Whitt’s End: Mavs' 'Best 24 Minutes Ever' - Can They Get It Back?

Whitt’s End: The Dallas Mavs Just Played Their 'Best 24 Minutes Ever' - And Then Came 'Asses Kicked.' Here Come The Heat ... Can They Get The 'Good Minutes' Back?
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Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End 1.01.21 ...

*Out with the old … no, really, OUT with the old. In with the new. Or anything other than a repeat of 2020. Happier New Year! Has any year ever had as much pressure to perform as 2021?

*Been watching/covering the Dallas Mavericks since 1980 and last Sunday’s first half in Los Angeles was the best 24 minutes of basketball they’ve played.

Sure, the Clippers were minus Kawhi Leonard, but the Mavs maxed out their energy and execution for every second of the half. They played 10 players, each of whom produced a plus-minus of +20 or better. Only game that comes close to the 50-point halftime lead was a 2003 playoff game in which they scored 84 points in the first half of a rout of the Sacramento Kings. 

Wednesday night’s first half wasn’t quite as pretty, evidenced by Dallas being 59 points worse off than against the Clippers.

And tonight in a 6 p.m. tip at the AAC?

The Mavs (1-3) pretty much always lose to Miami, right?

Maybe the Heat has been seeking revenge since the 2011 Finals. But this is for sure: Miami (2-2) has won six in a row in this series, having not lost since February 2017.

Time for Luka Doncic to show off to Goran Dragic.

*You’ve been here before with your Dallas Cowboys. That is, if you were around for the last dozen years. They haven’t flirted with a Super Bowl in 25 years, but they have produced their share of pre-playoff drama (known in some parts as “foreplay”). 

Sunday is a winner-for-a-chance-to-take-it-all game against the Giants. Win, get a loss from Washington in Philadelphia Sunday night, and you’re in. Not thegame, but rather the game before the game. 

It’s a sub-de facto NFC East Championship Game, if you will. They’ve faced a couple similar sketchy scenarios in recent years, with ugly results. 

In a win-a-game-plus-the-division against the Eagles in 2008, they lost 44-6. Same deal for three consecutive seasons 2011-13, with losses at the Giants (31-14), at Washington (28-18) and at home to the Eagles (24-22). 

In all, the Cowboys have lost a chance to win the NFC East on the final Sunday of the season four times in the last 12 years. This time, they could win a game and still see that wretched run increase to five in 13.

*2020 SPORTS: Because of the novel coronavirus, a timeout was called on America’s games during the fourth quarter of a Mavs game at American Airlines Center at around 9 p.m. on March 11. For the next 93 days, every day felt like March 12. 

From Mavs’ guard Delon Wright’s free throw in the waning seconds of the win over the Denver Nuggets in the Spring, to golfer Ryan Palmer striking the first tee shot in The Colonial tournament in Fort Worth at 7 a.m. near the start of Summer on June 11, DFW was a Groundhog Day sapped of options, and live sports.

*Couple things go right Sunday and this will be the most improbable division championship and playoff berth in the Cowboys’ 61-season history. New coach (Mike McCarthy), with little time to implement a new system.

Defensive starter (Gerald McCoy) lost to injury on the first day of practice. Started four different quarterbacks because No. 1 (Dak Prescott) was injured and No. 2 (Andy Dalton) was sidelined by COVID and a concussion. Two Pro Bowl offensive linemen (Tyron Smith and Zack Martin), the star running back (Ezekiel Elliott) and middle linebacker (Leighton Vander Esch)missed games with various ailments. Embarrassed on Monday Night Football (38-10 by Cardinals), Sunday Night Football (23-9 by Eagles), Thanksgiving (41-16 by Washington) and even on a Tuesday (34-17 by Ravens). Worst defense (in points and touchdowns allowed) in franchise history. Failed fake punts. Death of an assistant coach (Markus Paul). Flexed out of prime time. Criticized by Darren Woodson and Troy Aikman. Written off and counted out multiple times by me, and – be honest – you. 

