The Mavericks come-from-behind stunner at the AAC on Tuesday might just be the microcosm for the current season so far. Dallas erupted for 67 second-half points to overcome a 29 point 3rd quarter deficit to beat the Timberwolves, 107-100.
The Mavs started 2-7 and were simply embarrassing early this season. After a nice stretch of home games, Dallas was able to return to .500 before continuing to climb to its current perch on the Western Conference's sixth seed at 19-12. And as things were spiraling out of control in downtown Dallas last night, it was merely the set up for the greatest comeback in franchise history.
At halftime, with Dallas trailing 62-40, my dad leaned over and asked me - perhaps only with a slight hint of sarcasm - if I was ready to go. With an equal amount of cynicism, I replied that "I'd hate to leave and miss the greatest comeback ever." I only wish I had truly meant what I said. But seeing the Mavs rally back albeit against a 6-25 Minnesota team is another building block for Rick Carlisle's team to use as the foundation for a playoff run this season.
The Mavs have had solid come-from-behind wins this season, and while none of them have been against top teams like the Lakers, Celtics or Cavs, the team's ability to overcome adversity and a deficit cannot be ignored. After all, just how many teams are defeating the Lakers, Celtics or Cavs anyway, let alone overcoming a near-30-point hole to do it?
Carlisle watched most of the game from his office after getting ejected in the second quarter. And things continued to get worse before they got any better. The 22 point halftime hole ballooned to 29 when the T-Wolves took a 70-41 just 94 seconds into the second half. From that point, Minnesota scored just 30 more points. Dallas went on to pour in 66, more than doubling the T-Wolves output.
From the 10:26 mark to 3:34 left in the 3rd quarter, the Mavs pulled within 9 points, 74-63. But it wasn't until the 4th quarter that Dallas finally retook a lead for good when Dirk drove to the hoop and slammed home a dunk for the 93-91 lead.
Josh Howard, a regular when it comes to putting on a 4th quarter disappearing act, showed why he has All-Star potential during the final period. J-Ho made 4 of 5 buckets (9 points), grabbed a rebound, added an assist on a Jason Terry 3-pointer, and blocked a shot. Howard finished the night with 23 points, one of four Mavs in double figures, going 10-of-22 from the floor.
Jason Terry served as the only bench contributor during the comeback as JJ Barea did not play during the second half with an strained shoulder. The Jet flew for 25 second half points to finish with 29 to lead all scorers.
And once again, the 2006-07 MVP proved to be the solid superstar despite being banged up early. Teams around the NBA are clued in to the fact that roughing up Dirk Nowitzki can take the Big German off his game. The Utah Jazz managed to frustrate him enough to draw a Flagrant 2 out of him, earning Dirk a one-game suspension. And tonight, when Nowitzki got a bloody nose after taking a smack to the face, he responded with his play on the court. He toughened up. His 24 points, 13 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block aren't the mind-blowing numbers that he's capable of putting up, but they are 24 points and 13 rebounds that the Mavs can count on every night, the same way they can count on Jason Kidd to set the table for this offense.
Kidd finished with 16 assists, 14 points along with 7 rebounds, 4 steals and a block. But the numbers don't show how he squeezed the ball through the smallest windows to Erick Dampier streaking to the basket, or to find Jet and Josh on the wing. It's something the Mavericks have come to find almost ordinary with Kidd, but it's something that shouldn't be taken for granted. It's easy to simply look at box scores from New Jersey to see Devin Harris's numbers, and while the young point guard continues to flourish with the Nets, the Mavericks aren't doing too poorly with J-Kidd.
Another solid Dallas win. And no, it's never a good thing to trail a team like Minnesota by 29 points in the second half (or ever), but the resiliency displayed by the Mavs will come back to them in a good way down the road, especially in a very tight Western Conference.