DONUT 1: FOREWARD ...
The Dallas Mavericks required alterations.
Before the opening tip, before the Dallas Mavericks took the court, Rick Carlisle sent a message: something, or somethings, needed to change. In the tangible sense, the first change was the names on the lineup card. Dominique Jones was getting the second start of his career, while Darren Collison headed to the bench. Rookie Jae Crowder returned to the starting unit, this time in place of Elton Brand.
Still learning a new roster mixed with youth and experience, Carlisle continues to search for the ideal mixtures on the court, using his seventh starting lineup of the season (tied for most in the NBA with the Orlando Magic).
DONUT 2: PHILLY'S HOT START ...
In response, Philadelphia jumped out to a 13-4 lead and went on to make their first seven shots. Dallas would fight back with a strong push to end the first and open the second quarter, building a lead as large as nine, and would give themselves a chance to tie the game with 2.7 seconds remaining and O.J. Mayo at the free-throw line. On a night the Mavs as a team had missed only one of their first 20 free throws, Mayo missed their 21st, and their 22nd as well (perhaps intentionally).
Obviously I’m pretty mad and upset,'' Mayo said. "Just gotta make it.''
Jae Crowder was able to grab the rebound and heave a desperation shot as time expired that hit the glass and reflected away off the front of the rim, and the Mavs succumbed to the 76ers 100-98 to fall below .500 for the first time this season. ... and for the first time since Game 9 of last season.
DONUT 3: IT LOOKED LIKE THIS ...
DONUT 4: PLEASE, PLEASE, TAKE IT ...
The game was tied at 81. With 8:05 to play, Collison tried to force a pass between two defenders to a rolling Elton Brand.
The pass was stolen by Spencer Hawes. One.
The next time down, Collison made a pretty move to shake his defender but then had the ball tipped away by help-defender Jason Richardson. Two.
Next offensive possession, Chris Kaman loses the ball … another Jason Richardson steal. Three.
Next up, OJ Mayo loses the ball. Four.
The following possession, Dominique Jones has the ball tipped away and stolen by Jrue Holiday. Five.
The very next possession, Mayo throws the ball away. Six.
5:19 on the clock.
Six straight possessions. Six straight turnovers. The score went from tied to a 10-point deficit … without the Mavs even getting up a shot.
"We had control of the game, felt life, then we had three turnovers in a row, took a timeout, then had three more turnovers in a row,'' Elton Brand said. "You can't beat a team like that ...''
For all that went right in this game, any messages that may have been received, it took less than three minutes to unravel it all. Less than three minutes of concentration wavering, of attention to detail fumbling, of giving the game away with unforced errors.
The simple truth is: in a game that is tied in the fourth quarter, you can’t expect to give the ball away six consecutive trips, to gift your opponent 10 points without even taking a shot … and win.
"That was the game, because to that point I think we had nine or 10 (turnovers),'' Carlisle said. "They were untimely, to say the least, and completely out of character to how we had played to that point.’’
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DONUT 6: THE BEGINNING ...
Prior to the unraveling in the fourth quarter, whether it was the string of turnovers or Mayo’s missed free throws, the story of this game came when Rick Carlisle replaced Darren Collison in the starting lineup with Dominique Jones.
Given that, coming into the game, the team had their highest offensive and defensive ratings (points scored/allowed per 100 possessions) with Dominique on the court; this decision had some statistical merit.
However, from the outside looking in, this appeared to be much more about Collison’s struggles than Jones’s excellence.
In five of the last six games, Collison has been a shell of the player that so widely impressed to start the season. Remove his 19-point, 7-assist performance in the win against the Knicks, and you have a five-game sample that, per game, looks like this:
8.4 points, 26.5 field-goal percentage, 14.3 3-point percentage, 1.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 2.8 turnovers.
Or, to put it another way, in those five of the last six games, he was averaging more turnovers (2.8) than made field goals (2.6).
Collison responded to his benching with an immediate surge of energy that seemed to scream, “message received loud and clear.”
He took the court with the Mavs down 21-13 and immediately helped key an 8-0 burst that tied that game, and then continued to lead what become a 16-2 Mavs surge, turning an eight-point deficit into six-point lead.
In the first quarter alone Collison had four points, four assists and three steals. He would finish with a solid 12 points, six assists, five steals … and four turnovers, including two in the fourth quarter that kicked off the teams six consecutive giveaways.
In essence, we saw a microcosm of this young season for Collison: a brilliant start that elevated hopes and expectations, fueled the Mavs offense to great heights, and then became muddied by a cloud of mistakes and inconsistencies that left too many shaking their heads in despair.
In truth, we’re seeing what should be expected of a 25-year-old playing on his third team in four seasons, surrounded by a completely new roster, learning a completely new offense and defense from a coach he has no previous experience with. We’re seeing peaks and valleys, ups and downs, promise and mistake.
It isn’t ideal, but it’s certainly not foreign for players to face struggles in a new and unfamiliar situation very early in the season. The time may come to give up on Collison, but it hardly seems fair to be there already.