A month ago, they were 3-9. Only unlikely rally that would come close is the 1970 team that was 5-4 after a 38-0 home loss before winning seven consecutive games to advance to Super Bowl V.

*I’m missing watching an outdoor NHL game.Glimpses of it, anyway.

*The Texas Rangers’ biggest – re: only – hot stove signing is Japanese pitcher Kohei Arihara. Last year for Hokkaido, the 28-year-old righty went 8-9 last year.So, let’s stop the Yu Darvish comparisons before they even begin, shall we?

*Another year, another 365 days of ultimate failure for DFW sports teams. Barring a miracle Cowboys’ run (first belly laugh of 2021, eh?), we’re guaranteed a full 10 years without a professional sports championship. But it wasn’t just the standings, COVID hit our teams where it counts. All told in 2020, DFW teams lost 113 home games worth an estimated revenue hit of $750 million. Ouch.

*2020 BINGES: Tiger KingLast DanceBorat… Any meal home-cooked …

*NFC East, 2020: In the Land of the Blind, even a one-eyed man can be king. For the first time in the Super Bowl era, a team that started 2-7 will make the playoffs. Before this year, teams with that record were 0-258 in making the postseason. So, take a bow. You’ve watched some bad football. But also witnessed some history.

*Typically twisted, to make the playoffs the Cowboys have to do two things that were unfathomable a month ago: Root for the Eagles. Root against somebody named Taylor Heinicke.

*While making room in my closet for new Christmas clothes, I realized I have old long pants, collared shirts and several pairs of shoes probably convinced I've abandoned them. Because I have. I've changed clothes fewer times in 2020 than when I was in diapers.

*Has the College Football Playoff really proven, or improved anything? In its seven years of selecting the sport’s best four teams (28 total), the CFP has featured only 11 different schools. We’re about to be subjected to Clemson vs. Notre Dame for the third time in five years. The system, if anything, has created a deeper divide between the haves and haven’ts. If you like dynasty and tradition, settle in. If you prefer variety and parity, move along, nothing to see here. Last team outside of the Power 5 Conferences to win the national championship? BYU, in 1984.

*2020 DEPARTURES: Mike Rhyner from The Ticket … Local programming from ESPN 103.3 FM … Jason Witten from the Cowboys … J.J. Barea from the Mavericks … Lance Lynn from the Rangers … Lizard Lounge and Highland Park Cafeteria from our options …

*Hot.

*Not.

*To slither into the playoffs, the Cowboys will have to defeat quarterbacks Brandon Allen, Nick Mullens, Jalen Hurts and Daniel Jones. The postseason menu, fittingly, gets a tad juicer. As in, they would likely face, in order, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes.

*Just behind the 50-point halftime lead, second-most absurd Mavs stat of the fledgling season: Late in the first quarter of their third game – third – Josh Richardson grabbed an offensive rebound and made a lefty layup for their first second-chance points of the season.

*2020 TERMS: Zoom … Contact tracing … “Essential workers” … Socially distancing … Quarantine … COVID list … Canceled … Closed …

*In the NFL this season, 73 quarterbacks have thrown a pass. Since absence makes the heart grow fonder, my knee-jerk reaction is that Dak is better than all except about eight of those. 

But is the Cowboys’ quarterback the guy who through four games was a record-setting passing pace? Or merely the guy whose team was 1-3 and leading the Giants by only one point when he was injured? 

I think Dak – when you consider the slop that teams have turned to in 2020 (Chase Daniel, Jake Luton, Ben DiNucci, etc.) – has increased his contract bargaining leverage. 

Aikman agrees, telling Fish and Shan on 105.3 The Fan this week, “I wouldn’t hesitate to pay Dak. I could sleep good knowing that I have Dak locked up to a big contract.” 

But another part of me looks at Dalton’s season and asks, “Is Dak NINE TIMES as valuable as his backup?” Because at $37 million per season, the Cowboys would be agreeing that he is.

