Remember yesterday, when things were good?

Box Score.
Game Flow (not available).
Post recap.
Times recap.
Dallas News recap.
Les Bullez.
TAI live-blog.
Basketbawful: Mavs have bad ball movement.  True Hoop has more.
Mavs Moneyball isn't happy with Avery Johnson.
Showboating blames the defense.

Highest plus/minus: Caron Butler (+15)
Lowest plus/minus: Darius Songaila (-1)

I'm struggling to write this, simply because of the Sean Taylor tragedy today.  I've always been a Wizards/Bullets fan first, but the Redskins, along with Maryland, were definitely my second-favorite teams, and there were times when I had trouble separating those three.  Taylor was so important to the Skins, not just for his on-field play, but as a symbol.  Ask anyone who the most recognizable players were on the Redskins, and I'm sure Sean Taylor is one of the first that comes up, even though he was a safety.  It's kind of like if something tragic happened to one of our Big 3 (and I'm not talking about an injury).  I encourage everyone to go over to Hogs Haven and offer your condolences.

Anyway, back to last night.

Pretty much everything that could have gone well did.  We shot the lights out, held Dallas mostly in check defensively, and turned back every rally opportunity.  I was really worried when we didn't extend the lead in the second quarter as Dallas was so out of sync, but a nice push at the end of the second quarter, fueled, of course, by Devin Harris' silly technical, proved to be key.  

Not to put a damper on anything, but really, this was the perfect storm.  Caron was simply spectacular, drilling three-pointers in Trenton Hassell's face.  AD looked like the old AD, providing 16 points, 6 assists, good defense on Harris and Jason Terry, and one vicious dunk in the third quarter.  Jamison was great, keeping us in the game in the first quarter with his scoring.  DeShawn was 5-16, but I liked his aggressiveness, and Andray Blatche was solid off the bench.  Nick Young really was huge as well -- as jvflail said, he saved us early in the fourth quarter.  I don't even care that he plays out of control, because if he can just play with reckless abandon for three-to-four minute stretches, it'll help us immensely.  

Defensively, we were very good, especially with cutting off penetration by their guards.  Jason Terry did basically nothing, and Devin Harris was pretty bad as well.  Dirk got his 31, but we made him work for them, and we did a great job of turning Josh Howard exclusively into a scorer.  With all that said, though, Dallas really looked bad, missing tons of open jumpers.  Jerry Stackhouse, in particular, had many open looks from the corner, and just kept firing bricks.  It's entirely conceivable that we play like that defensively and still give up a lot of points, so let's not get too crazy by the defensive effort.

This isn't to take anything away from last night, because it was a huge win.  But expecting all this to happen again is a bit unrealistic.  Dallas will be fine, bad ball movement be damned, and we'll have games where we struggle trying to play the same way.  It's all part of a long season.

Still, that doesn't mean there aren't positives that will reappear down the road.  Recently, I've been so impressed by Caron, just because he's finally starting to take charge as an offensive leader.  Maybe this would have happened if he was healthy when Gilbert went out last year, but to be honest, I doubt that.  For one thing, he didn't have a three-point shot last year, but this season, he's shooting nearly 50 percent from behind the arc, and many of those attempts are ones where he has a guy in his face.  Credit him for spending so much time working on his game in the offseason.  

The key, though, is that the more he drains three-pointers, the more teams have to pressure him, and the more he'll get to the basket.  Right now, he's still a little trigger-happy with his jumper, and he only shot four free throws yesterday, but once teams start to crowd him even more, that'll open up the lane.  Frankly, the sky's the limit for him at this point.  And to think, we traded Kwame Brown for him, and have him locked up for four more seasons at about 9 million per.  Methinks that'll be the shining moment of Ernie Grunfeld's tenure here.  

It's not just Butler, though.  Jamison's also done a great job of picking up the scoring effort, though he has a tendency to launch bad three-pointers that put the defense in a bad position.  Like Nick Young, though, Jamison has a role, and he's simply playing it extremely well.  There isn't much more we can ask from him, not when he's 31 and playing for a new contract.  

Young, also, is clearly a player.  I usually am critical of Eddie Jordan's sub patterns, but I really like the way he's using Young.  You see him only for short stretches, and during that time, he's not only shooting a lot, but he's attacking the rim, and not settling for silly jumpers.  It seems like Eddie has simplified his role incredibly, which is the best thing you can do to a rookie.  Eventually, Young will become a better defender, passer, and ball-handler, but for now, he can just do his thing when he's out there, and do it successfully.  But by limiting his minutes, Eddie's silently making the point that, to play more, his game has to become more complete, which should hopefully spur Young to become more well-rounded.  It's a brilliant tactic, so long as Eddie actually gives Young the minutes if Young improves.

It would be amazing if we could beat the Spurs, but for now, I'm just happy we got this one.   When we lost those two games to Golden State and Memphis, I was really, really concerned with what I was seeing.  Now, I'm in far better spirits, if only because we see what this Arenas-less team is still capable of if they play their best.  Sure, they won't play their best every game, but it's good to know they can still reach a pretty high level.  We never saw that last year, when similar injuries beset the team.    

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