“I’m not in for all that drama stuff,'' said Collison, less than pleased with the alteration. "At the end of the day I’m a team player and I’m very positive, and I’m going to make a negative into a positive situation.''
Of course, he -- and we -- will have to wait and see what Carlisle thinks of the situation.
Coach's early read?
“I love the way he played,” Carlisle said. “He impacted the game immediately with quickness and energy, so I thought he was terrific. … He’s our starting point guard, but tonight he came off the bench. I mean, Jason Terry was our starting 2-guard but he came off the bench for two years, so it’s not that big a deal. The big deal is we’ve got to stop doing the big things that are making us shoot ourselves in the foot. That’s where it’s at.”
DONUT 7: QUOTABLE ...
"Fumble-itis. Give me a word. I don’t know.'' -- Shawn Marion.
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DONUT 10: WHY SO SKIMPY WITH THE MAYO? ...
One of the positive revelations this season has been the stellar offensive play of OJ Mayo. While no one’s placing him on a plateau beside Dirk Nowitzki, Mayo has done an admirable job of filling in as the team’s number one scoring option in The Uberman’s absence, and easily been the team’s best offensive player.
Given these facts, it’s strange to look at a boxscore and see Chris Kaman (13), Shawn Marion (12), Darren Collison (11), Elton Brand (10) and Vince Carter (10) all having as many or more shots than Mayo (10) in a particular game.
Of course, it’s worth noting that each of them had a higher field-goal percentage than Mayo in those attempts … as well as the fact that Mayo stepped up as a creator with a season high seven assists, tying Jrue Holiday for the game high.
Mayo finished with a solid all-around performance: 11 points (a season low), 4-of-10 shooting, seven assists (a season high), five rebounds and three turnovers … but it’s the last two free throws that stand out.
DONUT 11: MAVSELLANEOUS ...
Mayo came into the night hitting 86.9 percent of his free throws, and may have been the guy most would prefer to see on the line with the chance to tie the game in the final seconds, but missed both … Dominique Jones may have started, but it was Collison playing 10:29 in the fourth quarter, compared to 1:28 for Jones … Dallas had six-consecutive turnovers and eight total in the fourth quarter, and only seven for the other three periods … For the first time this season, Dallas hit over 45 percent of their shots and lost … The Mavs went 5-of-19 (26.3 percent) behind the arc … Darren Collison had a 3-pointer at the buzzer of the third quarter wiped away by replay. Could have used those three points a bit later … Dominique Jones inability to put the ball in the rim can be maddening at times. Rarely have we seen a player so capable of penetrating a defense at will and so incapable of finishing once he finds himself at the rim. Coming into Tuesday night, Jones hit only 43.8 percent of his shots at the rim, easily the worst on the Mavs. The league average field-goal percentage at the rim is 63.6 percent, per Hoopdata.com.
DONUT 12: RETURN TO FORM ...
While a couple of the young guys had their struggles, a few of the Mavs veterans excelled.
Shawn Marion scored a season-high 17 points to go with eight rebounds, and may have benefited from the space Dominique Jones created with his penetrations early in the game.
Elton Brand had his most impactful offensive game of the season with a season-high 17 points, and added eight rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot in only 19 minutes. Read all about Brand's big night on his return to Philly here.
Vince Carter did his best Vince Carter impersonation with 15 points, including eight in the fourth quarter, a period in which he did not miss a shot, going 3-of-3 and hitting some huge attempts down the stretch as the Mavs fought to overcome their turnover spree.
DONUT 13: THE FINAL WORD ...
It feels like the sour flavors of this season all taste the same, and all either wear the name of rebounding or turnovers, two traits that tend to fall at different spectrums of one of Carlisle’s favorite words: disposition.
Rebounding is so often rooted in desire and will, in the physical realm. Sure, there are luck/unlucky bounces that come into play here and there, but a large part of rebounding comes down to simply who’s willing to put forth the consistent effort to go get the ball.
Turnovers, at least with this team, find their conception in the shadow of focus hiccups, in the kingdom of the mental.
When either the physical or the mental disposition wanders, the results falter. This is a team still learning itself, a being still trying to coordinate the left hand to the right, while praying that the legs and head come along for the ride. They are 3-7 in the last 10 games and still trying to choreograph the steps they must master to thrive in this league. ... and tonight comes another step with Mavs at Chicago, second night of a b-2-b (and yes, Fish, Coach Ortegel and Dana Larson get it started with "Mavs Live'' at 6:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Southwest.)
We’re there, we’ve just got to find a way to get over that little hump right now,'' said Shawn Marion, who has been a harsh critic of his team's inconsistent effort. "I can honestly say we played hard the whole game. We’ve got to shake it off and we’ve got to go try to get this next one on the road.’’
Both the mind and body are finding their way … let’s just hope the rhythm finds them soon and the stumbles become fewer and fewer before it’s too late.