By Will Martin
Now two weeks away from the All-Star game for the NBA and NHL you begin to track the schedules and games and what you’re going to have to do record wise to get into the playoff scenario in the NBA.
It also helps when you finally get a two day break for the first time since Christmas Eve 2013.
A perceived good thing as you try to rest older legs and keep players fresh for the rush to April, now about 60 days away.
January 26th Detroit was in town for a matinee affair and pristine conditions with a Maverick team still trying to get a sense of consistency and wins.
Both have been hard to come by due to an inability to get a lead and to just hold it.
The Mavericks have won eight of nine against the Pistons and would come up strong on this night with a 28 point nine rebound night by Dirk Nowitzki. Jose Calderon added 17 points while Devin Harris and Vince Carter added a combined 37 points off the bench. The Mavericks and Pistons would trade 9-0 runs in the 4th quarter before Dallas pulled away to a 116-106 victory. This despite a 26 point night from Brandon Jennings and 25 from Josh Smith.
Andre Drummond did not have one of his better nights with only four points and six rebounds in 26 minutes of play.
“[Drummond] just had a bad game. The guy is 20 years old and we’re not going to expect him to be like a machine every night and go grab 18 or 19 rebounds. He’s 20 years old and he just didn’t have a good game.” according to Maurice Cheeks.
Rick Carlisle echoed a more plausible sentiment.
‘Twenty-eight points in 32 minutes. You think [Nowitzki’s] an All-Star?”
Dallas improved to 26-20 with the victory while the Pistons fell to 17-27, losers of 11 of 14 since the Christmas break. Up next for the Mavericks was the I-45 Battle with the Rockets.
On a night when Dirk Nowitzki moved into 12th all time for career free throws and passing Charles Barkley, the Mavericks for 46 minutes had no answers for Chandler Parsons (28 points) and Dwight Howard (21 points). Jeremy Lin started in the absence of the injured James Harden and contributed 18 points, seven rebounds and assists. There were indeed a few Linsanity shirts in the building.
Houston became the 7th team to surpass 60 points in the first half over Team Carlisle and did just enough to hang on at the end when a 12 point lead with three minutes left was enough to offset an 11-2 Mavericks run. Hack A Dwight actually came back to hurt Dallas as Howard went 9 of 11 from the charity stripe.
Jose Calderon had two chances to win the game with an open look three and missed both times as Dallas fell to Houston 117-115. Dirk Nowitzkis 38 points meant little in the defeat. Nowitzki with the loss became the 13th NBA player to amass 26,000 career points.
“We double-teamed Dirk. We wanted to make sure Dirk didn’t beat us. It got over and Calderon has a look and thank goodness he missed it.” said Rockets coach Kevin McHale as Houston improved to 31-17 while Dallas fell to 26-21.
January ended with a home visit by the Sacramento Kings (15-30) and without DeMarcus Cousins. Out with a bad ankle while Dallas was going to have perform without Shawn Marion (shoulder contusion flare up).
Rudy Gay was doing all the scoring for the Kings early on but Dallas had the early 24-20 advantage after one period. Jae Crowder got the start for the seventh time while Dirk Nowitzki continued his hot shooting going 7-of-8 in the first half for 18 points and a 54-49 halftime lead.
Sacramento began period three on a 25-7 run and playing unlike what their record said fueled by the shot making abilities of Isaiah Thomas. Kings built up a 78-64 lead to the shock of the crowd at the AAC.
“If we do have a lead at halftime, we tend to come out really slow. We missed some shots, turned the ball over and they took advantage of that,” Dirk would later state.
Two things Dallas wasn’t allowing- second half turnovers nor making any threes. Dirk finally ended that drought early in the 4th when connecting to move Dallas to 81-78 early in the 4th. The battle of Dirk and Monta versus Thomas and Gay was on.
Dallas would not commit one single turnover in the second half as Monta finally broke out with his best game of the year-20 points and three rebounds with 34 by Dirk. Brandan Wright had himself a double double with ten points and rebounds. Isaiah Thomas’ 19 and Rudy Gay’s 35 points notwithstanding the Mavericks held on for a tough 107-103 victory to improve to 27-21 while the Kings fell to 15-31 with an 18th straight loss in Dallas to the Mavericks.
“We had to grind it out,” said Dirk Nowitzki postgame. “We knew even without Cousins they’re a talented team. They can score, and we really had to dig deep and get some stops in the fourth quarter.”
“It was a tough night, because our shotmaking wasn’t great,” Carlisle told the media after the victory. “It took us almost three and a half quarters to hit a three. On those nights, you’ve got to hang in somehow and Sacramento had a pretty good groove going. We got down, but we hung in.”
Rick Carlisle saved his highest praise for Monta Ellis’ night.
“I thought Ellis played probably his best all-around game of the season,” Carlisle explained. “He had zero turnovers. He was extremely disciplined at both ends of the floor. He waited for the opportunities to pop, and then he got to the rim. He had assists, he made huge free throws at the end and he was fantastic tonight. And Dirk was great, obviously, with 34 points in 34 minutes.”
With that Dallas gets the weekend off to prepare for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night to start February after a rocky 9-8 January. Immediately after the game both Ricky Ledo and Shane Larkin were assigned to the Texas Legends. For how long is anyone’s guess. Probably not long a all.
Oh yes, Dirk Nowitzki goes to New Orleans as an All-Star for the Western Conference for the 12th time in his career. Congratulations Dirk of late you are playing like it’s 2003. Keep it going.
2/3 vs Cavaliers 7:30 PM
2/5 @Grizzlies 7:00 PM
2/7 vs Jazz 7:30 PM
2/9 @Celtics 5:00 PM