It's Monday, and it's time for The Come Up -- you know, the one we’ve been carrying on about for over a month now. We thought tonight’s matchup against the Denver Nuggets would likely be the determining factor behind being a two or three seed when the playoffs start. But Denver has been in a serious funk (they’re 5-6 in games Adrian Dantley has coached, which is cool since he owes us one for the Mark Aguirre trade). They weren’t particularly good at Orlando in a loss Sunday. Utah is breathing down that neck and everything is in a constant state of flux.
And it go a ‘lil summin’ like this:
Who's the best team going?
Aside from the Lakers, it’s the teams in the bottom half of the Western bracket doing the most damage. Phoenix has been on a tear and is now only one game out of second place in the conference standings. The Suns beat Minnesota on Sunday night to bring their current league-leading win streak to seven. They should have people’s attention.
The Spurs refuse to go down without a fight as they’ve beaten Boston, LA and OKC in their last four games, with only a loss to the Lakers sandwiched in that stretch. And Mavs fans got a good dose last week of how well the Blazers are playing. Portland emerged from OKC with a tough win Sunday night. The jumble at the bottom of the bracket is just as convoluted as 2-5.
Standings watching at this point is pretty futile. There’s no sense in worrying about what anyone else is doing. All the Mavs have to do is protect their home floor from here on out and they’ll be in a great position. That would mean beating Orlando, OKC and San Antone at the AAC, but it all starts with a road-weary and punch-drunk Denver team tonight. This is a chance to hit someone square in their nose while they’re already falling. Do they have the wherewithal to back up all that “tougher now” talk? Magically delicious …
Will Roddy be in the ring throwing punches?
Incredulous Roddy B supporters have been assembling en masse ready to run Rick Carlisle out of town for the way he’s been shuffling the rookie in and out of the lineup. Beaubois’ 40-point explosion Saturday night against the Warriors wasn’t some Tony Dumas one-shining-moment type bidness. He’s had plenty of "wow" moments this season. Saturday was an expansion on the show he put on in against Chicago three weeks before when he dropped 18 in the third quarter.
He had a stellar performance against Sacramento and a couple of 17-point gems against Minnesota. What he hasn’t had is a great performance in a game against a top-tier opponent -- his performance against Milwaukee earlier in the season was probably his closest to a clutch performance against a top-notch team. But it’s not by any fault of his own. Carlisle hasn’t been comfortable playing him in those situations.
I don’t know that I blame him. All Roddy’s truly great ball has come in bursts at the two, and the Mavs are a veteran team with championship aspirations loaded with veterans at that position. Ahead of Roddy on the depth chart is last year’s Sixth Man of the Year in Jason Terry and newly acquired starter Caron Butler, a former All-Star who has added a tough mentality and physicality to the position.
But what’s interesting to note is that Rick has mentioned (paraphrasing here) that he likes guys to feel uncomfortable about their status and believes competition for playing time is a good thing. So then wouldn’t Roddy’s continued emergence put said uncomfortable pressure on Butler and JET to perform at an elite level? And with all due respect to JET, who has had some brilliant playoff moments in a Mavs uniform, last year’s second season was rather forgettable for Terry.
But I more than get Carlisle being apprehensive to play Roddy in big games down the stretch run -- all these games are playoff games with seeding being as critical as it is. I was trying to think of scenarios where rookies beat out key veterans for playing time down the stretch on team’s viewed as contenders. Byron Scott came to mind for a Laker team that lost in the Finals his rookie season. He’s a rare exception getting 20 minutes a night during the playoffs, but the Lakers had traded away starter Norm Nixon to get him in the first place so the comp wasn’t like this.
But Roddy is going to have to beat out proven clutch performers ensconced on a veteran team in order to get this burn. It’s way different torching awful Golden State and Clippers squads than it is to show and prove in Portland on TNT when your go-to guys are getting snuffed and every shot is contested. We’d all like to see what he could do in that situation -- he’s a blast to watch.
He’s clearly the future (I’m already on record saying he’s your likely starter next year). But history is against him doing it now. He’d be annihilating the odds. What a story it’d be, right? Do we get to see more of that story unfold tonight? This game has been circled on the schedule for a long time. A loooonnnngggg time. What a story it’d be, right?