One of the more interesting questions being bandied about on talk radio, blogs and message boards would be, “What is the identity of this team?”
I thought Rick Carlisle had an interesting take in the postgame presser with the assessment that this team is surviving. Perhaps that’s exactly what they are – survivors.
Let’s face it – a lot of these wins have by no means been pretty, but they are wins. For all the complaining and hand wringing over not putting opponents away early and snuffing the fight out of 'em, the Mavs are still sitting at a pretty salty 13-5 mark.
That record will play.
Fans, players, especially coaches – nobody likes excuses. But the Mavericks find themselves in the odd position of defending their wins. If you lose a game and talk about the injuries you’re enduring, you get beat up for dropping a lame excuse. But are injuries a good excuse for not winning in a convincing fashion?
Case in point – the Mavericks went into the fourth quarter against the 76ers up 78-72 but were already at an 11-board deficit with 12 minutes to go. So what does Carlisle decide to do for the majority of the fourth quarter? Roll with a three-guard lineup and fall back into a 2-3 zone against a big Philly lineup that amplified the mauling of the Mavs on the glass to the tune of 18-6 in the final frame.
Is that the ideal scenario the Mavericks front office and coaching staff envisioned heading into the season? Of course not.
But that dream scenario wasn’t available with Josh Howard and Quinton Ross in street clothes, Shawn Marion hobbled with a bum ankle that stiffens up on him, Tim Thomas several hours removed from a trip to the chiropractor and Erick Dampier available for limited minutes on his first night back after missing the past two weeks.
So the Mavs went small – very small - and survived. Carlisle wanted the play-making ability that Barea provides, and JJ rewarded him eight eight points, two assists and a little vintage old-school styled moxie in the fourth. And it got the job done.
Was it pretty? No.
Did they survive? Yes.
So we wait to see the eventual identity of a team that, once healthy, will be versatile, long, athletic, deep, seasoned and aggressive. For now, we’ll have to settle for a band of survivors grinding their way to 13-5 and first place in their division.