been prone to multiple come-from-behind losses early this season. Rockets Aaron Brooks hit a pair of fourth quarter 3-pointers to pull narrow the Mavericks lead to 73-70 just a few minutes into the final period.

The Rockets missed their big man, Yao Ming, as Dallas controlled the paint -- not exactly the Mavs' strength. Houston couldn't get offensive rebounds, limiting any second-chance points while Dallas continued to find nothing but net. During the Rockets' fourth-quarter rally, with the Mavs leading by only 5, Shawne Williams missed an errant 3-pointer, but Brandon Bass owned the paint, boxed out the world, grabbed the rebound, and made a bucket to stretch the lead back to 7. I'm not saying Bass couldn't have gotten that board if Yao was in, but his absence helped.

While this was a nice win for Dallas (5-7), there are still glaring holes that this team needs to address. Other than Terry (31) and Dirk Nowitzki (24 points, 12 rebs), no one else on this squad cracked double-figures. Jason Kidd did finish with a solid 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists, but without Josh Howard or even the inactive but still-capable-of-going-off-for-the-rare-18-point-night Jerry Stackhouse, the Mavs don't have anyone else on this roster capable of going off.

No one else scored more than 6 points.

James Singleton - 5 pts
Erick Dampier - 3 pts
Gerald Green - 6 pts
Shawne Williams - 5 pts
Brandon Bass - 6 pts
Jose Juan Barea - 4 pts
DeSegana Diop - 4 pts

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle had no fear for emptying the bench and seeing what the bottom of his roster was made of. Singleton started. Started! I know Josh Howard was out, but Singleton? Okay. Sure. He hit two early shots from the corner, but after that was quiet.

Gerald Green started off with a bang, stealing a ball for a break-away two points as well as lasering a pass to Dampier for a dunk. But after that Green faded.

Other than Terry, J.J. Barea might have been the most effective sub the Mavs brought in. Now is Barea really the answer here? At most, he's the backup point guard of the future for when Kidd retires and someone else comes in to take the starting role. But Barea showed no fear in driving to the basket, even though on one drive in the second quarter Luis Scola swatted the ball away from him like Karch Kiraly spiking a volleyball. But is that so bad? Tracy McGrady did the same thing to Jason Kidd. And Barea still went back into the lane later in the game, drawing a foul and knocking down both free throws.

He played well, but his significant role is sadly a glaring example of all that this team lacks. I like Barea, his hustle and determination. But aren't those just things we say about guys who are naturally talented enough to make your average NBA roster? Barea has a role as this team moves forward, but it's a role that's nothing more than backup point guard at best.

How important is depth? Really? When the Suns went to the conference finals in back-to-back years, Mke D'Antoni had a set rotation of no more than seven guys. Granted, that Phoenix team didn't make the finals and D'Antoni is now coaching in New York. But maybe the Mavs don't need much depth? Then again, with Josh 28 years old, Dirk 30, Jet 31, and Kidd 35, this team needs depth to give the "old guard" a breather. Especially throughout an 82 game regular season, not to mention playoffs if that comes to pass.

This is the season for Dallas. The Kidd trade, despite a lackluster finish last season, was sold as a "keeping the window of opportunity open" move. We were also told that once the Mavs had a training camp with Kidd, this thing could really take off. With the Mavs having won 3 in a row, maybe things are finally clicking.

With two upcoming home games against below .500 teams, Dallas should - should - be at 7-7 before no time (I'm ignoring their 0-for-home record so far this season). From there, it's a battle in a stacked Western Conference. I'm just trying to justify where all the weapons will come from for the Mavs to compete.

Again, great win against the Rockets (without Yao ... and a banged up McGrady). But what is this team really capable of?

Give it 70 more games, and we should have an answer.


Enjoy the greatness of Dirk doing a little play by play...

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