The Dallas Mavericks did exactly what you’re supposed to do to one of the most underwhelming lineups in the NBA. They buried the Utah Jazz within the first three minutes of the game.
After a 1-point road loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the season opener, the Mavs gave their home fans a glimpse of what could be one of the most efficient offenses in the NBA. The same lob passes that eluded Tyson Chandler against the Spurs were converted into thunderous dunks in the first quarter Thursday. This is the most versatile lineup Dallas has featured since the 2011 championship team. You can tell that Rick Carlisle is exploring all the possibilities early in the season.
"The way it is looking, we have some different lineups that fit together," Carlisle said. "There are two or three that I think could work. I just have to keep everybody as involved as possible and keep our competitive level and energy level really high. That is what this season is going to be about."
Chandler and his backup, Brandan Wright, combined for 27 points on 11-of-12 shooting. The Jazz had no chance of stopping the two centers as they accepted perfect passes near the rim from guards Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris and small forward Chandler Parson. After a dreadful debut against the Spurs, Parsons had 21 points and seven rebounds against the Jazz. He’s not settling for jump shots, as he sometimes did with the Houston Rockets. He knifed through the lane for a dunk to give the Mavs an 11-point lead with 4:51 left in the first quarter.
"I still missed about 50 layups," Parsons said.
But it’s obvious Parsons gives the Mavs a new dimension. When he’s on the floor with Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, teams aren’t going to be able to key on one player. The Jazz were hopeless as the Mavs outscored them by 20 points in the paint in the first half. The Jazz fell behind by 30 points and had to rally just to make it a 25-point deficit at the half. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle made a point to mention how Utah was playing on the second night of a back-to-back. And he also paid Parsons a huge compliment.
"He is decisive with what he is doing," Carlisle said. "He is going to play his game and by the time the All Star break rolls around, people are going to look at him and say this is one of the best young players in the league."
With J.J. Barea returning for his second tour of duty with the Mavs (to a huge ovation), this team has all sorts of depth. Al-Farouq Aminu looks a bit out of control to me, but he had 16 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. It’s one of the reasons Nowitzki only had to play 23 minutes in the win. When I asked Dirk what it felt like to be on the court with Chandler and Barea again, he joked the Mavs needed to also invite Peja Stojakovic and Brian Cardinal back to the team. This team has three different players who could lead the way in scoring on any given night, with Nowitzki, Parsons and Monta Ellis.
The Jazz cut into the lead in the second half only because the Mavs lost interest for a few minutes. You can’t make any wide-sweeping judgments based on Thursday’s game, but it’s fair to say this can be an elite offense. The Mavs had seven different players in double figures, with Parsons and Nowitzki leading the way with 21 points apiece.
The Mavs only had three games all last season where seven different players were in double figures. And the good news is they will face this Jazz team again next week. It was the seventh time in franchise history Dallas has played its first home game against the Jazz. The Mavs shot 64 percent in the first half, which paled in comparison to their 94.1 percent clip in Utah last April.
It was satisfying first win against an inferior opponent. The New Orleans Pelicans should provide a much tougher test Saturday.
The home opener offered hope this team could be more explosive than the team that took the world-champion Spurs to a seven-game series last season. The only downside is there’s probably not any room to add more players from the title team. Peja and Cardinal will have to watch this thing from afar.