Mavs Glimpse Life Without Dirk
Certainly we don’t mean this as an insult to the rest of the Mavs as much as we mean it as a tribute to the centerpiece of the Mavs. A Saturday night of rest for Dirk Nowitzki in Philly meant a Saturday night of nail-biting for the rest of us.The Mavs, someday, won’t look the same as they’ve looked during Nowitzki’s long and extraordinary career.
But gosh, we hope that post-Dirk doesn’t have to look like this.
The thought of life without Dirk is a nightmare to all of us, but it was a reality to the Mavs in Saturday’s 110-103 victory over the winless Sixers. Is Dirk Nowitzki really worth 46 points to this Mavericks team? That is the difference in the winning margin for the Mavs from 17 days ago, when they put a 53-point thumping on these same 76ers in Dallas. Other than it being an away game and the second game of a back-to-back after arguably the most impressive win on the season at Toronto about 24 hours previous, not much was different.
Except for one thing. “He needs to sit tonight,” coach Rick Carlisle said before tipoff. “It wouldn’t matter who we play. It’ll happen again.”
Added owner Mark Cuban: “Hopefully, it doesn’t come back to haunt us.” It didn’t “haunt” in terms of the game’s results. But it haunts when we ponder life without Dirk.
Even though the Mavs were going against a clearly inferior team, they were not able to mask their recent troubles. As has been the theme of late, the Mavs once again struggled from the three-point line, shooting only 26.7 percent. It was better than recent nights, but still not where one would expect them to be after acquiring sniper Chandler Parsons in the offseason along with role-playing shooters like Charlie Villanueva and Richard Jefferson.
Also, the Mavs lost one quarter to the 76ers in the game and — surprise, surprise — it was the third quarter. Coming out slow out of the halftime break has been a common theme for the Mavs this season, one that needs to be addressed, especially when they play better competition.
And they are all better than Philadelphia, which became the fifth team in league history to open with at least 16 straight losses, joining the 1994-95 Clippers (0-16), 1998-99 Clippers (0-17), 1988-89 Heat (0-17) and the 2009-10 Nets (0-18).
One night after going on a personal 10-0 run to help close out the Raptors, Monta Ellis once again took matters in his own hands down the stretch. After starting the game 0-of-7 and tallying a couple of turnovers, Ellis went 6-of-7 the rest of the way, including three clutch shots in the final five minutes.
Meanwhile, there was absolutely no answer for Tyson Chandler down low. He had a team-high 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting and dished out three assists as well. He also had 13 rebounds (seven offensive and six defensive) and four steals on the defensive end to post one of his more complete performances this season. The 20 points and 13 rebounds mark his ninth double-double of the season.
So, Dirk does not stand alone in terms of Dallas employing quality players. But he does stand alone as an iconic powerhouse with a presence that helps the Mavs win an overwhelming number of games like this one … only maybe without the nail-biting.
“If you had your choice to play Dallas with Dirk or without Dirk, you’d choose without,” summarized Sixers coach Brett Brown. And we feel exactly the same way … only flip-flopped.