When I first dreamed up this fan experiment on something of a whim, I didn’t know how long it would take for me to actually feel like a real Mavericks enthusiast. One thing I did right is research this year’s team before they ever took the court for a regular season game, so I immediately felt like I already knew them during the season opener. Last night’s loss to the Raptors marked a turning point for me: I was actually mad at the results. The fact that my internet connection was being an asshole didn’t help matters any.
These subjective feelings are the mark of an actual fan, someone who has an honest-to-god rooting interest in the proceedings. While I’ve been pulling for the Mavs every step of the way in the 2015-16 season, Tuesday’s game actually left me frustrated. Since much of my energy has been devoted to learning about Dallas, I haven’t yet found time to learn about the majority of the opponents they face off against on the court each game, so I’m still very much in my infancy. I’ll be damned, however, if I didn’t think last night’s game was a tough one to lose.
I get that the Raptors are now 4-0, a franchise record, and that in doing so they may actually be playing quite well. Fine, I’ll concede that point. What I absolutely hate is that this was a game that saw the Mavericks leading 51-49 at the half and trailing just 74-73 going into the fourth quarter. If it weren’t for that awful last period, this could have been a different experience altogether.
Then again, what should a team expect to happen when they enter the fourth quarter down by a point and then proceed to shoot 6-for-22 from the floor? There were opportunities to win this game, but as Toronto began to pull away in the final minutes, I couldn’t help but think that it was more of a case of Dallas not getting it done than the Raptors executing.
Don’t get me wrong; Toronto played just fine, with Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola in particular being ridiculous. Lowry drained difficult shot after difficult shot, and Scola was better than he’s been in years. Coming into the game shooting 7-for-18 from the field on the season, Scola proceeded to knock down 9 shots in 13 attempts against the Mavericks, including a three-pointer, something he’d only done 10 times in his entire career coming into this season. What the hell, Luis Scola?
Overall, Toronto’s performance held up nicely and stayed relatively consistent, whereas Dallas came apart at the end. It’s not entirely anyone’s fault, as the lineup almost never seemed to be the ideal mix due to all the injuries. This has never been more clear to me than it was after getting my first taste of how good Chandler Parsons could be during his 14 first half minutes. The 6-foot-9 forward was all over the floor and factored heavily into the offense when he played, draining a couple of threes and pushing the ball down the floor wonderfully. I can’t get over how different the offense looks with Parsons playing, and he can’t start getting full-time minutes soon enough.
Dirk Nowitzki was also solid in shooting 60 percent from the field, but he only took 10 shots in 35 minutes, good for a 16.2 percent usage rate. For comparison, only Zaza Pachulia and Wes Matthews factored into the team’s plays less when they were on the court than Dirk did. Instead, we got to watch J.J. Barea shoot 3-for-10 and Deron Williams light it up to the tune of 4-for-15. I mentioned this in my last post discussing the history of Dallas point guards, but performances like these do not make it encouraging that Williams is going to prove last year’s poor shooting was a fluke instead of a worrying trend.
Frustrating loss aside, last night’s game was definitely progress for my personal goal to become a Mavericks fan this season. I’m absolutely developing strong opinions on players, and while I don’t yet know enough about opposing teams to put it all in its proper lens, this season has already been a great experience four games in. Michael Jordan‘s Charlotte Hornets are the next test, and you can be sure I’ll be watching every minute of it in my continued quest not to miss a second of this season.