The Dallas Mavericks found themselves in a tight, fourth quarter battle against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center on Dec. 30. The Timberwolves had defeated the Mavericks in both of their previous matchups and momentum was in their favor late in the game. Dallas had a 19-point halftime lead but holding on to the lead in Minnesota was proving to be a challenge.
With 3:04 left on the clock, Shawn Marion connected on two of his four 3-pointers to help ensure Dallas would leave the Target Center with a victory. On a night when Monta Ellis shot 3-for-14 from the field and Dirk Nowitzki failed to score 20 points, the Mavericks needed someone to step up on the offensive end of the court.
Shawn Marion finished the game with 32 points on 14-19 shooting. The 32 points were the highest scoring total for Marion as a member of the Dallas Mavericks. The last time Marion scored 32 points was the final game of the 2008-09 season. The dependable 14-year veteran has maintained a high level of play with his hustle and versatility on defense, but the scoring outburst in Minnesota was reminiscent of what Shawn Marion did during his eight seasons with the Phoenix Suns.
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle gushed about Marion’s effort after the game. “Shawn was the key to the game. No question about it, his activity was great. Played both ends of the floor. Didn’t run one play for him and he just produced. We need him to keep doing what he’s doing.”
Shawn Marion has quietly begun to stretch the floor for the Mavericks this season. The four-time All Star is averaging over 2.3 attempted threes per game, his highest total since the 2007-08 season. With Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon all sharing the floor, Marion has become the beneficiary of quality looks on offense and he is taking advantage of it.
If there’s a player on the court who lacks the capability or confidence to knock down shots from the perimeter, opposing defenses in the NBA can sag off of that player and commit more attention to the legitimate scoring threats on the court. The Mavericks have encouraged Marion to be assertive with his outside shot and he has responded when the opportunity presents itself.
When Marion is able to contribute offensively, it is a tremendous bonus for the Mavericks. Marion has stepped up his offensive game at opportune times this season but his lockdown defense remains his strongest asset. Marion is counted on to defend against various positions depending on the Mavericks opponent. I asked Marion what positions he is most comfortable guarding. He laughed and responded, “One through five.”
Even on nights that Marion does not fill up the box score, his role as defensive stopper is critical for a Mavericks team that is built to be strong on the offensive end.
For the Mavericks to contend with the top teams in the Western Conference, they will be counting on Marion to continue his stellar defensive play. While defense remains his strong suit, Marion has reminded opposing teams that he is capable of producing on the offensive end of the court as well.