*The Chiefs are 7-8 against the spread this season. No biggie if you don’t wager. Or is it? Since 1999, only one team – the 2012 Ravens – have won the Super Bowl with a losing ATS record.

*2020 FASHION: Pajama pants … Masks … The end.

*I’m not a big fan of “alternate” uniforms that have TCU wearing all black or the Stars sporting rave-glowstick green, but I love Love LOVE the Mavs’ vintage green look. Different, in a classic way. Not different, in a let’s just close our eyes and pick a color to slap on there in an attempt to sell new gear way.Makes me wonder, in fact, why they ever changed the logo from Don Carter’s hat to somebody’s horse.

*Kellen Moore to Boise State makes so much senseno one is even contesting it. Not even, really, his boss.

*Flexed out of prime time be damned, even in one of their worst seasons the Cowboys remain must-see TV. Among TV’s Top 100 most-watched shows of 2020, NFL games were 69 of them. While The NBA Finals and World Series were bounced off the list, five Cowboys games made it into the Top 50. Cowboys-Washington was the highest, at No. 12.

*2020 FADS: Hoarding hand sanitizer … toilet paper… beef … unmuting yourself …

*Dalton, by the way, receives a $1 million contract bonus if he plays 50 percent of the snaps and the Cowboys make the playoffs. Nice little Christmas bonus if he can pull it off. He’s over the 50 percent and his team … we’ll see.

*Went to my local Kroger on Dec. 26 and was presented with a “seasonal” aisle packed with stuffed bears, balloons and red, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. I know Valentine’s Day is only 50 sleeps away, but just give us a second to exhale.

*Not sure how the Eagles will respond to a meaningless season finale Sunday night against Washington, but I’m (fairly) certain the Cowboys will take care of their end of the bargain earlier in the day. Since losing to the Ravens and being read last rites, the Cowboys have scored 30, 41 and 37 points their last three games. Since winning in Seattle and being labeled as a “dangerous team come playoff time”, the Giants have mustered only seven, six and 13 points. New York hasn’t scored more than 20 since Nov. 15 and has topped 30 only once (against, you guessed it, the Cowboys in Week 5).

*2020 DEATHS: Kobe Bryant … Pete Dye … Sam Wyche … Don Larsen … David Stern … Kirk Douglas … Curly Neal … Kenny Rogers (singer) … Willie Davis … Doug Sanders … Al Kaline … Tom Dempsey … Bill Withers … Eddie Sutton … Jerry Sloan … Ken Osmond “Eddie Haskell” … Phyllis George … Bob Watson … Jerry Stiller … Little Richard … George Floyd … Don Shula … Carl Reiner … Jim Kiick … Claudell Washington … Kurt Thomas (gymnast) … Wes Unseld … Pat Dye … Lou Henson … Regis Philbin … John Lewis … Charlie Daniels … Hugh Downs … John Thompson … Chadwick Boseman … Lute Olsen … Wilford Brimley … Mac Davis … Helen Reddy … Gale Sayers … Ruth Bader Ginsburg … Lou Brock … Tom Seaver … Sean Connery … Herb Adderly … Jerry Jeff Walker … Joe Morgan … Whitey Ford … Eddie Van Halen … Bob Gibson … Jake Scott … Diego Maradona … Paul Hornung … Tom Heinsohn … Alex Trebek … Kevin Greene … K.C. Jones … Phil Niekro … Charley Pride … Rafer Johnson … Dawn Wells “Mary Ann” …

*2020 brought me a divorce, Dad getting cancer, the death of my stepdad, subsequently moving Mom into an assisted living community, and all the challenges that COVID offered. And to think, one year ago today I/we had no idea what was about to hit us. Hopefully 2021 will be better. But, just in case, hug today.

*This Weekend? First Saturday of a new year feels like a good time to hang out with Big Brothers Big Sisters lil’ bro JaJa. Sunday, of course, is a Cowboys playoff game. As always, don’t be a stranger.