Watching the Houston Rockets dismantle the Dallas Mavericks in the 4th quarter of last night’s playoff game was difficult to witness if you’re a fan of Mark Cuban’s bunch. Many things jumped out as the 111-99 Mavs loss progressed, but few were positive for Dallas as they find themselves in a 0-2 hole heading back to the American Airlines Center for Friday’s game.
If you didn’t catch the alley-oop show put on by Josh Smith and Dwight Howard you missed what complete domination looks like in an NBA game. With James Harden on the bench in the 4th, Houston scored 11 straight points, powered by three alley-oop passes from Smith to Howard. The former AAU summer league teammates combined for a total of 6 Smith to Howard alley-oop slam dunks – something I’d never seen in an NBA game before.
Howard, who looked like the Dwight Howard we all knew when he was in Orlando, finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, while Smith just missed a triple double with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists. “Man, like they were little boys again,” Harden, who finished with 24 points, said referring to their time playing AAU ball together.
Harden for his part was only 5 of 17 from the field, but hit all 13 of his free throws. The Mavs did a decent job of keeping him in check for most of the night, but his constant march to the line (thanks in part to a trio of officials that bought every flop he sold), was a killer. If you breath on Harden his arms will flail and free throws will follow, and that’s something that’s hard to defend. It’s an act he’s mastered during the regular season where he attempted 170 (yes 170) more free throw attempts than anyone else in the league. But the bottom line is when the bearded one is only the 3rd most impactful on the floor for the Rockets, the Mavs have problems. And that was the case last night.
And let’s not forget about Jason Terry’s contribution. At 37 years of age Terry looked like the Jet we all knew and loved in Dallas – quick, hungry and deadly from the field going 5 of 5 for 11 points (2 of 2 from behind the arc).
The Mavs were without their big off season acquisition Chandler Parsons, who was in street clothes due to an injured knee that needs to be examined by the Mavs medical staff back in Dallas before they decide whether we’ll see him again in this series. Parsons was the Mavs third-leading scorer during the regular season at 15.7 ppg, and those points were definitely missed last night. My question to the Mavs is why Parsons wasn’t back in Dallas immediately following Saturday’s loss where he spent much of the night hobbling around the court? After all we’re talking about traveling from Dallas to Houston, not exactly a cross country flight. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to get him examined and treatment started than to have him cheerleading from the bench last night? Just a thought.
Now the bigger question, what to do with Rajon Rondo? Rick Carlisle had him on the floor for only 9:55 last night, where he managed just 4 points, 1 assist and 4 personal fouls (most while trying to guard Harden). It’s clear there is something wrong with Rondo, whether its physical or between the ears (I’m going with the latter), but if the Mavs are to get back into this series they’ll need him to be the Rondo we all saw in Boston back in 2008. His dismal performance last night included an 8 second violation when he was too slow moving the ball into the front court after a Dallas defensive rebound.
Carlisle for his part didn’t have any answers to what is going on with Rondo, or at least wasn’t willing to share them with the media. When asked in the post game press conference about his point guard’s play or lack thereof, Carlisle said “You can ask him that question. All I know … is that we need everybody at their competitive best. This isn’t about one guy who did or didn’t play.” But Rondo was in no mood to talk to reporters as he skirted around 20 or so of them in the Mavs locker room on his way to the team bus without saying a word. One yelled at him, “You have to talk to us, Rajon!” to no avail. Amar’e Stoudemire answered for his teammate, “He ain’t got to talk to y’all.”
The Mavs were able to stay in the game until the 4th mainly due to their free throw shooting, where they made 27 of 28 attempts. But shooting a miserable 35% from the field (33 of 89 on 2’s and 6 of 22 from 3 point land) isn’t going to cut it. Dirk was off all night, adding only 10 points on a horrific night of 3 of 16 shooting. Monta Ellis was the Mavs high man with 24 points, but he too was only 10 of 31 from the field.
On a final note I can’t get the theme song from The Munsters out of my head when I watch the Rockets….not sure why.