For a team out of the playoffs, several of whose key members had been struggling of late, some of the Dallas Mavericks picked an interesting time to turn things around and lift the team to a 108-105 win in a OT nail biter against the Denver Nuggets.
Though he struggled immediately after returning from knee surgery, Dirk Nowitzki had been putting up very typical Dirk-like numbers since the All-Star break but struggled through the past 5 games, scoring only 67 points. O. J. Mayo’s woes go further back as he had only scored 84 points in the last 10 games and Vince Carter, while continuing to get to the line and keep his scoring average where it has been most of the season, had been shooting only 37% and 29% from downtown.
One game after learning they were officially eliminated, however, this trio put up a herculean effort against a physical Denver team that had edged them by a point just a couple of weeks prior.
Overcoming their own turnovers, including three critical miscues by Mike James and Mayo late in the 4th quarter, the Mavericks stayed in the game, led by Carter, who poured in 22 points plus a season-high 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. Dirk matched Carter’s total with 22 points and added 10 rebounds and 4 assists while Mayo scored 20 points to go with 3 rebounds and 6 assists. Shawn Marion, who has had no significant dips in performance this season despite some injuries, had a typical Matrix line with 15 points and 8 boards.
After trailing until midway through the third quarter, the Mavericks missed numerous opportunities to put the Nuggets away and critical mistakes put the game in jeopardy. However, in addition to balanced scoring, the Mavs uncharacteristically hammered the Nuggets on the boards 52-46 and played great defense, blocking 9 Denver shots. Both teams had 19 turnovers. For Carter, despite the team’s struggles and another season late in his career without playoffs, his efforts are not going unnoticed.
ESPN’s Tim McMahon reports Mark Cuban has nothing but good things to say about the new version of Vinsanity.
“Vince is a warrior,” Cuban said before the game. “All these things I’ve heard in the past about him being soft and not playing hard, f— that. That dude comes out to deliver every f—— night. He’s just a first-class guy who busts his ass every f—– game.
You never look at Vince and say he’s taking a play off. All the s— I heard from the past, I don’t know where that came from. I’m proud that he’s on the Mavericks. The guy lays it out every time. I can’t put it any other way. He’s one of those guys I want to retire here.”
Despite a statistically solid season last year, many fans wondered if anyone could replace Jason Terry and by the looks of it, Vince has provided all that Terry had plus size, a post-up game and better defense. He has essentially reinvented his game and gone above and beyond the call of duty. For a team that remains in transition, hopefully Carter will remain part of the “here and now” that he, Dirk and Shawn Marion can clearly be the cornerstone for.
For those who think it’s all about getting younger, take a look at the surging Lakers and Knicks…’nuff said.