After enduring an All-Star Weekend that was so atrocious it should have been broadcast over Myspace to save people from having to watch it, the second half of the season was suddenly upon us.
With the their first game after the break, the Dallas Mavericks looked to start off strong, but ran into the brick wall known as the Miami Heat. Miami took their game 117 to Dallas’ 106. Columnists and sports analysts were quick to pounce on the Mavericks in an attempt to usher LeBron James (who finished that game with a season-high 42 points) into NBA sainthood and focused on Dallas’ flaws while praising everything from James’ consecutive three-point baskets to the pretty gold specks in his eyes. The Mavericks led 95-92 with 7:47 left in the game, but the Heat went on a 16-0 run to shut them down.
But does that mean they’re not going to make it in this year’s playoffs? Or flop painfully if they actually do?
They answered that question by simply shutting down the Philadelphia 76ers and Detroit Pistons. They see harsh criticism and they take it as a challenge. It’s why they’re contenders. Against the Pistons on Saturday, Dallas shot 48.9 percent from the field and Dirk Nowitzki (who has been averaging 21.5 points on 53 percent from the floor since the All-Star break) scored 24 points that helped catapult the Mavericks over the Pistons 113-102. Monta Ellis also helped with 12 points and 13 assists as Dallas took home their ninth win in the last 12 games.
And then we come to last night, where the Mavs faced Carmelo Anthony and the struggling New York Knicks. Fourth quarter: Tied at 108-108 at the buzzer, Nowitzki makes a jumper that, as Dallas fans held their breaths and clinched, could have gone either in or out. It went down just as time expired, leading the Mavericks over the Knicks 110-108 after blowing an eight-point lead in the last 90 seconds of the game. Anthony’s strong 44 points and durable defense couldn’t hold Dallas, Dirk, and Vince Carter’s 23 points on 8-of-17 shooting. It was an ugly win, but a win nevertheless.
Yes, Dallas makes mistakes, but the big difference maker is that they learn from them while other teams continue to relish in the definition of insanity by continuously rolling in the filth of their own mistakes, which makes them clear-cut playoff contenders.
Are they under-the-radar contenders? Absolutely not.
But that’s only because they’re smack dab on the radar itself.