By Darreck Kirby
PSDC Dallas Mavericks Beat Writer
Monday night in Dallas marked just the second game for Rajon Rondo in a Mavericks uniform. His prior outing had seen a fairly stagnant offense for the most part until Monta Ellis flew in to save the day with a heroic fourth quarter charge. Unfortunately, that same calvary would not make an appearance against the visiting Atlanta Hawks.
Atlanta came into the game riding a hot streak, winning 12 of their previous 13 contests after a 7-6 start. Make no mistake about it, this is not the same Hawks team from last season. In fact, in his pre-game press conference, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle stated “they could very well be the team that comes out of the East this year. That’s how good they are.” On Monday night, their play validated Carlisle’s claim.
From the jump the Maverick offense appeared out of sorts. Guys were missing shots left and right and the end result was a 25-18 deficit behind 35 percent shooting. Atlanta flat out punched the Mavs in the mouth in this one. Throughout the first half, Dennis Schroder tormented Rajon Rondo, blowing by him on several occasions for easy lay-ins that got his rhythm going and allowed him to find his outside shot later in the game. Schroder scored 10 of his 22 points in the opening frame.
The turning point of this game occured in the second quarter where Dallas was outscored 27-13, and Monta Ellis punctuated things with a steal and blown dunk at the buzzer. Dallas scored only 38 in the half and found themselves with several adjustments to make.
Those adjustments would take some time to develop, however, as Atlanta’s lead stretched out to as much as 19 in the third period and consistently held between 11 and 15. When the reserves took over in the late third quarter, many thought Carlisle would rest his guys for Tuesday night’s game in Phoenix. The crowd at the AAC wanted to rally the team and for some time they managed to do just that. Behind their support, the reserves led a charge that pulled the game back within single digits and compelled Carlisle to send the starting unit back in.
Unfortunately the hole was simply too big to overcome. Sloppy execution ultimately did the Mavs in despite getting the score within three points late in the game and in the end Dallas fell 105-102. The loss proved Dallas still has a long way to go in developing their chemistry with Rondo at the point, despite a double-double from him tonight, and that until they can find proper balance, they will struggle.
In the first half, Rondo had as many shot attempts as Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons combined. Given that Rondo is a 40 percent shooter from the field and only 25 percent on three pointers, it’s a safe bet that that’s not the kind of balance the Mavs would prefer. And while Monta was eventually able to get his shots and score 18, Parsons wound up being the odd man out, hoisting just six shots in 29 minutes for four points.
These next few weeks are going to be crucial for the Mavs if they are to remain in the thick of the Western conference playoff hunt. It’s going to take time to develop chemistry with a roster significantly altered, both in starting and bench units. The key is for Rick Carlisle to find the right balance and for the players to get acclimated with one another. It’s not enough for Monta to score. Rondo has to find balance with Dirk and learn where he likes the ball and when. That’s what made Dirk so dangerous with Jason Kidd and Steve Nash at the point. Even Jason Terry was able to form a lethal combination with him. So until Rondo can develop that with his new teammates, Dallas can only hope to hold on and settle for baby steps.
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