01/23/2007 Mavericks @ Orlando
The Mavericks showed themselves to be nothing if not completely cold-blooded. In Orlando, against a team that had been reeling having lowest five of six and 10 of 15 since a 13-4 start, they simply stepped on the throat of the Magic, and never really let them get anywhere near sniffing distance, cruising home to a 111-95 victory.
How cold blooded you ask? Well how does leading 34-18 at the quarter sound, and they actually led 34-15 before a three pointer to end the quarter. It's not like they haven't scored 30 in the first quarter before. This marked the 17th time in 43 games they have scored 30 in the first. And they shot 70 percent for the quarter against a team that came into the ]game second in the NBA in field goal defense. Dirk Nowitzki had 11 in the quarter and Josh Howard added ten on their way to huge games. The offensive execution was just beautiful to watch, as the ball moved, the screens were solid, the drives were strong and the finishes even better. It was about as well as basketball could be played.
And it followed through for the rest of the game. The Mavericks built a 25 point lead late in the second quarter. Orlando cut the deficit to nine with the first basket of the fourth quarter, but would never get any closer. A block by DeSagana Diop on Dwight Howard led to a Dirk run out and dunk that put the lead back to 13 and effectively ended the game. Dirk wound up with 33-10 and eight assists just missing his first triple double. He would have to settle for his sixth straight double-double. Josh Howard added 25, and in his last four games is averaging 26.8 points and shooting 51.3 percent from the floor.
The Mavericks also put together a fantastic defensive game plan. The Mavericks are a primarily a man to man team. You see them zone generally off of out of bounds plays but that's about it. But in this game, they wanted to make sure that there were people surrounding Orlando's terrific young center Dwight Howard. Howard points generally become around the rim; he doesn't have much of a face up game or hook shot to ward off opponents. Also, he is not a very good passer.. Alas, it worked to perfection, as Howard's only clean looks came on a couple of alley-oops at the rim, and he couldn't pass the ball out of the post quickly enough to make the Mavs defense pay for doubling him. Also, the decision to start Devean George, and have him play against Grant Hill, something that grew out of their work against Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant last week, worked well. The decision might have been made easier because Devin Harris is still trying to round into shape following his bout with the flu last week. (There are signs that he may be doing just that after a solid 13 points in 24 minutes) George was strong enough to keep Hill from getting where he wanted to go, and held him to just 15 points. It's just another example of how the versatility of this team makes it anything that Avery Johnson wants it to be on any given night.