Yes, 3 wins in a row is a winning streak. Although the first two may have seemed like gimmes against the Knicks and Bobcats, Dallas traveled to Houston and beat the best team defense on their own court. Sure the Rockets were without Yao Ming and have an ailing Ron Artest and Tracy McGrady (of course) but a win is a win. And a streak is a streak. And like Kevin Costner said in Bull Durham ‘You don’t f*** with a winning streak.’
Another well managed game by Rick Carlisle kept Dallas playing smart and up-tempo basketball throughout. Dallas wasn’t running at every opportunity, but his style is showing through by limiting those one-touch-and-shoot possessions. It seems the team is understanding that when they run their plays, manage the game, play team defense, and stay positive that they are capable of winning.
With Yao Ming out of the game and TMac limping Houston didn’t have a go-to-guy. Ron Artest was effective on the boards but never got into offensive rhythm, thanks mostly to Shawne Williams defense. Williams was only 2 for 11 from the field but played 31 mins because of how he was playing Houston’s biggest threat. Artest, hobbled by a bad ankle, couldn’t separate from the quick Williams who stayed in front of him and contested every shot. Houston had few others to rely on as Alston, Brooks, and Scola couldn’t score more than 16 pts a piece. The only other shooter on the roster, Brent Barry, was 0 for 6.
On the offensive end Dallas turned to Jason Terry off the bench to carry the team. With 31 pts 4 assists and 3 steals Terry put the team on his back and gave the Mavericks what they needed when they needed it. Adding Kidd’s 7 assists and Dirk’s 24 pts including 9-9 from the charity stripe Dallas marched on to victory.
Rick Carlisle’s group is really starting to show their mettle. The younger players are able to contribute not only consistent minutes, but quality minutes. As Jason Terry ensured points were going on the board Brandon Bass and Shawne Williams kept Luis Scola and Ron Artest at bay in the 4th quarter. It is clear that play on both ends of the court is expected from all players. In an important game for Dallas their method remained unchanged – under 40 mins for Dirk, Terry, and Kidd while no one played less than 14 minutes. This isn’t just team play, it’s team growth.
I have to admit this is a vast improvement over Avery Johnson’s methodology. If you remember the 06-07 season Johnson relied completely on one-on-one matchups and a slow pace to win games. That play did not prepare the Mavericks for the quick pace small-ball they faced in the 1st round of the playoffs against Golden State. In addition the players that needed minutes the most didn’t get them while older NBA standards Jerry Stackhouse, Devean George, and Austin Croshere played crunch time. Even in games that were blowouts. It was nonsensical to have players with years of experience play over younger talent that you needed to evaluate, and you can only really evaluate players in game situations (see Jermaine ONeal or even DeSagana Diop). The 06-07 team was touted for having a deep bench, but it was hardly used (in terms of minutes, not overall age).
Head coach Rick Carlisle has changed that and is developing these no-names. He got Shawne Williams from the Pacers in the off-season because he knew his potential. The same goes for Singleton and Green. These are trees that he thinks can bear fruit, and he’s going to give them time to do so. When you have two future Hall of Famers in Kidd and Nowitzki, an All-Star in Howard, and a proven shooter in Terry you have that opportunity and can still win games.
Let’s hope all that talent ripens come playoff time.