I get it that it's hard to play the Spurs tough and down to the wire one night, then face up against the free-wheeling, run-and-gun Nuggets the very next night, but the Mavs were never really in sync as a team in this game. They had some moments and strung together a few solid performances, but the Nuggets were too much for them to keep up with, and by the end of the game the Mavs looked spent.
1. Allen Iverson - AI and the Nuggets had played the night before, too. He had 51 points and 8 assists in that one, and clearly wasn't as fatigued as his opponents. He scored 35 points (12 of 19 from the floor, 11 of 13 from the line), and had 12 assists to go with an impossible 6 steals. I keep expecting him to be held together by duct tape and chicken wire at this point in his career with 778 career games playing at a breakneck, devil-may-care, little man mixing it up with the giants style of play, but he just keeps plugging along. It's probably because he skips a lot of practice.
2. Linas Kleiza - Kleiza has stepped up his game considerably this season. He has become a more consistent outside threat, and he gets a lot of open looks when he's on the court with AI and Melo on the floor. He's not going to light the world on fire or make the All-Star team, but it's nice to see when an under-the-radar guy starts to figure it out. I just wish he wasn't figuring it out against the Mavs. He had 23 points on 8 of 14 shooting (3 of 5 from behind the arc), 4 rebounds and 2 steals.
3. Jerry Stackhouse - Not sure if this is still a grudge match or not, but remember that Stackhouse was drafted by the Sixers one year before they drafted Iverson. These two were supposed to make up one of the most prolific and dynamic backcourts in the league for the next 10 years. I think it lasted 3 before Stackhouse was shipped to Detroit because he and Iverson couldn't stop fighting over the ball. Regardless, something sparked Stack, because he snapped out of a recent slump to score 23 points on 8 of 14 shooting, grabbed 7 boards, and had 5 assists and a steal.
- Dirk's Digits: Dirk went toe to toe with AI for most of this game. Dirk had 32 points on 10 of 20 shooting, was a perfect 10 of 10 from the line, and collected 12 rebounds, 5 assists and a block. AI just had a few more teammates that played a lot better.
- I will give some love to Marcus Camby, who was also drafted the same year as Iverson and also should have limbs held together with wacky glue and the help of a staple gun. Still he manages to average 9 points, 14 rebounds and nearly 4 blocks a game. Tonight he had 8 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks.
- I will give some more love to Kenyon Martin for his 18 points and 7 rebounds, and I like to support my local Dallas products. But I was wondering, with his erratic health problems, if he wasn't one of the most disappointing #1 picks in recent years. I wouldn't call him a bust, because when he's healthy, he's a real asset to a team. Just disappointing considering that he can't stay healthy very much. So I did a little research. Martin was drafted in 2000, so I went 5 years back and 5 years forward and listed the #1 picks from 1995 to 2005. The list is as follows: Joe Smith, Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan, Michael Olowokandi, Elton Brand, Martin, Kwame Brown, Yao Ming, Lebron James, Dwight Howard, and Andrew Bogut. Iverson, Duncan, Brand, Ming, James, and Howard I think can be dropped from this discussion for obvious reasons. That leaves us with Joe Smith (long career as a role player, but disappointing by #1 pick standards), Michael Olowokandi (true bust), Kwame Brown (true bust), and I think the jury's still out on Bogut, although the verdict isn't looking good so far. So while I wouldn't say that Martin's a bust by any means, I still think he's a little disappointing when compared to 6 of those 11 guys, but still better than at least 3 of the others. To make it even more fun, what if you ranked these 11 guys in order of awesomeness?
- Speaking of injuries, Devean George is back for the first time this year, and he gets in early thanks to Devin Harris's foul trouble. George quickly gets himself into foul trouble because he clearly doesn't have his speed back, or at least enough speed to keep up with the Nuggets. In fact, none of the Mavs did. The Nuggets went to the line 12 times in the first 4 minutes of the game, and it was all legit. No blame on the refs.
- It was easy to research the #1 draft picks, but there's another study that I would like to do that would take far too much time and probably break some privacy laws. I'm curious if Allen Iverson has more tattoos per square inch of available skin space than any other player in the NBA. Maybe not, but he's at least in the team photo.
- The Nuggets had 64 points in the first half, the most points the Mavs had given up in any half this year, and the Mavs are just simply making too many mistakes and being way too lethargic. The Mavs had 19 turnovers, we fell into the trap of their run-and-gun by jacking up 22 3-pointers (making only 7), and we allowed them 50% shooting from the field, 50% from behind the arc, and got them to the line 36 times. That makes it hard to win.
- The Mavs did make a little run after halftime to tie the score at 82 with 3:30 left in the 3rd quarter, but it's almost like that extra effort to tie the game is what finally zapped all the energy out of them. Denver outscored them 24-17 in the 4th.
- Dirk got T'd up for showing a lack of respect for the officials by tossing the ball towards the scorers table instead of directly at the referee. Personally, this was a little much to call a technical for that, but more importantly, how can you show a lack of respect for bad officials when they don't really deserve any in the first place?
Back to Kenyon Martin. I will give him a bit of a pass because it's not really his fault that he's had approximately 72 knee surgeries in the last 10 years. Plus, in his favor, the 2000 draft class wasn't very solid. There were a lot of guys that have become solid bench performers, but it's not like he's been completely overshadowed by someone drafted a few spots behind him, a la Jordan/Bowie. But Michael Redd was taken 43rd in that draft, and he's quite possibly the best player out of that class at this point. And here's my stab at ranking those 11 #1 picks: Duncan, Lebron, Iverson, Howard, Brand, Yao, Martin, Bogut, Smith, Olowokandi, and Brown. Comment if you agree or disagree. Go Mavs!