By: Lance Rinker
The shorthanded Indiana Pacers came to the American Airlines Center to take on the best offensive team in the NBA Monday night. The Dallas Mavericks, being that offensive juggernaut, were probably licking their chops at the thought of bouncing back from a tough loss against the Houston Rockets on Saturday.
During warm-ups I watched as both teams took shots from all over the court and the Mavericks players were draining even some of the most low-percentage shots taken during practice. The Pacers, on the other hand, were missing mid-range jumpers, layups and I even saw a dunk or two bounce off the rim.
I decided to tweet out the following:
“If pre-game warm-ups are any indicator, the Pacers are going to have a tough time scoring 85 points tonight.”
Thankfully my internet abruptly stopped working on my laptop, as did the twitter application on my phone, and I was spared the embarrassment of such a bold pre-game musing. By the time I got reconnected on both devices the game had already tipped off and I decided to not send the tweet.
Keep in mind; this is not the same Pacers team that looked the part of potential NBA champion last season, as they advanced to the Eastern Conference finals. This is the version of a Pacers team plagued by injuries, and without any member of last year’s starting five suited up Monday night, and having to settle using mostly journeymen.
These journeymen, however, came into Dallas and humiliated the Mavericks 111-100 despite being ranked nearly last in the NBA in scoring and failing to eclipse 90 points in a game in six of their 14 games played.
However, it appears the blueprint to take the Mavs to the edge is to play extra physical and run – a lot.
After the game, 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki acknowledged his team hasn’t been very good the last few nights.
“I said it before the season: this team is going to be challenged defense-wise and rebounding-wise. And if we don’t bring it every night, then we’re going to get lit up,” he said. “We were just a step slow. And when you start the game off slow and you let guys get their confidence, then all of a sudden they throw in shots that they probably wouldn’t make if you play from the beginning. So, you know, it’s another reminder that we’re not good enough to coast against anybody.”
It certainly did seem as if the Mavs were willingly giving up open space on the court to the Pacers and daring them to shoot, as if none of the Pacers could score a bucket on wide-open looks. As a result of the dozens upon dozens of easy, open-look shots the Mavs gave them the Pacers shot 50 percent from the 3-point line – making 13 of 26.
Sprinkle in some untimely fouls and the result is the Pacers making it to the free throw line 36 times, where they made 24 of the shots (66.7 percent).
Mavs Head Coach Rick Carlisle credited the Pacers for playing a hard-nosed, physical style of basketball against his team.
“When you get outscored in every quarter, that’s a demolition. It was a physical demolition,” Carlisle said. “We are not the most physical team in terms of our body types, but we have to be real tough mentally. Indiana just played a great game, and you have to give them a lot of credit. They played a first-class, hardnosed, mistake-free game, and they deserved to win. They played great, and we did not meet the challenge. That is disappointing.”
Indiana didn’t necessarily play mistake-free basketball through the first half of the game, though. The Pacers were turning the ball over left and right, which allowed the Mavs to make the game appear to be closer, in points, than it actually was if you were watching the action on the court. Indiana finally cleaned up their turnover problems at the start of the second-half and didn’t look back.
Overall, the effort by the Mavs was not remotely close to good enough and the result of the game, as well as the box score, reflects that.
Up next is a fringy New York Knicks team that doesn’t do much particularly well, so maybe the Mavs will meet their own expectations against them.
For updates on the Dallas Mavericks and other sports musings, follow Lance on Twitter at @LanceMRinker.