Losses are never a good thing, but I’ll honestly say, if you gave me the choice between a) a win and a down performance from Dwight and b) a loss and another huge performance like last night, in a game where we were already missing our starting backcourt, I’d take ‘b’ every time. I say this because I’m still in that cautious phase where I’m expecting those monster games from last week to be proven a fluke and every additional night like last night pushes that chance further away from reality. The prospect of Howard rounding into form (and becoming a dangerous post scorer) is so significant to this franchise’s future that I don’t want to jump the gun on a proclamation.
Last night bore out the same results as before. Dwight did his damage in single coverage but when the Mavs brought doubles after he made his move, he struggled. A few times, Dwight pump faked the pass, throwing off the help defense, but this was before he began his dribble. His problem still remains the double after he’s begun his move. And I don’t know how that can be fixed aside from getting him set closer to the hoop – any big man trying to dribble through that many arms in today’s modern NBA is going to have trouble.
Michael Pina posed an interesting question last night, over email: is Dwight a top 5 player again? At first, I was uncomfortable committing. But when pressed, who’s really better? Lebron and Durant, naturally. Chris Paul, possibly, though it’s not as if his team has fared better than Howard’s, despite better health. Harden – no. Paul George has been terrific, but also has been the beneficiary of a tremendous team scheme. Pina says that over the next three years, the only players he’d rather have than Howard are Lebron, Durant, and Anthony Davis. I’m leaning towards agreement.
The Houston Rockets are a good basketball team. They have a real shot at winning it all in the next handful of years, and might make some noise in the playoffs if they can find some chemistry. The Dallas Mavericks are on the wrong side of their superstar’s career, with Dirk Nowitzki hoping to get one last shot before he retires. The Rockets are more talented, younger, faster, and better constructed. But they never had a chance when the Mavs came to Houston.
For the second time in two meetings, the Dallas Mavericks came from behind to swat aside the Houston Rockets and punish them for their poor team defense. When Dirk is locked in, he’s as unstoppable as a shooter can be. Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle is as crafty as they come, putting his players in the best position to use their skills. All the talent and analytics in the world don’t matter when the other coach has your number. And make no mistake, the Mavs have Houston’s number.
The Rockets are about to begin one of the more difficult sections of this year’s schedule. Over the next week they will play 5 games, including match-ups against every opponent in the Southwest Division. With injuries piling up, this gruelling stretch could not have come at a more inconvenient time. Not only is the scheduling brutal, but the games are slightly more important too since divisional record may end up breaking some ties at the top of the West when all is said and done.
The loss against Indiana was a disheartening reminder that the team has a long way to go. But the team should take heart from how well they played against Detroit despite their depleted numbers – the strength in depth that Morey has carefully cultivated over the past few seasons is now on full display. There were a lot of tired-looking faces at the end of the Detroit game though, and it may be difficult to keep that level of intensity going for the full 48 minutes tonight.
Like the Rockets, the Mavs came away from Phoenix empty-handed, and like the Rockets they were taken to overtime by Toronto. Wins against Milwaukee and Memphis are nice but nothing to write home about.