Friday night games mean Friday night posts, because I sure as hell can’t be bothered to write anything up over the weekend and I refuse to miss out on discussing every game that takes place this season. I apologize to you Booing Kiki fanatics who continually refreshed the front page all day and waited in vain for the post, but now you know how this stuff works. Enough about my complicated posting system and record-setting fan base. Let’s discuss the Mavericks and how they silenced the Jazz mid-solo. Let’s discuss how they’re a stunning 9-4, a record that is just a half-game back of the Spurs and Cavaliers from being tied for the second best record in the entire league. You’re next, Warriors.
This Utah Jazz group is an interesting bunch. After watching the Celtics hound and terrorize the Mavs from end to end on defense, Utah didn’t seem so scary, but they rate pretty high defensively too (eighth overall in defensive rating after the loss) and are by no means a pushover. On the other side of the ball, they run about the slowest offense of any team in the NBA — only the Bucks average fewer possessions per game, and that tends to make them a little boring. I’ll admit that this game had a few lulls in it, especially after Dallas ran away in a dominant second quarter that saw them score 35 points.
That said, this is a very solid core to build around. Derrick Favors didn’t swat his usual two shots or come up with any steals like is his custom, but he was rock-solid from the field in shooting 9-for-14, and he muscled his bulky body into the paint effectively enough to add 7 rebounds to his totals as well. Rudy Gobert, a towering, rim-protecting Frenchman with a last name that would be much worse if it were said the way it’s spelled, is seemingly a risk to block a shot regardless of his distance from the shooter, and best of all, Gordon Hayward looks like a 1920s Ivy League student who accidentally stepped into the future and joined the Jazz because he mistook it for the music of his time. That meticulously styled hair really sets the tone, and his strong jaw and general All-American white guy face brings the look home. Gee whiz, what a dapper fellow. I just hope his studies don’t go down the john while he’s gallivanting about with all these modern day hardwood hoofers.
What I especially enjoyed about this game is that most of the starting lineup looked locked in, Wesley Matthews aside. Apart from Matthews’s outstanding performance against the Clippers on the 11th, he just hasn’t been able to get going, and a 3-for-12 performance (including 1-for-8 from three-point range) isn’t going to nudge him in the right direction. Matthews is now shooting an unsightly 33 percent from the floor this year, but the other four starters had it working beautifully.
Deron Williams was as good as I’ve seen him as a Maverick thus far, popping four threes and dropping a nifty 23-point, 6-rebound, and 8-assist line on the Jazz. His season numbers aren’t jaw-dropping, but his shooting has rebounded, and he’s doing an excellent job of protecting the ball. Zaza Pachulia was at it again, as the big Georgian not only posted another double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds), but also dissected the Utah defense with 4 assists. Just for you, Zaza, I’m going to do an entire blog post on Georgia, and every Mavericks fan better read every word out of appreciation.
As for Dirk Nowitzki, well, what more can be said? He was perfect from downtown (3-for-3) and 8-for-12 overall to add another 19 points to his career total, and the German gunslinger is now hitting on 53.2 percent of his attempts this season. Yeah, it’s still very early, and that number is bound to come down, but the fact that he has never finished a year with a field goal percentage this high in his illustrious career really drives home what he’s doing right now. He’s not a guy who can be counted on to take over games at will at this age, not anymore, but the role he’s playing right now is working so well it’s almost tear-inducing. Sometimes when he gets hot I start hoping for a miss just so I can be sure the rim isn’t merely a holographic projection.
A note of caution: despite this awesome start and now six-game winning streak, the numbers don’t quite seem to add up here. The Mavs have played some solid teams for sure, but they’ve also played some awful ones, and it’s pretty telling that their offensive and defensive rating puts them right in the middle of the pack, along with their expected win-loss record of 7-6. This is a decent team to be sure, and a fun one, a team I’m very much so committed to even this early in the fan experiment, but they aren’t among the league’s best. That means some tough losses are sure to come in the near future, and maybe several in a row.
When you start out 9-4 though, you should consider anything short of a playoff appearance a serious disappointment, and even if things take a turn for the worse sooner rather than later, that’s what I’ll be setting my sights on. I want to see this team make the playoffs in my first year as a fan, because who knows how much longer this era can last? With a 9-4 start, the Mavericks are well on their way.