By Will Martin
The Madness that is referred to this particular month (March) is not only exclusive to the sport of college basketball and brackets.
There’s a very good chance that the Dallas Mavericks will make the playoffs in April.
That being said the Dallas Mavericks had had a four game streak snapped at home at the hands of the Chicago Bulls (32-26) on February 28th in a 100-91 defeat.
Dallas (36-24) actually had built up a 16 point lead in the first half of Friday’s game before being held to 15 fourth quarter points on 6-for-25 shooting and a staunch Bulls defense that applied the right amount of pressure on Dallas as time wound down. Translation: Joakim Noah went into beast mode.
Coming into play the final day of February Dallas went 10 for 12 against teams in theory they should have defeated. A chance at getting to 11-2 for February would have been nice. Rick Carlisle knew that a test awaited his team into the home stretch of a 21 game run to the playoffs.
Chicago came to Dallas having won seven of eight. Also ranked #4 in the Eastern Conference.
After an easy 108-89 home win over the Pelicans on the 26th it looked like Dallas might continue maintaining an uptempo style of performance on Team Thibodeau when getting ahead 32-20 after the first period with Vince Carter scoring 14 of his 15 points in the first half. Shawn Marion, and Sam Dalembert also made big scores during a 16-2 run in the first period.
That lead reduced to just three at halftime 54-51 with Taj Gibson and DJ Augustin answering the Mavs bench with a bullish rush of their own. Chicago used a 29-16 run to close the gap after 24 minutes.
A little history was made in the first half when Monta Ellis became the 145th player in NBA history to collect 1,000 steals. Made at the 4:20 mark of the second quarter Ellis also surpassed the 500 mark for career three pointers as he finished with 1,002 at games end.
Devin Harris also became the 188th NBA players in history to collect 3,000 career assists when he passed off to Wayne Ellington 55 seconds into Friday’s game.
Part of the Mavericks success in the first half was a 16-2 advantage in fast break points.
“I think we did a good job in the first half with their physicality, and in the second half we just didn’t make shots,” Vince Carter declared.
“We knew they were going to continue to play,” Monta Ellis conceded. “We knew they were going to play hard.”
Flash back to the last time the Mavericks and Bulls played in Dallas. March 30th 2013 was a matinee affair with Nate Robinson putting on a clinic for three pointers made. Yet it was Dirk who would make the game winner from deep at the buzzer for a dramatic win. Not quite as much as Monday a sellout crowd was treated to a terrific show of threes being shot and made. To the tune of 20 for 50 collectively-Dallas making 11 of 31.
Monta Ellis was your Mavericks points leader with 20 points, 5 assists, and 4 defensive rebounds. Jose Calderon pumped in 13 making 3 of 7 from beyond the arc. Matrix pumped in 11 along with 7 from Dejuan Blair off the bench.
With 2:34 left in the third quarter the Bulls took their first lead of the game at 73-72 before Dallas closed out the third with a 76-73 lead. The lead remained in Dallas’ favor until 5:34 was left in regulation. A combination of missed shots, staunch defense, and a 16-6 run in the 4th allowed the Bulls to pull way for the victory.
Mike Dunleavy collected 16 points for Chicago as a buffer to Jimmy Butler making 19 in 44 minutes of play. Kirk Hinrich caught a hot hand in the second half for a 17 point night while Joakim Noah added 10.
“Some nights teams miss shots,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle offered post game, “and you have to hang in with grit, guts, defense and rebounding. Weird thing about it was we were in front most of the first half and we let them climb back into it with grit and guts and rebounding. Down the stretch we had some good opportunities and made some mistakes, too. Second chances were costly. They had 15 second-chance points and we had 10. … We couldn’t overcome the rebounding margin and the way we didn’t make shots when we needed to.”
When asked about the sixth time a double digit lead was lost this season by the Mavericks, Dirk Nowirzki offered an interesting take.
“First-half leads mean nothing in this league,” Dirk stated. “I’d rather not be up 16 to be quite honest with you in the first half. A 16-point lead in the first half means a couple of stops, a couple of threes and that lead is gone. And if you’re up 20 on them, it doesn’t really matter. They compete the same way and they continue grinding and grinding on both ends of the floor.”
Dirk also praised the play of the Bulls defense.
“I mean, they’re a good defensive team. You know, that’s how they win,” Nowitzki said. “They’re smart, they’re long at every position and we weren’t shooting the ball particularly well tonight, obviously. They’re long in there and we didn’t really have a lot of stuff going to the basket, so if they take some of that basket stuff away for us to score we need to shoot the ball well from the outside. I don’t think anybody had it going well enough from the outside for us to make a little run. It’s still disappointing. We go up one on Monta’s layup and I just figured from there we’re going to find a way to win. But we didn’t and you’ve got to give them credit. They kept getting stops, they made some baskets … and they made it hard for us down the stretch and we just couldn’t score enough.”
With no rest for the weary it was off to San Antonio for what would indeed be a tough Sunday night matchup with the San Antonio Spurs. A team they have not beaten in seven straight tries at the AT&T Center.
You know what they say about March. With 20 games left in the regular season may Dallas not come out of the month like a lamb, but rather a lion!
3/5 @Nuggets 7:00 PM
3/7 vs Trail Blazers 7:30 PM
3/9 vs Pacers 6:30 PM